LaCrosse Rock Houses and Station
Status: Most Endangered Places
Year Listed: 2016
Location: La Crosse, Whitman County
Local businessman Clint Dobson is credited with building the unique collection of structures known as the LaCrosse rock houses and station between 1934 and 1936. The project included three houses, three cabins, and a service station with all buildings prominently featuring basalt stones collected from the surrounding fields. Dobson was not a master stone mason, rather, basalt stone was the most readily available material in the area during the Great Depression.
Local farm hands, workers, and railroad crews used the houses and cabins as rental units, while the station offered a service and repair shop. Although the structures have not been in use since the 1960s, amazingly all but one of the houses remain. Those remaining buildings, however, are in critical danger of collapse if they do not receive repairs to stabilize and secure the stone and structural elements.
Hope for rehabilitation increased when a local family gifted the property to LaCrosse Community Pride, which enjoys a strong track record of successful community development projects in town. Following the closure of the town’s only grocery store, LaCrosse Community Pride embarked on an effort to re-invent that site as an ongoing enterprise and community center. Today, the building houses a new grocery store, the local library, a community meeting space, and two rentable office spaces. The group also organized efforts to return a bank to the town when the local branch closed: they purchased the bank building, secured a new tenant to run the bank, and are currently working to find another tenant for the adjacent café.
With several successful revitalization projects under its belt, LaCrosse Community Pride is now turning their attention to the rock houses and station. They have worked closely with Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative and are involving the community as plans for the buildings develop. One thing is certain: the project will ultimately capture the unique nature of the basalt buildings and highlight why they matter to the people of LaCrosse.