Hometown Icon: The Pump House

The Pump House Regional Arts Center

Tribune file photo

The Pump House Regional Arts Center housed in one of downtown La Crosse’s historic buildings offers the finest in regional visual and performing art, its executive director Toni Asher said.

“We produce innovative theater not done elsewhere in the region,” she said.

The building at 119 King St. was constructed in 1880 and housed the city’s first main water pump. A water tower added in 1895, expanded pumping capacity from 2.5 million gallons of water daily to 12.5 million, according to the center. The city moved pumping operations to Myrick Park in 1913, and the building housed the streets department from 1926 to 1962.

Western Wisconsin Regional Arts began remodeling the building in 1977 for a regional arts center. The original wood ceiling was preserved, and wood from the city’s old post office was used during renovations, according to the center.

The Pump House was added to the State and National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Another round of renovations was completed in 1996.

The arts center features a 140-person capacity theater that showcases concerts, plays and films; three art galleries; a classroom; pottery studio; and meeting areas. The center also works with businesses, nonprofits groups, schools and universities to provide a setting for art and theater classes and displays student work, Asher said.

“We’re very community-minded,” she said.

The galleries are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. There is no admission fee, but donations are accepted.


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