Museums & Memorials
Viroqua is home to a number of museums and memorials dedicated to preserving the rich history and memories of the area and its citizens.Museum, Memorials, Genealogy & Cemetery Information:
Vernon County Historical Society
Vernon County Museum
The Vernon County Museum located at 410 S. Center Avenue in Viroqua was built during 1918 and 1919 as a training school for teachers. The Teachers College, or “County Normal School” as it was called, was under the jurisdiction of the County Board of Supervisors.
The total graduates over the years number nearly 2,000. A one-year program was in effect until 1937 when it was changed to a two-year course. The laboratory (Model) School was also here for future teachers to work with actual students until 1965. In 1972 only degree teachers were being licensed and that required four years of college. Therefore the teachers college was closed and no permanent use was made of the building until 1989 when it was purchased by the Vernon County Historical Society to be used as a museum.
Today the Historical Society office and genealogy room is on the first floor. Obituaries, census, grave stone inscriptions, ancestor charts, maps and area family and history books are just a few of the items accessible for genealogical research. The second and third floors house various exhibits of Vernon County History including the Tobacco exhibit, an important agricultural product in Vernon County for many years and the Astronaut Mark Lee Space exhibit.
Hours: June/July/Aug: Mon-Sat 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Sept/Oct: Mon-Fri 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Nov-Mar: Tues-Thurs 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.; April/May: Mon-Fri 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Old St. Mary’s Church Museum
St. Mary’s Catholic Church on 606 West Broadway Street was dedicated in the summer of 1908 on this original site. The lot was donated by Mayor Chase and John Dawson gave his services free as architect and superintendent. Chris Peterson was the builder and contractor. Funds were contributed by non-catholic as well as catholic.
St. Mary’s remained a mission church attached to the Rising Sun parish for the next 40 years before becoming an independent parish in 1947. All museum artifacts presently housed in the spacious three-story Normal School were housed in this church from 1961–1989.
Now, thanks to many volunteer hours and donations the “old Catholic Church” is a church again. It is not known where the original furnishings of St. Mary’s Church went. The present altar is from South Kickapoo Church near Folsom. The candle sticks and two angel statues are from St. Charles church of rural Viroqua.
The church may be rented for weddings and baptisms. Tours can be made by appointment: (608) 637-7396.
The Foreaker School
The Foreaker School at 606 W. Broadway St. was built in 1888 by James Mankin for $395. It was located in Liberty Township, Southeast of Viroqua. The one-room school operated until 1960 when it was closed due to low attendance and consolidation of schools.
In 1963 the Vernon County Board of Supervisors purchased this building and had it moved to its present location on West Broadway in the city of Viroqua. It is being cared for by the Vernon County Historical Society and used by third graders of the area each spring as a one-day learning experience. The children are encouraged to wear dress styles of the pioneers and to bring their noon lunch in buckets, jars and baskets, just like they did in the olden days. Recess consists of old-fashioned games and hand washing is done from a bucket of water. Their school day consists of learning the “basics” by one teacher in one room.
Tours can be made by appointment: (608) 637-7396.
Sherry Butt House
The Sherry Butt House at 795 N Main St. is one of Viroqua’s oldest houses, built in 1870 by Lt. Col. Cyrus M. Butt after his valiant service in the Civil War. Orbec and Hilda Sherry purchased the house from Jane Butt in 1947, furnishings intact. Upon Mr. Sherry’s death in 1988, the Vernon County Historical Society purchased the home and its furnishings. Many original pieces remain in the house. The Sherry Butt House is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. It is also open by appointment by calling (608) 637-7396.