What is Heritage Preservation?

Heritage Preservation is the protection and enhancement of buildings, sites, districts, structures, objects, and significant natural features that connect a community to its past. The goals of Heritage Preservation are to support citizens in their efforts to preserve historic resources, and when necessary, to adapt them to new uses while maintaining and displaying their original character and quality.

Why should we preserve?

Cultural and historic assets are a significant part of the heritage, education and economic base of a community. Preserving the community's heritage fosters civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of our past. Protection and enhancement of historic buildings and sites is a necessary component of the social and economic prosperity of a community. Preservation not only helps to preserve nonrenewable resources but also serves to remind ourselves, our neighbors, and our visitors of our community's distinctive heritage.

What can preservation do for La Crosse?

The preservation of La Crosse’s older places can provide valuable information about the community's past. This information can tell us where, how, and why people lived; as well as what their lifestyle, culture, religion, construction methods, ethnic origins, economy, technology, needs, and concerns were.
Preservation also offers economic benefits in the form of “adaptive use”. Innovative examples of what's called "adaptive use" can be found everywhere. Factories have been turned into convention centers, train stations reborn as restaurants, mills converted into shopping centers, office buildings transformed into apartments, and so on. This process is good for the environment. Think of it as the "Ultimate Recycling." It can be good for the pocketbook as well, since reusing an old building means avoiding the expense of demolition and saving materials and craftsmanship that are costly (or even impossible) to replace today. Typically, it costs no more, and often less, to renovate and restore than to demolish and build new.

Should everything be preserved?

No, not everything should be preserved. Just because something is old does not mean that it should be saved. What should be preserved are buildings, sites, districts, structures, objects, and significant natural features that represent and reflect the city’s cultural, social, economic, religious, political, architectural, or aesthetic heritage. These are the places considered for designation.

What does designation mean?

Designation is a form of protection for properties and districts. It is not about freezing a property or district in time. Once something is designated for heritage preservation, a property cannot be modified or removed without review by the La Crosse Planning and Development Department and the Heritage Preservation Commission. Designation affords properties or districts a level of protection, while they are being “adaptively reused”, to enable them to remain part of the city’s living history.

Saving and interpreting these places is what preservation is all about. By placing properties and districts on Local, State, or Federal Registers, an educational process begins that instills in the community an interest in local history and historic preservation and develops pride in their community.