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La Crosse’s Lincoln Middle School gets landmark status, but that could complicate sale of the building

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A century-old school building in La Crosse is now being designated as a historic local landmark, but not without some objections.

The city’s heritage preservation commission approved landmark status for Lincoln Middle School on Thursday night. The La Crosse School District is now trying to sell Lincoln, and Superintendent Aaron Engel tells the commission that this vote complicates the sale process.

“It is a deep injustice to property owners, to place their property on the local register of historic places after the property has gone up for sale,” said Engel.

Engel says city officials didn’t communicate with the district about plans to make the school a historic landmark, until just recently.  The school board voted this year to close Lincoln.  School District building and grounds director Joe Ledvina says landmark designation should be postponed until after they’ve found a buyer.

“It feels a little bit like a hostage situation, like we’re being handcuffed,” Ledvina told the commission, “because we’ve been speaking to developers, I’ve been speaking to developers, I’ve been giving tours of the facility for several months now.”

The landmark status only applies to the original building from the 1920’s, not to additions made since then.  The commission recently placed Lincoln on a list of the 10 most endangered buildings in La Crosse for 2023.

Commission member Natalie Heneghan responded that she wants to keep the old school from being torn down, partly for environmental reasons.

“The 92-thousand square foot building of Lincoln would generate roughly seven thousand tons of waste, if demolished,” said Heneghan. “That’s more than 10 per cent of the municipal solid waste generated by La Crosse County in 2020.”

Members of the public have 30 days to appeal the landmark designation to the La Crosse city council.

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. Burr Ito

    June 23, 2023 at 6:56 am

    The old Central high school met the same fate. Sat empty for about 20 years before being torn down and the land made into Weigent park. Constant debates during that time over what to do with the building which became decrepit since it wasn’t being heated or kept up. No choice but to tear it down.

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