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La Crosse is located in western Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River at the confluence of the Black and La Crosse Rivers. It was the site of an 18th century fur trading post and medical stop for traders traveling down the Mississippi River. At the time it was called Prairie La Crosse. Today La Crosse is the home of two major clinics and a number of schools including Western Wisconsin Technical College, Viterbo University, and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. It is also the original home and international headquarters of the Trane air conditioning company, the G. Heileman Brewing Company, and the Company Store. Writer John Toland, film director Joseph Losey, and actors Ford Sterling and Charles Dierkop were all born in La Crosse.
La Crosse is surrounded by towering bluffs, the most prominent of which is Grandad's Bluff (mentioned in Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain). There are several other communities that surround La Crosse and offer many commercial venues, including Onalaska, Wisconsin, and Holmen, Wisconsin.