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Preservation panel and fire chief differ on Station No. 4’s future

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Over the decades, La Crosse history buffs have reluctantly seen many old buildings taken down — a courthouse, a post office, the Hotel Stoddard. 

A city historical commission has put north side Fire Station No. 4 on a list of 10 unique buildings facing demolition. 

The fire department, however, wants that station torn down to make way for a new one, which will cost around $5-6 million.

Chris Kahlow of the Heritage Preservation Commission told fire chief Ken Gilliam on Thursday that her group wants to educate the public about the old buildings.

“This is merely education,” Kahlow said. “I think because it is threatened with demolition, it is right where it should be on the list.”

Gilliam doesn’t object to letting people weigh in on the 80-year-old station’s historic value, but he also wants to get going on construction of a new firehouse.

The chief believes the old station has outlived its usefulness, and says preservation attempts could delay plans for the new building.

“If this commission triggered something where the community decided they wanted to save the station, I will adjust strategy,” Gilliam said, “but it will cost the city more, potentially millions of dollars, to do that.”

A motion was made Thursday night to remove Station No. 4 from the commission’s list of 10 threatened historic buildings in La Crosse. The motion died for lack of a second.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ronald Walker

    December 18, 2020 at 9:18 am

    There are plenty of old fire stations around town for the historic preservation society to use as examples.
    The one off of Denton Street was supposed to become a museum / community center after it was restored but guess what, the project never did raise enough money and that was many years ago. (1980’s??)
    The problem with saving Fire Station #4 is that La Crosse is limited on space for a northside fire station that can cover the far end of town including: the mall, industrial park, interstate, airport, and County B.
    The Station is over 80 years old. We need to concentrate on life safety and service to the community for the next 80 years and having a fire station in the proper location reduces response times which can save lives in an emergency.

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