History of "The Corn"
All indications are the building that houses the Popcorn Tavern at 308 S. 4th Street was built in 1916. The Water Tap record , which shows when city water was hooked up to a building, has "New Garage" and "Garage-Saloon" written on it, and is dated 1916. City tax records for the property also show a huge increase in the value of the property in 1916. the owner of the building was Joseph Arenz of the Arenz Shoe Co. in town.
The 1917 La Crosse City Directory is the first directory with the address of 308 S. 4th Street listed. It was a bar called C & F Goethe Saloon run by Charles & Frank Goethe. From what I found in searching through the old city directories, this was the only saloon at this address that was NOT the Popcorn Tavern, thanks in no small part to Prohibition. In the 1919 city directory (directions were published roughly every other year back then), the Goethe Saloon is gone and the United States Employment Office is listed at that address.
During Prohibition (1920-1933) the entire building (306-310 S. 4th Street) was occupied by the Weihaupt-Savage automobile salvage company. In the 1934 city directory, the Pop Corn tavern, Opperated by Joseph Wiltinger, is located at 308 s.4th Street.
According to Joseph Wiltinger's obituary (he died on February 26, 1952 while vacationing in Florida), he operated the tavern from 1933 until his death, so he must have opened it up right after Prohibition ended.
Joseph Wiltinger also had strong ties to Joseph Arenz, the original owner of the building. He was the vice president of the Arenz Shoe Company and his wife, Mayme, was a daughter of Joseph Arenz. After Joseph Wiltinger died, his wife Mayme operated (and owned) for a few years. In the 1956 city directory, Merle Fitzpatrick owned and operated the bar. He owned it until 1972. During this time it was known as Fitz's Popcorn Tavern and started becoming more of a college bar during the 1960's. Current owner David Parisey baught the bar from Fitzpatrick in 1972.
Other items of note. The building also housed the Pla-Mor Bowling Centre from about 1940 to 1964 at 306 S. 4th Street. Prior to the Bowling alley, the Meir Brick Co. was at 306 S. 4th.
I'm not aware of any pictures on the Internet. We have one picture here, but it's not a good one. It's actually a picture of women (believed to be the Ladies Auxiliary of the brotherhood of Railway Conductors) standing in front of the building, ca. 1919. They block out most of the front of the building.
Associate Archives Librarian
Archives & Local History Room
La Crosse Public Library
800 Main Street
La Crosse, WI 54601