County-by-County Trempealeau: Galesville Historic Building

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In our latest “County-by-County” series, we’re featuring Trempealeau County. Join us each night this week for a story on the area, then tune in Saturday at 5:30 PM for a 30-minute special on all the region has to offer. Fox 25/48’s Erin O’Brien explains how one historic building in Galesville has played several roles over the years.

Trempealeau County is home to western Wisconsin’s first university, Gale University, right here in Galesville. And while its building, Old Main, takes on a different role today, I met with the people responsible for keeping its history and traditions alive.

“Everything really starts with judge George Gale.”

When George Gale came to Wisconsin from Vermont in 1841, he wanted to start a university.

“He tried to convince the powers that be in La Crosse to support that idea. He was not successful. So, he came up with the idea why not start another county; a place where he could have his university and out of that came the establishment of Trempealeau County.”

He got his wish, and founded Gale University in 1854, then the building, Old Main, came along in 1862.

“And we say the rest is history.”

Over the years, the building served a variety of purposes. The city purchased it in 1995, and the local preservation society obtained it five years later. Now, old main is run by volunteers.

“A lot goes on in old main these days, we have more and more happening all along. The building is here trying to be a cultural center for the community.”

The second-floor houses historical archives while local musicians and theatre groups use the auditorium on the third floor for performances. Outdoor concerts and fundraisers also happen throughout the year. But old main’s rich history remains a part of its mission.

“It’s the history that has me hooked. This is the only kind of building like this in the region. Its history as a university predates UWL and Viterbo.”

“Structurally it’s just gorgeous old stone building with this beautiful woodwork inside. You know it’s not as elaborate as something you’d see in New York City but for western Wisconsin it’s a gem.”

“It’s kind of neat to walk through the halls and think of people 150 years ago that walked through these same halls.”

In Galesville, Erin O’Brien, Fox 25/48 News at Nine.

Stay with us all week as we continue to feature more of what Trempealeau County has to offer.

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