Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part I from La Crosse: The historic downtown through my camera lens March 22, 2017

Crossing the Mississippi River from La Crescent, Minnesota, into La Crosse, Wisconsin.


WITH MY APPRECIATION of historic buildings, La Crosse, Wisconsin, has become a favorite occasional destination. This Mississippi River town bordering Minnesota is about a half-way meeting point between my Faribault home and my second daughter’s home in eastern Wisconsin. We recently met there for a Saturday afternoon of dining and exploring.


Nearing downtown La Crosse.


I love shopping in La Crosse. Mostly photoshopping. While the rest of the family focuses on getting from one shop to the next, I am constantly distracted by the endless photo opportunities. “Go ahead, I’ll catch up,” I repeat.


Entering the historic downtown.


Signage painted on buildings draws my eye.


Some communities restrict signage on historic buildings. But in downtown La Crosse, anything seems to go, creating a visually diverse landscape of signs that pop color and interest into the streetscape. It works, adding character to this downtown.


Then I stand and swing my camera lens upward to photograph architectural details, vintage lettering on buildings and the many colorful and creative signs that landmark downtown businesses.


Downtown La Crosse is one busy place. On-street parking is a challenge to secure. However, four parking ramps are situated in the downtown and offer free parking on weekends. Same goes for street parking. The downtown features lots of one-way streets.


Everywhere you look, there’s something to catch a photographer’s eye.


Bridesmaids head for an ice cream treat at The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor, a must-stop ice cream shop and more along historic Pearl Street. Love The Pearl’s homemade ice cream.


Or I keep my camera at street level, capturing streetscapes. This downtown pulses with people and traffic.


Outside Kroner True Value Hardware store.


The day after St. Patrick’s Day, I spotted this cup of green beer on a window ledge in a bar. I also saw a glass of beer outside a bar entrance. Downtown La Crosse is packed with bars, I believe the highest per capita of any U.S. city, according to numerous online sources. (Google it.)


The ultimate (in my opinion) “I’m from Wisconsin” t-shirt showcased in the window of The Cheddarhead Store on Pearl Street.


Occasionally I direct my lens down to at-my-feet details or toward window scenes.


This colorful signage welcomes downtown visitors to Historic Pearl Street West.


I photographed this barge on the Mississippi River which edges downtown La Crosse.


The dining options in La Crosse are many, including Big Boar Barbecue. No, I haven’t eaten there. Yet.


Downtown La Crosse truly rates as a photographer’s/visitor’s dream—if you love historic river towns with aged, detailed architecture; colorful signage; character; diverse dining and drinking options; and a variety of unique shops.

FYI: Please check back for more posts from La Crosse.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


30 Responses to “Part I from La Crosse: The historic downtown through my camera lens”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Looks like a great place to visit and photograph. Love the BBQ sign.

  2. Love the signage – cool! Nothing better than getting out to walk and explore. Thanks so much for sharing – Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  3. parkerozgood Says:

    Wow, those are some great shots of La Crosse! I have spent many a hazy night in that town!

  4. Don Says:

    I will love to visit here someday although I am not sure I will get much shopping done but I am sure I will get much gawking done! I love old time towns and their architecture and ambience. Carry on with your photography Audrey!!!!!

  5. Don Says:

    good distractions!

  6. L.E. Hansen Says:

    Ah, my hometown. Love.

  7. Jackie Says:

    I love Lacrosse, such a beautiful river town indeed. Rick and I were engaged down by the river in La Crescent.

  8. Sue Ready Says:

    Great job capturing the flavor, sight and sounds of a Midwestern town through your lens.

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I love the way you capture old buildings and mmm barbecue

  10. Enjoyed these posts and the photos. This week, I received and email about a book fair in La Crosse in September, so it was fun to learn more! Also- I linked to you in my post today about DAIRY QUEEN! http://wp.me/p6QlrY-Jn

  11. Myra (Artist. Author. Lover) Says:

    thanks for this what a treat!

  12. Rudy Shooters Says:

    Thanks for putting up the photo of my Shooters Bar Peerless sign that was destroyed by the storm a while back with the terrific long time neighbors at Buzzard Billy’s replacing the Peerless Sign Plates and refusing to accept any money in return.

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