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Fire Station No. 5 Listed in the State Register of Historic Places | Wisconsin Historical Society

News Release

Fire Station No. 5 Listed in the State Register of Historic Places

For Immediate Release (September 21, 2021)

Fire Station No. 5 Listed in the State Register of Historic Places | Wisconsin Historical Society

La Crosse, WI. - The Wisconsin Historical Society placed the Fire Station No. 5 (La Crosse, La Crosse County) on the State Register of Historic Places on August 20, 2021.

The La Crosse Fire Station No. 5 was built of brick in 1895, and stands two stories tall. At street level, two large engine bay door openings mark the entry to the large apparatus bay room, used to house firefighting equipment. The second story originally contained a club room, offices, and a dormitory for firefighters; and a rear addition to the building contained stables for the fire horses with a hayloft above. The fire station has a unique structural system: the second-story floor joists are suspended from the upper roof trusses by cast-iron tie rods in order to allow the first story apparatus bay room to be completely free of columns or supports.

The Fire Station No. 5 was built just as La Crosse was transitioning from volunteer fire companies to a professional, paid, city-run fire department. When the Fire Station No. 5 opened, it had a refurbished 4,000-lb. hose wagon (carrying 1,300 feet of 2 ½” hose), a 2,600-lb. ladder truck with a 35-foot extension ladder, four horses, and eight men with yearly salaries ranging from $600 for hose and truckmen to $800 for Captain D. E. Desmond.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, fire departments across the country began to switch from horse-drawn equipment to modern gasoline-powered equipment. Fire Station No. 5 was the last firehouse in La Crosse to continue using its horse brigades – until April 1926, when the entire No. 5 crew was called out on a false alarm and returned to find a new Pierce-Arrow gasoline-powered hose car parked in front of the firehouse. Station No. 5 continued to serve its surrounding neighborhood for the next four decades. When the firehouse was decommissioned in 1967, it was converted to a senior citizen community center and remained in public use until 2019.

The Fire Station No. 5 remains the oldest surviving firehouse in La Crosse, and it illustrates the historic transition from horse-drawn firefighting equipment to modern gasoline-powered equipment. With its character-defining front engine bay openings and its clear-span apparatus bay room, the Fire Station No. 5 is locally significant as a reminder of La Crosse’s dedication to providing fire protection to the expanding city.

The State Register is Wisconsin's official list of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin's heritage. The State Historic Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society administers both the State Register and National Register in Wisconsin.

To learn more about the State and National Register programs in Wisconsin, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org