Public hearing set for historic designation for La Crosse Fire Station No. 4

Fire Stateion 2
(WKBT Channel 8 News Now photo)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — La Crosse Fire Station No. 4 may have a shot at glory as a historic landmark after all instead of being demolished and replaced.
The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission approved advancing a historic nomination for the station Thursday night to a public hearing at a commission meeting next month. The Preservation Alliance of La Crosse submitted the nomination form.
The future of the 1940 building at 906 Gillette St. has become a flashpoint in recent weeks, with PAL circulating a petition to save it from the wrecking ball. The city planned to demolish it and Station No. 2 at 626 Monitor St. this year and replace them.
Fire Chief Ken Gilliam chafed at the petition’s timing early this month, noting that plans for the demolition and replacement have been in the works since 2018.
Gilliam relented Thursday, saying, “Just decided that instead of putting my head down and fighting this, that maybe there needed to be some more community dialogue about saving the old fire station, and possibly starting over on our plans up there.”
The nearly $6 million set aside for the Station 4 project this year can be used to replace Station 2 on Monitor Street instead, he said.
PAL wants No. 4 repurposed to retain its historic significance.
David Riel presented the nomination form, which stated that the Station No. 4 meets two of the four criteria stipulated in a city ordinance for possible declaration as historic:
• “It embodies the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type or specimen, inherently valuable for a study of a period, style or method of construction or of indigenous material or craftsmanship.”
• “It exemplifies or reflects the broad cultural, political, economic or social history of the nation, state, or community.”
PAL’s nomination form describes the condition of the building as “good,” although Gilliam has described it as riddled with flaws such as cracks, mold, asbestos and holes in the ceiling.
“It’s certainly lived its life expectancy I believe for what we paid for in 1940,” Gilliam said.