The LaCrosse Theatre

LaCrosse 1959 Early in 1950, Ralph Larned decided that the community could support a second theatre. Unable to secure a suitable lot or building to house the theatre, Larned chose to use the building at 707 Main Street where his wife Jewell had been operating Larned's Dress Shop since around the end of World War II. The Larneds liquidated the store and began renovations on the building. A partial second story was added and the building was extended in length to nearly double its original size. Workers had completed work on the new theatre by December of 1950. The main level of the twenty-four-feet-wide building contained two restrooms, a foyer, lobby, concession area, and a main room with a seating capacity of 300 patrons. Although a projection booth and storage area were located on the second floor, there was no balcony. Two new projectors beamed the movies from small ports in the wall above the foyer onto an 11x14 feet screen. The foyer area was painted in chartreuse and had red and chartreuse carpeting. The first feature to be shown in the new theatre was "Three Came Home," a first-run war story starring Claudette Colbert.

Newspaper Advertisement The theatre never seemed to gain the popularity of its sister theatre, the Paramount. After only a few weeks of operation, newspaper advertisements for the theatre no longer appeared. The theatre was closed and sat vacant for a number of years. In February 1957, Ralph Larned sold the building so that it could be converted into a dry-cleaning shop operated by Carl Juvenal. For many years, the red and white marquee hung above the entrance of the cleaning shop and the building still retained many of the theatre's features. Although the sloped floor had been leveled to accomodate the dry-cleaning equipment, the lobby remained virtually unchanged. Two sets of double-leaf entrance doors opened into a small lobby adorned with brightly patterned carpet. The main counter stood in the former foyer flanked on each side by small restrooms. In the late 1970's the south half of the entrance and lobby was enclosed to make room for additional cleaning equipment. U-Needa Cleaners, as it was called, was the last business to operate in the building and it was permanently closed in the late 1970s.

In the early 1980s, following a heavy snow, the roof collapsed rendering the building unusable. A portion of the wooden floor that spanned the original sloped floor also collapsed. The building sat vacant with all of the dry cleaning equipment still inside. The interior had almost an ominous feel looking as though the last tenants would be returning to open for business the next morning. Sewing machines were threaded and ready, containers of cleaning fluid sat next to machines, and bills and mail were stacked on the front counter. During the summer of 1985, the Home State Bank of La Crosse, owners of the building, hired Gilbert “Bucks” Dinges to remove the building. Dinges dismantled the structure, mainly by hand, brick by brick. By August, the only visible remains of the building were the concrete floor and foundation. Pictured below left is the former theatre building as it appeared in the early 1980s. Below right shows the remains of the site in 2012.

U-Needa Cleaners LaCrosse Theatre Site