We are at Goose Island, five miles south of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Staying a few days to celebrate Jim’s birthday (today, July 12). You should be able to see a map of our location by clicking here. Thanks for your birthday greetings, Jim is sure your cards are heading from our mail forwarder (Livingston TX) to Clear Lake, Mn to await our mail pickup there next week.
Jim checked into the RV Service Net on his ham radio both these two mornings, pretty cool to be able to get wireless voice without cellphone towers from just about everywhere on this continent. Thanks to W8ACT Charlie for relaying Jim in! While on the amateur radio net, Charlie told Jim to check out the Memorial Park in Arcadia, Wi. A little later Jim received an email from Charlie with some more details. We’re looking forward to steering through Arcadia next.
After breakfast we drove downtown, parked the truck, and toured La Crosse on foot. Deb read from a self-guided tour pamphlet the features and uses of the preserved downtown buildings. Jim drew us into Adam Kroner’s hardware store, serving La Crosse for 140 years and still in the same family. Our purchases were very small for them but useful to us — we bought a packet of aluminum rivets and a phillips 0 pt pocket screwdriver (to disassemble the television/dvd player next time).
We were drawn, like a moth to flame or a falling body to the earth, from the sidewalk into a building by baking smells. We found the International Bakery with fresh coffee and big and fresh cinnamon buns and a copy of the daily newspaper. Why resist this? An hour later, properly fortified, we again launched our tour. We found several Richardsonian Romanesque Revival churches and buildings. We hadn’t previously heard of RRR design and found helpful information here.
Deb’s walking tours map showed a preserved home, The Hixon House. We stumbled upon the house in the midst of a summer ice cream social. People were dressed in 1900s period clothes, people were playing old-time lawn games, barbershop quartets sang from the back porch, and people were eating popcorn and ice cream. This was interesting but not what we were seeking. We could have skipped the cinnamon buns if only we had known.
The Hixon House, as it turned out, is a museum of the Hixon’s home as it would have looked in 1900. Over eighty-five percent (85%) of the furnishings are from the Gideon Hixon family. The Limoge china, the silver service, the library, the furniture, lamps (electric and gas), and even the bed linens have been preserved and are on display exactly as they would have been over one hundred years ago.
Some items did not survive so well and required careful treatment or replacement. The carpets, some wallpapers, and some upholstery have been replaced with the most authentic items available. It was surprising and amazing to find a house in which such a large amount of original possessions have been preserved intact. The admission price, normally $8.50/$7.50(seniors), doesn’t seem to come close to funding the kind of preservation and maintenance required for the Hixon House. The La Crosse Historical Society is doing a great job operating and funding the program. This museum is a gem for La Crosse and we highly recommend it to anyone.
We repaired to our truck and drove to Riverside Park, along the Mississippi River, for a really late picnic lunch on the lawn before driving up to Grandad’s Bluff. Grandad’s Bluff is an almost 600 feet high rock outcropping overlooking La Crosse and the river. Visible from the Bluff are Iowa, Minnesota, and, of course, Wisconsin. This reminded Jim of Chimney Rock, North Carolina, where as a boy he was told you could see SC, TN, VA, and NC — but he couldn’t see the state lines!
This morning we attended Wesley United Methodist Church in the 1886 sanctuary. What a testament to its construction and care. The stained glass windows are bright and beautiful, the deeply carved wood pews have a rich lustrous stained finish, and the congregation has apparently done a great job carefully modernizing the building without marring the historic appearance. One case in point is the relatively recent addition of three fan-coil cooling units.
Two are concealed by grills behind the altar and a third is visible but unobtrusive near the rear of the sanctuary. Fan coil units require no ductwork but have fans quietly blowing room air across the cooling fins then throughout the room. Very friendly members invited us, after the service, for coffee and pastry in their fellowship hall and we had a nice visit. We spoke at length after coffee fellowship with Rev. Don Iliff, Pastor. He described another interesting change completed this decade.
The church removed the choir loft from behind the altar and pulpit, added a raised semi-circular stage and pushed the altar and pulpit back toward the wall. The stage is accessed by two steps along the entire semi-circle except at the back right where a ramp affords accessibility. So the choir, as well as any others accessing the altar or pulpit, are not hindered by disabilities but have equal access. And it looks fanastic!
We’ve both enjoyed Jim’s big birthday present this year, our visit to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Goose Island Campground is a treat, and La Crosse is full of wonderful surprises. We’ll look forward to another visit here.