Early Viroqua schools

These two Viroqua schools, photographed in 1883, were located on East Jefferson Street on the grounds of today’s Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School. The brick school on the right was destroyed by fire a few months after it was built. The stone school on the left stood for many years.

The Vernon County Museum is housed in the former Vernon County Normal School at the corner of South Main and East South streets, Viroqua. This year we are celebrating the building’s centennial year. The Normal School was built in 1918 and 1919 and the first class began their studies in the fall of 1919. Three new exhibits have been created about the Normal School and are currently on display.

A history of the Normal School is on exhibit in the Alumni Room on the second floor, and a display of objects has been placed in a case on the first floor. Also on display in the first floor meeting room are a few items related to the Model School. Parents had the option of sending their children to the Normal School’s Model School to be taught in a country school type atmosphere by a certified teacher and students doing their practice teaching.

Also known as the Laboratory School, it was open to elementary students from 1919 until 1965. Did you attend the Model School? If so, we are always interested in collecting objects, photos, or other memorabilia related to it. You may just stop in or call us at 608-637-7396. If you aren’t interested in donating at this time, we have the capability of scanning your photos and documents to make copies for our archives.

Another new exhibit features the history of the Viroqua Harmonettes, a chapter of the Sweet Adelines International. This all-female singing group formed in the fall of 1965 and performed locally and at area Sweet Adeline competitions until 1998. The Sweet Adelines sing in unaccompanied barbershop style produced by four voices: lead, tenor, baritone and bass. A costume donated by founding member Irene Fortney has also been put on display. In addition, the museum has many photos and two scrapbooks in its archives for viewing by the public.

We have also just recently completed an exhibit about the history of Viroqua school buildings. At one time, three large school buildings sat side by side along E. Jefferson Street. As the volume of students increased, two more buildings were erected in the same area: a two-story brick school in 1924 and an elementary school in 1953. In the museum archives there are many great photos of these old school buildings including a photo of a school that was built in 1883 and burned in January 1884.

The school exhibit also features some great sports-related artifacts and a banner celebrating the Viroqua High School Girls’ Basketball team of 1999, when they were runners-up at the State Tournament. Have you ever seen a girl’s gym suit from 1906? We currently have Mary Baker’s suit on exhibit as well as two others from the ’50s and ’70s.

In April and May, the museum is open Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. The genealogy room and the exhibit halls are all handicapped accessible. For more information, check out our website, vernoncountyhistory.org. Here you can also get a link to our Facebook page.

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