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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  23

The City of Eau Claire

(-as transcribed from pages 381 - 385)

In March, 1872, the residents of Eau Claire obtained a charter from the legislature whereby the villages became a city. It is picturesquely situated in the valley of the Chippewa river, and is protected on the northeast side and northwest by two ranges of hills, or series of bluffs, through which the river runs. Directly in front of them, and due north, is Mount Simon, the highest of the hills. On the south is a sweeping range of bluffs, which turn to the southeast, and , turning again due east, for the southern bank of the Eau Claire river, with Mount Agnes in the southeast corner and Mount Tom due east. West of Half Moon lake is another range of bluffs, so that the city is surrounded by hills, except at the inlet and outlet of the Chippewa river. The city is well watered by the river named and the Half Moon lake on the west, in the center of which is Island Park.

The city is divided into three parts, known as the North, East and West sides. They are all well laid out in streets, especially on the West side, most of which run from north to south and east to west. They are nearly all graded and aggregate sixty-five miles in length. The principal business thoroughfares on the East side are: Barstow, Kelsey, Eau Claire, Gibson and River streets. On the North side: North Barstow, Galloway, Madison and Wisconsin streets. On the West side: Water, Bridge, Bellinger and Menomonie streets. The majority of the business houses are of brick. The leading residence streets on the East side are Farwell, State, River and Summit, Marston and Gilbert avenues. Those on the West side are: Niagara, Hudson, Lake and Bridge streets, Broadway and Second, Third and Fourth avenues. On the North side are: Wisconsin and Galloway streets. The finest residences are on the West side and in the southern part of the East side.
The whole city is well lighted by electricity - the power for which is obtained from the Dells dam on the Chippewa. There are five commodious cemeteries, one at Forest Hill, on the east side; Lake View cemetery on the plateau immediately beyond the bluffs west of Half-Moon lake, and four on the north side - two Catholic, one Norwegian and one Jewish.

These are under the control of the city council, and every effort will be made to beautify them. New additions have been opened for each cemetery, and a plan has been developed under which lot owners can provide for perpetual care of the lots through the income from special deposits they may make. Lake View overlooks Carson Park on its lovely island below, and is bordered on the north by Buffington Heights, the latest of the parks added to the city's beauty places.

Eau Claire has a population of nearly twenty thousand people, is the county seat of Eau Claire county, is situated at the junction of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers and is 84 miles east of St. Paul and 231 miles northwest of Chicago. In and tributary to Eau Claire there are about 100,000 H. P. of water, making it the great waterpower city of northern Wisconsin. The Chippewa Valley Railway, Light and Power Co. have just completed a hydro-electric plant at Cedar Falls, which will bring 12,000 H. P. to Eau Claire to be used for manufacturing and power purposes. On the three railroads which enter and leave the city forty-eight trains pass through daily. Nineteen million people can be reached within less than eleven hours' travel from Eau Claire. There are about one hundred and eleven factories and all are busy. Eau Claire machinery is sold all over the world. The $100,000 Y. M. C. A. building, the Public Library, and the Eau Claire Club are the best of buildings for the purposes they serve and are unsurpassed in the state except in Milwaukee. There are three hospitals, one tuberculosis sanitarium and a county asylum. A shale and gravel roadway extending from the cemeteries on the north side to the line of the city limits on the Chippewa road, a distance of 2 1/2 miles, has just been completed. The Eau Claire automobile owners contributed one-half the cost of this improvement, which forms a splendid thoroughfare nearly half the way to Chippewa Falls, these two cities being also connected by an excellent street car service. The interurban street car line between Eau Claire and Altoona is of great value, and doubtless the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light and Power Company will soon extend lines to other neighboring cities, Menomonie, Mondovi, Augusta, and Bloomer.

There are two miles of forest drive in Putnam Park, and when the parks lately donated to the city are united by the proposed parkway system there will be a continuous stretch of charming scenery for many miles through and around the city to be enjoyed by beauty lovers in carriages, automobiles, and on foot. There are two miles of brick pavement in the city streets and nine miles of macadam and many miles of concrete sidewalk.

The present commission plan of city government was inaugurated in April, 1910, Eau Claire being the first city in Wisconsin to adopt the plan. All municipal business is managed by the mayor and two councilmen who maintain a strict supervision of the various city activities. The city owns the waterworks system and administers the same through the council. The rates are extremely low and it is difficult to keep pace with the demand for extensions.

There are twenty-one miles of sewer, including the storm water and sanitary drainage system. Additional sewer work is demanded every year and is being provided as rapidly as possible. The lighting plan at present covers 154 arc lights. A new system has been laid out for the addition of a large number of lamps which will include a high lumination district extending from Madison to Jones street on Barstow and from Farwell street to Second avenue on Grand avenue.

There are six theaters, including the moving picture houses, and three large hotels, the Eau Claire, the Galloway, the Commercial, and a number of smaller ones.

