The Riverside Museum will need a new home next year, the La Crosse County Historical Society announced Friday on its Facebook page.
The historical society and the city of La Crosse will part ways after years of the museum being housed in the former fish hatchery building in Riverside Park, with that particular museum closing at the end of December.
The city of La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department is looking for a new opportunity for the aging building that will bring in revenue to help maintain it, according to director Jay Odegaard. The museum space wasn’t ideal for either the city or the museum, he said.
“One of the things that I feel strongly about is getting some type of revenue stream in there. I think that it’s undeniable that while it worked for the time being for the museum, that space did not fit what their ultimate goal is,” Odegaard said.
The city has let the historical society use the space rent-free for nearly 30 years. While the partnership has gone well, Odegaard said the city is looking for revenue to contribute to the maintenance of the historic building and the park in which it sits. As parks director, Odegaard has focused on finding ways for users of city facilities to contribute more for maintenance, reducing the need to use property tax dollars for the maintenance.
Historical society Executive Director Peggy Derrick said while she was initially disappointed in the new direction, she came to see it as an exciting chance to build up the organization while the city of La Crosse committee works to determine the feasibility of a new regional museum.
“I realized that this is an enormous opportunity and it’s one we can’t ignore. This is like an intermediary step. This will help us grow into a bigger organization with more experience and hopefully more staff,” Derrick said.
A La Crosse committee has been considering options for a museum to celebrate La Crosse’s rich history and create more displays to feature the historical society’s artifacts.
“My goal is for this to help prepare us to be that organization that will take on that bigger museum,” Derrick said.
She expects it will be several years before that process is finished.
Derrick said for everyone who wants to say goodbye to the museum, it will be open throughout December. Tickets cost $4.
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“It’s not big and shiny, but the actual artifacts are pretty darn cool,” she said.
There are artifacts from the War Eagle steamboat, historical Ho-Chunk items, and a surveyor’s compass and journals that go back to the original platting of the town.
“It’s part of how La Crosse was created,” Derrick said.
Although they won’t be on display at the Riverside Park building anymore after this year, Derrick said the La Crosse County Historical Society is on the lookout for a location to display the items between now and when the proposed regional museum is ready for patrons.
From Tribune files: Things That Matter in La Crosse County history
Each week, the La Crosse Historical Society tell us about an important item in local history. Here's a look back at the Things That Matter so far this year.
This 15½-inch piece of iron railroad track represents a time when one of La Crosse’s landmarks was being drastically altered.
Dacotah Carlisle, trained in costume design and illustration, had an eye for the details in the dress seen in this 1942 watercolor painting.
During the 1920s, society’s rules were greatly altered.
Winter Carnival was a major event in La Crosse in the early 1920s, and this woolen winter outfit worn by Herbert Raifsnider of La Crosse Rubbe…
This christening bottle is from the S.S. La Crosse, a Victory ship named after the city, which was christened 75 years ago on Dec. 22, 1944.
While snow can sometimes be an annoyance, it’s also hard to complain about the fairyland scenery a new snowfall can create.
Wallpaper: Could anything be more boring? And, is it even an artifact? Can’t you just go buy more of the same thing? No, yes and maybe.
In 1914, La Crosse was home to Wisconsin’s and one of the nation’s first meatpacking cooperatives.
Eighty years ago, on Sept. 23, 1939, the $1.5 million Cass Street Bridge over the Mississippi River at La Crosse was dedicated.
This La Crosse Plow Co. field cultivator was used on a farm in La Crosse County.
Prohibition had been the law of the land for 10 years when this booklet was published in 1930. For all that time, the only way to legally purc…
The Gund Brewery advertisement shown here is an example of the company’s struggle to cope with the monumental societal change known as Prohibition.
As we enter the dog days of August, with its heat and humidity, our thoughts frequently turn to a favorite summer refreshment: ice cream.
The message on this shaker bottle suggests it contains “the flavor of a lifetime.”
When I was shopping for a wedding dress, I remember the consultant saying that the dress I chose would be the most important dress of my life.
If you look into Eloda Beach’s background, her monkey fur jacket isn’t surprising.
These button-cutting tools were used by La Crosse’s fastest button cutter, Peter Brunner, at the Wisconsin Pearl Button Co.
This steamboat bellpull is a fantastic example of folk art from the upper Mississippi River.
This small glass medicine bottle with a screw-on cap reads, “Essence of Peppermint Hebberd Drugs 4th and Main, La Crosse Wis, Prescriptions si…
She hopes to reopen the museum by June 1, 2020.
“We don’t want to just pack up our toys and go home. We need to be fulfilling our mission,” Derrick said.
With some of the displays remaining unchanged for 30 years, Derrick sees it as an opportunity to better tell the story of the artifacts.
“It’s time to refresh them, have some fresh interpretations, add some things that we’ve wanted to do and didn’t have room for,” Derrick said. “It will be a new experience when we reopen.”
The La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau will remain on the second floor.
“I just really feel that a public-private partnership down there is really a win-win. It offers the ability for an entrepreneur to get something going and be in a really good location,” Odegaard said.
Ideally, it would be some type of bistro or restaurant that would offer a service to park-goers and tourists coming in on the river boats, he said.