Virtual Touring

I’ve written before about my enthusiasm for architectural walking tours and my preference for the in-person experience. Nonetheless, online tours can be a helpful resource especially as they become more sophisticated in presentation.

As someone who has visited La Crosse only briefly, and then spent my time mostly downtown, it was a revelation. The district includes some impressive examples of domestic architecture and I was especially taken by the number of Prairie Style houses. Many are by Percy Dwight Bentley, a La Crosse architect with whom I am familiar, and several are by Otto Merman, a name new to me.

Percy Dwight Bentley's house for Ben and Jessie Ott in La Crosse dates from 1923, making it a late example of the Prairie Style.

For example, I recently took a virtual tour of the Cass-King Residential District in La Crosse. The upsides of online tours include the level of detail, the chance to see historical images, and moving at my own pace. The downsides are that there is no context for the settings of individual buildings and I will not catch nuances that emerge when standing in front of a place.

Perhaps I am biased because I give walking tours myself for the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation. Still, the virtual tour has its place. Having visited La Crosse on the Web, I am more likely to drive there and check out the Cass-King District in person so I can satisfy my curiosity and fill the gaps that the virtual tour can’t provide.

Next stop on the Web: Madeline Island!

–Michael Bridgeman


2 Responses to Virtual Touring

  1. Martina-Tina says:


    Thank you for your post.
    You should come to La Crosse and enjoy the real tour. I love walking by or driving by the historic houses in downtown La Crosse. I took the first virtual tour after reading your post and learned new interesting facts about the houses, past owners and architects. Thanks again.

  2. Eric Wheeler says:

    I just happened on these comments as I was looking for links to Percy Dwight Bentley. I did the research and wrote the text for all six of the Footsteps of La Crosse tours on the website. I am so glad to know that the website is being used and useful. I also lead walking tours of the Cass-King and other commercial and residential districts in La Crosse. Watch for them in 2011! Thanks for your interest.

    Eric Wheeler
    La Crosse, WI

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