The Phoenix: Born Again and Again

© Photographed May 22, 2015
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

The Phoenix: Born Again and Again
After the decline of lumbering in Eau Claire, Phoenix Manufacturing, seen here between 1900 and 1928, survived by shipping its products all over the world.
Chippewa Valley Museum collections. 

Once you take the buildings out, you have to put something back.  . . . if we, as a city, get behind it, it will work.

Jeff Halloin, Chair Redevelopment Authority, is quoted in the Eau Claire Ledger Telegram, July 15, 2001

In ancient cultures, the phoenix was a bird associated with rebirth and good fortune. Every 500 years, the phoenix perished in flames to be reborn out of its own ashes. Over time, the name "Phoenix" became attached to this site at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers.

In 1861,  Hiram P. Graham and others organized a company to build and repair sawmill equipment. After their first building burned, the owners rebuilt on this spot, renaming the company Phoenix Manufacturing. Through the 20th century, uses of the site changed, but the name remained.

Companies like Phoenix sustained Eau Claire's economy through difficult times but left disasters in their wake. The rivers became dumping grounds: An 1981 publication boasted, "Few cities indeed have a convenient a way for the disposal of sewage." Children made balls and water wings by inflating the pig bladders they found near the slaughterhouse on the end end of Galloway Street.

By the end of the 20th century, concerns about sanitation, flooding, and public access played a part in reclaiming the rivers and their banks. In 1981, the City of Eau Claire acquired the Phoenix property. Clean-up at the old industrial site removed 34 tons of tires, 16 tons of steel debris, and 60 cubic yards of treated timbers. Contractors excavated and processed 7,600 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

In 2003, after a long debate, the city council approved plans for a new park on the reclaimed site of Phoenix Manufacturing.
Honoring the Wisdom and Philanthropy of Louis L. and Arlene F. Phillips

The marker is located along the Chippewa River State Trail, on the east bank of the Chippewa River, at Phoenix Park, and is accessible from southbound Riverfront Terrance, south of its intersection with East Madison Street, at or near 215 Riverfront Terrace, Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54703.

The marker is visible at the end of the path, on the left.

The marker is located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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