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Coulee historic sites named to endangered list

Coulee historic sites named to endangered list

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Two Coulee Region sites have made it to the list of the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation's "2002 10 Most Endangered Historic Properties" list and one has been included on its watch list.

This is the 11th year for the list, which targets specific properties to focus attention on them and assist in their preservation.

The local properties are:

The Oehler Farm

The Oehler Farm and Mill on Hwy. MM in the town of Shelby, owned by Robert Swing, is endangered, according to the trust, because it stands in a prime area for development, rezoning and urban encroachment.

The property and buildings on the site include two brick houses, a stone mill building, mill dam and chute, and concrete root cellar. The site's buildings were occupied by Gottfried and Valentine Oehler in the 1870s and 1880s. Prior to that, the property most likely was the site of an 1840s Mormon settlement.

The two-story mill was built of stone in the mid-1950s by Valentine Oehler and was located in an area where the dam could raise the water level up to 40 feet. It probably served the surrounding farms.

The property is endangered, according to the trust, because it stands in a prime area for development, rezoning and urban encroachment.

Viroqua bathhouse

The Viroqua Community Pool Building at 220 S. Rock St., Viroqua, Wis., owned by the city of Viroqua, was listed as a local landmark by the Viroqua Historic Preservation Commission in 1999, but the city council rejected the nomination. Because a new pool is scheduled to be built, the Viroqua Preservation Commission thinks the bathhouse will be demolished after construction is completed.

The bathhouse was built in 1936 and, as a Depression-era project, federally funded by the WPA. It was built with local labor and used limestone quarried a few miles east of Viroqua. This functional single-story rectangular structure is one of the few WPA "Government Rustic" swimming pool buildings still in use in Wisconsin.

Vernon County Jail

On the watch list is the Vernon County Jail, 400 Courthouse Square in Viroqua, owned by Vernon County.

The brick jail was built in 1911, combining elements of Prairie Style and Mediterranean Revival. It served as the county jail and sheriff's residence for nearly a century.

It was considered state of the art at the time it was built and includes a cell locking mechanism that is still functional.

The jail is on the state Register of Historic Places and was designated in 1999 as a local landmark by the Viroqua Historic Preservation Commission.

A recent survey by state officials has determined the jail is overcrowded and obsolete and the Vernon County Board is considering options for the jail.

The Viroqua Historic Preservation Commission considers the landmark to be endangered.

Other sites

Other sites around the state that are on the endangered list include:

Rothschild Pavilion in Rothschild, Wis., owned by the village of Rothschild. Built in 1912, it is an entertainment building that was closed in 1997 due to high operating costs.

Fairbanks Flats in Beloit, Wis., owned by city of Beloit. To accommodate workers brought in to work at Fairbanks-Morse, the company built this complex of four buildings. It's situated on riverfront property that is prime for redevelopment.

The George C. Peck Rowhouse in Milwaukee. This brick and wood shingled multi-gabled Queen Ann style rowhouse was built in 1883 and is the best preserved of this style housing in Milwaukee. Deferred maintenance has left the building open to the elements and vandals.

The Green Bay Building in Milwaukee. This brick and terra cotta two-story commercial building is in the Classical Revival style and has suffered from a lack of investment in the neighborhood. Adjacent buildings have been abandoned and demolished.

Colfax Municipal Building in Colfax, Wis., owned by the village of Colfax. It's built of sandstone and has served as a social hub of the community. Due to deferred maintenance and lack of funds for restoration, citizens have formed the Colfax Municipal Restoration Group to prevent demolition.

The Moor Baths Resort in Waukesha, Wis., owned by Waukesha County. The property includes the 1911 Moor Baths Resort building, the 1915 spring house, 1915 club house and golf course. It has been neglected and a proposed correctional facility expansion might encroachment on it.

Lawson Airplane Co./Continental Faience and Tile Co. building in south Milwaukee, owned by Robert Shumacher. The first section of the building was built in 1916 and the second in 1928. The building is threatened with demolition as part of a development plan.

Potosi Brewery in Potosi, Wis., owned by the Potosi Brewery Foundation Inc. The brewery was begun in 1852 by Gabriel Hail. The brewery closed in 1972 and was placed on the National Register that same year. The buildings were purchased in 1996 by a group of concerned citizens and given to the nonprofit Potosi Brewery Foundation. Since then the group has had River Architects of La Crosse do a structural analysis and architectural history. The project of saving the building is well underway but will cost millions to restore.


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