Riverside Park started as an idea in 1908. Dr. Wendell A. Anderson, the Mayor of La Crosse, pushed for the development of a large river side park west of Front Street. $75,000 was to be used for land acquisition, dredge fill and the development of the park.
In 1910, the land was purchased from the Milwaukee Road Railroad and private owners, Silas Oatsman, Gustave Kaeppler, Isidore Shilling, Spence McCord Drug Co., James Hogan, Emil Mueller, La Crosse Milling Co., and J.M. Holley. One year later, the contract for dredge fill was awarded to the La Crosse Dredging Company for $43,000. Dredging started that year. It was dedicated as Levee Park. The dedication plaque reads:
Historical site City of La Crosse Riverside Park (Levee Park) dedicated 1911.
A cannon was placed in the park, July 1918, as a memorial to the USS Main, which was destroyed in Havana Harbor. Metal tablets placed on the sides of the cannon base were cast from metal recovered from the USS Maine. Trees were planted by the cannon as a memorial to World War Veterans. The plaque reads:
These tress planted and dedicated to World War Veterans 1917-1918 by La Crosse Women's Club.
In June 1918, a flag pole was dedicated. The plaque reads:
Flag staff and flag presented to the City of La Crosse by the patriotic citizens of La Crosse June, 1918. City Flag Committee A. A. Bently, W.F. Adams, J.F. Doherty, C.L. Baldwin, R. G. Knutson, William Doerflinger, A.P. Funk, W.A. Stendel, Chairman, D.S. Greig, Secretary.
The Fish Control Lab was erected at the north end of the park in 1924; its plaque reads:
Historical site City of La Crosse US Fish Control Laboratory built in 1924.
A memorial band stand was built in honor of Dr. Wendall A. Anderson in 1930. $30,000 was raised for its construction. $25,000 was donated by the Anderson family and $5,000 was raised by the community in appreciation of Dr. Anderson's efforts. $10,000 of the $30,000 was put in a trust fund, with the interest to be used of maintenance. The Plaque reads:
Memory to Wendell A. Anderson, surgeon, civic leader, patriot, twice mayor of La Crosse 1899-1901, 1907-1909. Founder of the Park and Playground system of La Crosse. A tribute to his vision, leadership, loyalty and devoted service during the sixty-two years of his residence in this, the city of his adoption. Erected A.D. 1930 by the children and the citizens for La Crosse, aided by his sons.
"The Big Indian" or "Hiawatha", sculpted by Anthony Zimmerhakl with the help of his sons, was placed in the park in 1962. The sculpture's plaque reads:
Hiawatha, by La Crosse artist Anthony D. Zimmerhakl assisted by his sons, Don, David and Stephan 1962.
In 1979, new restrooms were constructed in the park. Two years later, 1981, a new flower bed was designed and installed at the former Main Street Entrance to the park. Park employees constructed the bed, featuring mums donated by the La Crosse Garden Club. The plaque reads:
Donated by Jake Hoeschler 1981.
A fountain was built by the Park Department in the south part of the park. The marble used for this fountain was donated by Jade Hoeschler. Originally, it was part of the stairwell in the old County Courthouse. Following is the plaque wording:
Donated by Jake Hoeschler 1981.
The La Crosse Convention and Visitors Bureau was moved to the old Fish Control Lab building. Another dedication was made to the flag by a veterans group, with a small sidewalk courtyard installed around the flag and cannon. The plaque reads:
This flag and pole is placed as a memorial to all veterans of La Crosse County. This memorial is dedicated to these veterans for the services they rendered to our country in the times of the great wars and hostile conflicts on foreign soils. Erected by the La Crosse County War Veterans Allied Council 1981.
In 1983, Riverfest (4th of July celebration) begins. Riverfest is a five day family fun fest with food, beverages and entertainment in Riverside Park. The sculpture "Anidont" (man and dog abstract in steel) was set in the south end of the park. The art work was sculpted and donated by Luis Arata, from New England, because he was inspired by the beauty of the La Crosse area.
The Park Board authorized an eagle sculpture to be placed in the park at the end of State Street in 1986. It was designed and sculpted by Elmer Petersen and donated by D.B. Reinhardt, cost $55,000. That same year a new flagpole was erected, by the La Crosse Jaycees, and a band shell addition funded by Riverfest, Inc., and Anderson Memorial Fund, with $20,000 donated by each.