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History and Significance of Oleson’s Livery
316 Wisconsin Street, Eau Claire, WI
The history of Oleson’s Livery as a small business that survived the historic and permanent shift from horse to automobile transportation during the 20th century is an important story in Eau Claire and national history. It is astonishing that a structure, which illustrates this historic shift, survives and remains standing. Only 19 livery structures are listed on the National Register, adding rarity to historic significance as a reason to preserve the Oleson Livery at 316 Wisconsin Street. (1)
The number of livery stables in Eau Claire fluctuated greatly with the expansion of Eau Claire and the growing popularity of the automobile. An analysis of city directories in ten-year increments proves useful in understanding the changes that occurred in Eau Claire transportation. There are six livery stables listed in the 1880 directory, and several other horse-related businesses. (2) In the 1889-1890 city directory, there are thirteen and by 1902 ten stables. (3) In 1910, only seven livery stables are listed, along with two automobile dealers. (4) The trend toward automotive transportation increases dramatically during the next decade: by 1920 the directory shows a mere four livery stables, one “auto livery”, and many auto-related businesses, from automobile tire repair to automobile painting. (5) Oleson’s Livery, however, is continuously listed in the directories, holding an important position as one of the first and last livery stables in Eau Claire and indicating a tenacious (and perhaps lucky) longevity in the face of the historic shift to automotive transport. (6)
George Oleson and his brother Peter began the company in the 1880’s on the Wisconsin Street site. (7) In 1893, the owners built the current structure after a fire destroyed the previous wooden one. (8) The business was owned by the Oleson family for at least forty years, then sold in the 1920s, when the building’s use became associated with automobile enterprises. (9) Since the twenties, it has housed several businesses, but they have all been automobile-related. (10) One business, in 1931, was called the “Drive Yourself Auto Livery.” (11)
The physical characteristics on the exterior of the building were simply designed and remain unchanged today. The structure has ornamental design work on its brick facade, and evenly spaced windows with limestone sills on the street elevation. Two doors on the first floor flank a large garage door. (12) Inside, on the first floor, there is a large room, red in appearance and clearly an old auto garage, with automobile signs on the walls and great open spaces. The eastern portion of the building is a medium-size room that was probably an office. Although the lower portion of the building was modified and used as a garage during the rise of the automobile period, the back doors are still tall enough for horses. (13)
The second level retains integrity to the livery stable period. Seventy percent of the space is one large unfinished room. The floor in this area is made of wooden boards, spaced slightly apart, hayloft fashion. On the eastern side of the building are two rooms directly above the first floor office. The larger room, closest to Wisconsin Street, appears to be an office. It is finished with crown molding, and there is evidence of electricity. The room farther north into the block is a bathroom. Past the bathroom is an elevator feature, which according to the previous owner, John Mogenson, was a car elevator. (14)
The importance of this building as a livery stable and auto garage and what it represents about American life and downtown development is central to the history of the Eau Claire. It stands as a structure that illustrates Eau Claire as a settlement destination and regional center, to the present renewal of downtown and in particular, the redevelopment of the Phoenix Park site. Historically, when people came to Eau Claire they built or rented homes, worked in or began businesses in the central part of the town. In rural areas, people owned their own horses, but in city settings, residents relied on liveries. When they needed a horse, a doctor, or to move a household, or a ride to or from the train station, they called on a livery. (15) As a result of using, rather than owning horses, cities structures were built closer together, and the commerce generated created city centers-- downtowns. Eventually, the automobile era eroded the center of the city as people moved their homes and businesses to the outskirts of Eau Claire. (16)
Oleson’s Livery though, stands intact as part of our original downtown life. Research shows that all other livery stables in Eau Claire have become something else entirely and no longer allude to their histories as stables. In fact, livery stables, once so integral to society, are extremely rare throughout the country. (17) There are
Me, I'm used to being tired and bloody
But you believed that I could be somebody.
Since I wanted to include Midnight in my 52 weeks project eventually, it looks like this will have to do.. /:
Rest in peace to my soul mate of a dog.
Midnight. You are the only dog who has never dissappointed me in even the littlest of ways. You are the closest thing I'd ever considered as perfect, you were literally like part of me. You knew me. I don't even remember how many times I cried over you back when I was fighting for you. I remember the first time you came to Wisconsin, when Alibi passed away, and you were my angel. I never expected to have a greyhound, it just wasn't my breed of choice but you stole my heart. I even tried resisting getting attached to you because I knew you'd have to go away, but I obviously couldn't achieve that. /: I remember all the walks we took down the miles of gravel roads, just you and me when it was pitch black outside. You were like my escape from everything, the fact that I didn't get to see you whenever I wanted created that. You were my hero, so many times, even for the littlest of things. You were probably the most personally perfect dog I could've ever had. I will love you for as long as I live. Say hello to Alibi for me. Goodbye my sweet, sweet boy.
I'd like to say a thank you to everybody for the support, I don't know what I'd do without you guys, seriously. I love you all.
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