Monday, April 14, 2008

Pelican Pilgrimage

Yesterday while on a bike ride for the first time in my life I had the fortune and pleasure of seeing hundreds and hundreds of American White Pelicans flying north along the Mississippi River at La Crosse. Most of them were flying very high and out of camera range but one group was flying lower for some reason and I was able to snap a photo (see above) of the lead birds in the group as they passed overhead. Out of curiosity I checked the Web when I got home to learn about the migration habits of American White Pelicans and discovered they spent the winter along the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico to Florida. In March they begin to head north along the Mississippi - usually spending three weeks in the Illinois area before continuing north in late March or early April to their nesting grounds in northern Wisconsin/Minnesota and southern Canada. Cool. I never knew that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ghost Business

The other day I happened to notice an old Pepsi Cola warehouse being razed in the 1800 block of West Avenue South in La Crosse. In the razing process a false facade on the building was removed, exposing the building's original front and a sign for the Miller Broom Company (see photo). I did some checking in local history files and discovered this building was erected in 1919 for the Miller Broom Company which occupied the structure until the early 1960s. There is not a lot of available information about this broom firm but I did find this interesting account from 1904 in "La Crosse, Wisconsin: The Gateway City: A City of Great Enterprises, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Agricultural Resources Unsurpassed" when the business was located in downtown La Crosse:

AUGUST MILLER, Manufacturer of Fine Brooms, 111 South Front Street. In 1882 Mr. August Miller established his present business and since that time has been enjoying a steadily increasing accession of patronage. He is manufacturer of fine brooms and whisks and his reputation for making a first-class article is well known. Twenty hands (17 men and three boys) are employed, 13 machines operated and about 50 dozen brooms and whisks are turned out per day. The factory occupies two floors and basement of a building 20 x 100 feet and they ship their goods to California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, these states being thoroughly canvassed by four traveling men. Mr. Miller is the originator of the famous "Little Daisy," which is the most popular broom in the northwest. He is a good business man, a faithful citizen and well liked by all who know him.

Makes me wonder if a "Little Daisy" broom could still be found in some broken down shed in Montana. Guess I need to go on a road trip someday.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Going, Going . . . Gone!

While on a recent bike ride I came across this old house being razed at 215-217 Ferry Street (not far from downtown La Crosse). A check of local building records shows the house was built in 1886 by John Dryer as a double unit (a replica of this unit shown being razed was located just to the left and had already been razed by the time I arrived on the scene). Dryer, who was listed as a carpenter in early 1880 La Crosse city directories, must have died shortly after the house was constructed because the 1888 City Directory lists "Dora Dyer, widow of John" as one of the occupants of the house along with her two daughters, Mary and Phena, in addition to George Barry, laborer; Henry Barry, teamster; Martha Parker, widow of Levi; and William E. Parker, Burlington Railroad worker. All lost to history as their old abode . . . which was razed to make way for a new car parking lot.