Downtown La Crosse

Overview of Historic Downtown La Crosse

The roughly five-block La Crosse Commercial Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and contains 110 buildings, of which 96 are considered contributing to the historic architectural character of the district. City officials and downtown business leaders in La Crosse clearly see the connection between a prosperous city center and historic preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded the City of La Crosse a Great American Main Street Award in 2002 for the city’s successful efforts in downtown revitalization through historic preservation. As you walk trough the historic district you will notice the mix of specialty retail, dining and entertainment offerings that are the key to economic vitality of the downtown. Another key element in sustaining the city center is the improvement and adaptive re-use of upper stories for residential use. Although there continue to be economic challenges in the core downtown, La Crosse has a well-deserved reputation in the upper mid-west as a success story of historic preservation and downtown revitalization.

This tour leads you to 30 sites and follows the history of the city from the boomtown riverboat days through the roaring 20’s through the evolution of building styles and details. As you walk the three blocks from Second Street to Fifth Avenue away from the riverfront and Riverside Park, you will see the progression of architectural styles that reflect the historical development of downtown La Crosse. Nearly one hundred years of La Crosse commercial history can be observed in the earliest surviving buildings that date from the 1860s on Second Avenue to the historic styles of the mid-twentieth century seen along Fifth Avenue. Along the way you will be introduced to excellent commercial examples of Italianate, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne architecture from the 19th century as well as Chicago Commercial, Art Deco and Art Moderne buildings from the early to mid twentieth century.

Enjoy your tour of downtown La Crosse and don’t forget to “look up” to see the architectural character of the historic downtown buildings!

Start Tour

map showing downtown area with route for tour