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Late 19th century fire station on La Crosse’s south side getting makeover



Folks who grew up on Denton Street in La Crosse probably know the old southside senior center, which closed down four years ago.

For seven decades before it was a place for seniors, though, the building was a busy fire station. Now the structure is being renovated to show off its original look.

The top of the firehouse tower on Denton Street is prepared for placement atop the building on Dec. 11, 2023. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

Monday, a crane was used to help install the top of the old tower at what used to be Fire Station No. 5 and that senior center on the 1200 block.

Preservation specialist Marcus Zettler, a part owner of the firehouse, watched as workers put the roof of the tower in place on the two-story building.

“That was where the firefighters watched for smoke during the day, because (in the) 1890s, obviously communication wasn’t what it was today,” Zettler said. “So someone would actually sit up there and look across the city, for smoke, and then they would have the horse-drawn fire wagons go out on calls if they saw anything.”

Developer Marcus Zettler stands outside the old Fire Station #5 on Denton Street on Dec. 11, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

Developer Marcus Zettler stands outside the old Fire Station #5 on Denton Street on Dec. 11, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

Horse-drawn wagons were used at the firehouse from its opening in 1895 to the late 1920s. The city closed the building as a fire station in 1967.

Zettler and a partner bought the building from the city in 2020.

A look at the first floor of the Denton Street old firehouse on Dec. 11, 2023. When it was a working station, it included a corral area for the horses that pulled the fire wagons. (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

The second floor of the firehouse is now apartment space. Zettler said the first floor is being renovated for possible commercial use.

Some of the interior has been restored to its former looks, such as the original wooden ceiling on the first floor.

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. walden

    December 13, 2023 at 10:50 pm

    Nice project; well done!

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