Bekkedal Warehouse sign (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Bekkedal Warehouse facade (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Bekkedal Warehouse side elevation (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Bekkedal Warehouse #2 (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
BEKKEDAL TOBACCO WAREHOUSE
504 East Decker Avenue
Viroqua, Vernon County
Date of Construction: 1906
Architect: Parkinson & Dockendorff
Yankee farmers from the eastern states introduced tobacco farming to Wisconsin in the 1830s. Norwegian immigrants in southern Wisconsin quickly adopted tobacco and passed on their knowledge to other settlers on their way to Vernon County. Although very labor intensive, tobacco raising was lucrative and proved to be very popular with Norwegian farmers in western Wisconsin. Tobacco cultivation was particularly intense in the Coon Valley and Westby areas.
Martin H Bekkedal came to Vernon County from Norway in the 1880s and used his close contacts with fellow immigrants to become the largest tobacco wholesaler in the region by the turn of the century. The tobacco warehouse he built in Viroqua in 1906 was one of the largest and most modern in Wisconsin. The two-story tan brick warehouse was designed by the La Crosse based architectural firm of Parkinson and Dockendorff, who also designed the Temple Theatre and several other commercial buildings on Main Street in Viroqua. The solidly built tobacco warehouse displays some uncommonly stylish details including a distinctive curved parapet wall on either end. A later medallion featuring a cluster of three tobacco leaves decorates the center of each gable end.
A precipitous decline in tobacco prices in 1921 rallied area growers to form the nation's first tobacco marketing cooperative, the Northern Wisconsin Tobacco Co-op Pool, which shortly thereafter purchased this building and continues to use it as a tobacco warehouse. The pool succeeded in signing over 75% of the state's tobacco farmers and effectively ended the market domination of large buyers like Bekkedal. Their pioneering success encouraged the development of other large agricultural cooperatives, especially in the dairy industry.
The Bekkedal Tobacco Warehouse is privately-owned, please respect the privacy of its owners.