Grand Crossing Tower/Railroad Car

Copeland Park | Locally Designated 02/15/1996

Summary Material:

In 1857 the La Crosse and Milwaukee Railroaded headed east. The Green Bay and Minnesota came into La Crosse, crossing the now Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad tracks at the Grand Crossing  location in 1876. By 1904, when Philippi Art Souvenir of La Crosse, Wisconsin Book (1st edition) was printed, four railroad were crossing each other at that location. Under an agreement between the Chicago, Burlington and Northern Railroad, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, and the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad agreed to install and obey a system of signals and gates. The agreement is an example of the orderly competition needed in a free market system. The crossing tower is a symbol of this and its placement in Copeland Park points out this fact. The first tower erected in 1887, was destroyed in February 1928, when a train west bound struck the tower and dragged it 20 feet. The tower built in 1928 was used until January 24, 1991. In August 1991, the Soo Railroad sold the tower to the Preservation Alliance of La Crosse for one dollar. The 4000 Foundation and the La Crosse County Historical Society joined efforts to move the tower to Copeland Park on September 26, 1991. The Grand Crossing Tower is significant to La Crosse because:
1. It commemorates where four railroads crossed each other 
2. The agreement served the business interests of four railroads, as well as the public in a safe and orderly manner
3. The structure housed a mechanical invention of the 19th Century which was a computer of sorts

Notice of Designation of Historic Structure
Additional Historical Context

On a raised base covered by vertical siding, the board and batten octagonal watch tower is covered by a finial topped octagonal roof. Two over two windows create an observation area above the pent roof of the first story. Built during the 19th century railroad construction boom in North La Crosse, the watch tower is one of the few original structures associated with the early railroad era remaining in La Crosse. Hip roofed two-story watch tower with observation deck on east side. Moved to Copeland Park from Grand Crossing at Gillette Street in 1991.
- (Historical notes from the Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory)