The Pump House Beginnings
The original Pump House was built in 1880 by the City of La Crosse to house the first main water pump to provide the fire protection for the community. A one-story rectangular building with arched windows and doors, the Pump House was a brick version of Romanesque Revival architecture popular in the Midwest at that time. It had the capacity to pump 2.5 million gallons of water a day. In 1895 the building was enlarged, and a water tower was added to the front. Pumping capacity was increased to 12.5 million gallons of water a day.
The Pump House was vacated in 1913 when the city moved its pumping operation to Myrick Park. In 1926 the city street department moved in, remaining until 1962. During that time doors and windows were changed, and the building's tower was shortened.
Click Here for a short video that tells a long story of how our community made the Pump House possible.
The Road to Arts Center
In 1977 Western Wisconsin Regional Arts obtained the lease to restore and remodel the Pump House for its present use as a regional arts center for the visual and performing arts, and as a meeting and working area for member organizations. In renovating the building WWRA has used woodwork from the old La Crosse Post Office torn down in 1977. The Pump House's intricately-angled wooden ceiling has been preserved as a special feature of the original waterworks building.
On July 29, 1979 the Pump House was designated an historic building and was placed on the State and National Register; in February of 1981, the city of La Crosse authorized a long-term lease with WWRA insuring that the Pump House remain a regional arts center.
The Pump House Today
In 1995, the name Pump House Regional Arts Center became the official title for the center that had seen so many changes. However, the changes did not stop there. Plans for expansion which included new bathrooms, an elevator, and a kitchen, were started and finished in 1996. In 2007, the Pump House celebrated its 30th anniversary as a regional arts center. Generous community support continues to provide funding for the many diverse programs here at the Pump House Regional Arts Center.