Viroqua Downtown Historic District
|• Total||3.80 sq mi (9.84 km2)|
|• Land||3.80 sq mi (9.84 km2)|
|• Water||0 sq mi (0 km2)|
|• Estimate (2014)||4,369|
|• Density||1,147.9/sq mi (443.2/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|Website||City of Viroqua|
The Native American Ho-Chunk inhabited the area now known as Vernon County and the area of Viroqua. The Ho-Chunk, formerly known as the Winnebago, are a Siouan-speaking people and lived in the western Great Lakes region for thousands of years. The Ho-Chunk were removed westward beginning in the 1820s.
There was a sharp rivalry between Viroqua and Springville to be named the county seat of Vernon County. A deed for 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land was promised by pioneer Moses Decker, on condition that Viroqua be chosen as the county seat. The land constituted what became known as the County Addition to the city of Viroqua.
Decker was one of the early settlers in the area. He arrived in 1847 and laid out the village of Viroqua. He died in 1860. Earlier settlers arrived in 1844 and built lumber mills on the Kickapoo River. Farmers began arriving in 1846, some of whom were John Graham, T.J. Defreese and William C. McMichael.
The town was originally named “Farwell” after Leonard J. Farwell, second Governor of Wisconsin, but was renamed “Viroqua” in 1854. It is unclear why the name was changed, and the origins of the name are also unclear. One story states that Viroqua was the name of the daughter of Black Hawk. She may have been a character from a novel, or the name of an actual Mohawk Indian actress who performed in a theater on the East Coast or in Brantford, Canada.
In early 1851, the act authorizing the organization of Bad Axe, now Vernon County, was approved by Governor Nelson Dewey. Viroqua was awarded the county seat, pending a permanent location to be determined by a vote. In May 1852, residents voted in favor of Viroqua.
On June 28, 1865, Viroqua was hit by a deadly tornado that left 22 dead.
Viroqua is located at  According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.80 square miles (9.84 km2), all land. The city is situated in the Driftless Region, near the western end of the Ocooch Mountains.(43.556534, -90.887663).
|U.S. Decennial Census
As of the census of 2010, there were 4,362 people, 2,029 households, and 1,059 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,147.9 inhabitants per square mile (443.2/km2). There were 2,208 housing units at an average density of 581.1 per square mile (224.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.1% White, 0.6% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 1.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.
There were 2,029 households of which 25.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 47.8% were non-families. 43.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 23% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.86.
The median age in the city was 45 years. 21.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.4% were from 25 to 44; 26.3% were from 45 to 64; and 23.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.1% male and 53.9% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,335 people, 1,990 households, and 1,112 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,327.3 people per square mile (511.9/km²). There were 2,105 housing units at an average density of 644.5 per square mile (248.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.73% White, 0.07% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.46% Asian, 0.18% from other races, and 0.39% from two or more races. 0.69% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 1,990 households out of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.1% were non-families. 39.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 22.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 26.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 82.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,804, and the median income for a family was $35,475. Males had a median income of $29,589 versus $20,046 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,172. About 9.8% of families and 12.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.8% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.
- Viroqua High School
- Viroqua Middle School
- Viroqua Elementary School
- Driftless Folk School
- Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School
- English Lutheran School
- Youth Initiative High School
- Laurel High School
- Better Futures High School
- Western Technical College offers classes in Viroqua.
Economy and revitalization
Viroqua was dubbed "The Town That Beat Walmart" by Smithsonian Magazine in 1992 because it fostered businesses that co-exist with the retail giant. The city promoted small business development through several state and federal programs.
Viroqua is a Wisconsin Main Street City and its downtown is listed on the Wisconsin and National Register of Historic Places.
The Temple Theatre is an example of the town's resurgence. The US$1.6 million restoration of the 1922 classical revival style vaudeville and movie theater was driven by volunteers. The building now serves as an arts and cultural center for the surrounding counties.
Recently, the highways and major streets in Viroqua were redone. Highways 14, 61, and 27 had lanes added to them to become four lanes, except for the four block section of downtown. That was kept two lanes to allow for parallel parking on the side of the road.
Viroqua was on the new airways route between La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Rockford, Illinois, when it was established in June 1932. The beacon light had about fifteen large 36-inch (910 mm) revolving beacons of 2,000,000 candle power when it was installed on the Mahlon Lepley farm, four miles (6 km) northeast of Viroqua.
Viroqua is served by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Northern Transcon route between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.
- Joseph D. Beck - U.S. Representative
- J. Henry Bennett - legislator and lawyer
- Cyrus M. Butt - legislator and lawyer
- Henry Conner - legislator
- Andrew H. Dahl - Wisconsin State Legislature
- John Field - football player and coach, businessman
- Frederick C. Finkle - geologist
- Amos Fries - United States Army general
- James Gillett - former Governor of California
- Lawrence Grimsrud - legislator and lawyer
- Frank Bateman Keefe - U.S. Representative
- Mark C. Lee - United States astronaut
- Bernard Lewison - businessman and legislator
- Craig Minowa - musician and environmental activist
- Chris Mulkey - actor and musician, born in Viroqua
- Oliver Munson - Wisconsin State Legislature
- William Nelson - Wisconsin State Senator
- Daniel B. Priest - lawyer and legislator
- Brian Rude - Wisconsin State Legislature
- Jeremiah McLain Rusk - Governor of Wisconsin, Secretary of Agriculture
- Rudy Silbaugh - Wisconsin State Legislature
- Freddie Slack - American swing and boogie-woogie pianist and bandleader
- August E. Smith - educator and legislator
- Gerald L. K. Smith - founder of Share Our Wealth Movement, grew up in Viroqua
- J. Henry Tate, Wisconsin legislator and businessman
- Richard Tubb - personal physician to former President George W. Bush
- Butch Vig - record producer and musician
- William V. Weber - Michigan State Representative
- Jerome H. Wheelock, Wisconsin legislator and educator
Sign on WIS 56
- "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
- Loew, Patty. Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society press, 2001.
- History of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Springfield, IL: Union Publishing Company, 1884.
- Bierce, B.C. "Industry of Bad Ax County" in Transactions of the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, volume VI. Madison, WI: Smith & Cullaton. 1860.
- Gard, Robert E. (2015). The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names. Wisconsin Historical Society. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-87020-708-2.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "Bekkedal Tobacco Warehouse". Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places. Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
- United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- NPR. "Wal-Mart's Social and Economic Impact". Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- "Chris Mulkey - Official Website". Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- 'Wisconsin Year Book 1873,' Biographical Sketch of William Nelson, pg. 433
- 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1877,' Biographical Sketch of J. Henry Tate, pg. 448
- Macgregor, Lyn C. Habits of the Heartland: Small-Town Life in Modern America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010. sociological study of how differing notions of community shape social groups in Viroqua.
- The Vernon County Broadcaster editorially criticized Macgregor's study, because her analysis of "The Regulars" in Viroqua was done while spending 800 hours as a part-time bartender and her conclusions were analogous to what could be found in any small city where people were drinking alcohol."Sociologist's impression of Viroqua an unflattering bar time exposé, May 26, 2011". Vernon County Broadcaster.
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