“A forever building”: Crews restoring St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral in La Crosse

La Crosse's signature building getting more than $6 million makeover, completion set for December
Cathedral Restoration

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – There is a building in every community defining its skyline. The tallest structure in La Crosse needed a fix from Wisconsin’s harsh winters and summer storms. Safety was the first priority. However, the project at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral is about restoring a symbol of faith for its people.

“This church is La Crosse,” Sara Taggart said, a member of the parish council.

Every town has a shape, a signature, a fingerprint. Something original setting it apart.

“I was married here 25 years ago,” Taggart said.

In La Crosse, it’s hard to miss the place on the corner of 6th and Main where lives are built. Taggart can explain why the church looks quite different right now.

“They did need to repair the steeple because of the fact that it’s starting to crumble over time,” she said.

The property has a rich history growing since the original church in 1863. The building we see today has only existed since 1962.

“It’s just a little older than I am,” Taggart said.

It seems almost out of place.

“The designer and the Bishop said, ‘Go big or go home,’” church Rector Richard Gilles said.

Water damage plagues the structure right now.

“Water started leaking inside the building,” Gilles said.

Project architect Stephen Mar-Pohl says a 16-inch stone fell recently.

“It drove that piece of stone six inches into the frozen ground in the middle of winter,” Mar-Pohl said.

Crews are working to replace the stone on the building like siding on a house. This is a difficult task in a normal year.

“Throw in COVID and through in a $6.1 million project, it’s been a little rough that way,” Gilles said.

Gilles still finds joy in the process.

“It’s not just a building it’s a place in which people’s lives change,” he said.

The meaning runs deeper for Taggart.

“It’s the sanctuary to which we as our family serve God and worship Him,” Taggart said.

Mar-Pohl, the project’s leader, is catholic himself.

“It means everything in the world,” he said. “It is a forever building. Everything must be done to the highest level.”

Once their work is done the landmark will look as it did before.

“You should not be able to tell that we’ve been here when we’re done,” Mar-Pohl said.

A stronger steeple will stand with an open door for all of its people.

“Anxious to see it completed,” Taggart said.

Church officials will bless the building Friday at 1:30 p.m. Leaders say the project completion is set for December.