The city's assessed valuation is about $10,500,000. The net bonded indebtedness will be less than $200,000.00, including the recent issue of $75,000 for the new bridge.

The bank clearings are over ten millions for the year 1913.

The city has a thoroughly adequate natural drainage. The street grades are good, and have a sufficient fall to rapidly clear themselves of water in time of storm. The soil is extremely porous, thus making it possible for the city to be healthy without as complete a sewerage system as would otherwise be necessary. There is abundant means for the disposal of sewage. With the Chippewa river running through the city from north to south and the Eau Claire passing through much of the thickly inhabited portion, together with the Little Niagara stream, south of the east side, which will, in the future, be very valuable as a sewage receptacle for that portion of the city, and Half Moon lake, which can be used at any time when necessary, the complete sanitation of the city is at all times assured. There are many miles of sewers, including separate and distinct systems, each having an outlet of its own. All the paved streets are well provided with catch basins for conducting the water from the surface to the sewers, which empty themselves into the two rivers. The sewage is thus transported via "The Father of Waters" to the Gulf of Mexico.

The highest point under the established grade, that is the highest street that has a grade established on it, is 151 feet above the low water level of the Chippewa river. The levels all run, taking the low water mark of the river as a base or level datum. This base is 180 feet above Lake Michigan, which is 589 feet above sea level. Hence the city is 769 feet above sea level at the low water mark of the Chippewa river, and the main portion of it 31 feet above this mark, so that, on an average, it is 800 feet above the sea level. The climate is pleasant, healthy and invigorating, the yearly mean temperature being 46 degrees Fahrenheit. The average mean temperature of winter is 20 degrees, of spring and autumn 47, and of summer 72. The prevailing winds in the spring are from the northeast, in the summer from the south and southeast, and in the autumn and winter from the west. According to the reports furnished the State Board of Health and Vital Statistics, Eau Claire is one of the healthiest cities in the United States.

The different sections of the city are linked together with six highway bridges, four of these span the Chippewa river, one connecting the north and west side, and three, the east and west sides. The first mentioned is a combination bridge of steel and wood. The first of the other three is of steel and connects Grand avenue east and Grand avenue west. The next in order is of solid concrete, nearly finished, connecting Summit avenue on the east side with Water street on the west side. The last is a wooden structure connecting Shawtown with the vacant land on the east side. There are also bridges across the Eau Claire river connecting the ears and north sides, one of which is of solid concrete and the other of steel. The floods of 1880 and 1884, as fully appears in the article devoted to floods, destroyed the several bridges then existing at these several locations and those mentioned here are such as have been erected since.

In January, 1857, preliminary instructions were given by the Board of Supervisors for the construction of a bridge across the Eau Claire river, between Chapman & Thorp's and Carson & Eaton's mills on the north side and opposite Dewey street on the south side. There was $750.00 appropriated for this purpose, and the bride was open to the public in 1859. Previous and up to this time a ferry had been operated between the two points by Adin Randall. A new structure was erected in 1874 by the Eau Claire Lumber Company at a cost of $2,947.00, and in 1887 an iron bridge was substituted for it at an outlay of $10,000. The bridge, a wooden structure, across the Eau Claire at Barstow street was washed away by the flood of 1884 and a new one built in its place. The other bridge in the heart of the city is that of Madison street and connects the two northern sections of Eau Claire together. There are also two bridges in the southern and southwestern section of the city across the Chippewa. The Mississippi Logging Company had two foot bridges over the Eau Claire, one at its lower mill and the other at its upper mill.

According to the act approved March 28, 1889, revising the original charter of the city, and the several amendments thereof, the territory and limits of the city are all of sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18, 19, 10, 21, 28, 29, and 30, of township 27 north, of range 9 west, and lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and the east half of the northwest quarter of section 25, and the east half of section 24 of township 27, north of range 10 west.

Since the incorporation of Eau Claire as a city the following gentlemen have held the office of mayor: Hiram P. Graham was the first mayor, he having been elected in 1872, and served two terms. He was followed by J. P. Nelson in 1874, G. E. Porter in 1875, G. A. Buffington in 1876, L. M. Vilas in 1877, W. F. Bailey in 1878-79, George W. Chapman in 1880, J. F. Moore in 1881, Dr. E. T. Farr in 1882-83, W. F. Bailey in 1884, H. D. Davis in 1885, D. W. Day in 1886, John Grinsell in 1887, W. A. Rust in 1888-89, George B. Shaw in 1890, John Hunner in 1891-92, John Ure in 1893, George H. Hopper in 1894, T. A. Cameron in 1895-96, Henry L. Day in 1897, W. H. Frawley in 1898, S. S. Kepler in 1899, David Douglas in 1900-01-02-03-04, and 1905, William Rowe; 1906-07-08-09, W. H. Frawley. The present mayor, John B. Fleming was elected in 1910, and by re-election has held the office till the present time.

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