Archive for April, 2010

Photo challenge of the week (#15)

April 27, 2010

photo of week 15Spring is a good time to see Madison’s public art (including Sid Boyum’s eastside art). We can vouch that this bronze and limestone sundial keeps good time. Where is the sundial located? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play the challenge).

Last week’s photo challenge was about the elegant stone entrance to Spring Trail pond, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1926. A decade later the “duck pond” became part of the UW arboretum. In winter, water kept open by spring flow attracts hundreds of mallards and a kingfisher or two. Charles Brown wrote that “This fine spring was known to the Winnebago Indians who camped in early days at this place, as ‘Nibin-nagoo,’ or the trail spring, being on or near an old Indian trail.”

In the 1920s Wright also built a wall across Nakoma Rd. for the Dicksons, new owners of Old Spring Tavern. As Mrs. Dickson remembered, “Frank Lloyd Wright & his stone mason built the stone wall around the place, Frank Lloyd as boss, I can still see him with his old brown leather britches, giving his ideas & council…”

Old Abe leads a regiment

April 27, 2010

Photo challenge #13 was about Old Abe, eagle mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, who led a 20-year life that could be considered rich and accomplished for a human. She’s on a short list of birds famous enough to be named (like Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died in a zoo).

Old Abe’s life is well-documented, starting with her sex: “She though a female bird is named after our president,” wrote Sgt. Ambrose Armitage in his journal. She was captured on northern Wisconsin’s Flambeau River by Ahgamahwegezhig (Chief Sky), a Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe. Ahgamahwegezhig traded the bird to Daniel McCann, who sold the eagle to an Eau Claire militia. Called up for Civil War service, the Eau Claire “Eagles” joined the 8th Wisconsin regiment at Camp Randall.

Old Abe was present at 37 battles in the western theater, including Vicksburg. She was so charismatic that Confederate Gen. Sterling Price supposedly said “I would rather get that eagle than capture a whole brigade or a dozen battle flags.” After the war, Old Abe returned to Madison and lived in the capitol, drawing countless visitors. She attended events around the country and even inspired souvenirs.

In 1881 Old Abe died from smoke inhalation during a fire. Her taxidermied body was then displayed in the capitol rotunda for two more decades, until the capitol burned down in 1904. She now stands at the top of Camp Randall arch, dedicated in 1912.

Photo challenge of the week (#14)

April 27, 2010

photo of week 14A certain Wisconsin-born architect claims more Madison structures than just a meeting houseboathouse, and Usonian house. He also designed the wall and entrance for a picturesque spring-fed pond. Where is this wall and who is the designer? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play the challenge).

We’ll have more to say about Civil War hero Old Abe, answer to photo challenge #13, later in the week.

Horace Tenney’s golden vision

April 22, 2010

grandview commonsOn his way to Madison in 1845, Horace Tenney first glimpsed the Isthmus from a knoll near present-day Cottage Grove Rd., just east of the interstate (now Grandview Commons residential development). Horace, brother of Tenney Park donor Daniel Tenney, later became village president (before Madison gained city status in 1856), street superintendent, state legislator, and UW regent. Listen to Tenney’s description of his 1845 view.

Horace Tenney wrote that “game was profusely abundant” in the Four Lakes area. He “shot prairie chickens on the Capitol Square and the hunting of quail there was common.”

Note: the background music, “Late Summer Air,” was used in the wonderful 6-part National Parks documentary by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, in which hometown historian Bill Cronon figures prominently. DVDs of the series are at the Madison Public Library. Hear more of Horace Tenney in our Dead Lake Ridge podcast.

Photo challenge of the week (#13)

April 18, 2010

photo of week 13The bird perched atop this memorial arch is not simply a decorative flourish (to find out where the arch is, click the photo). In her time she was a famous leader of men and fierce in battle. Today she possesses the modern mark of fame: a Wikipedia page. What is the name of the bird represented here? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play the challenge).

The answer to last week’s challenge is the newly renovated reading room at the state historical society. This Friday and Saturday is an open house to show off the restored 110-year-old library.

Photo challenge of the week (#12)

April 12, 2010

photo of week 12Last winter, this ornate turn-of-the-20th-century room was a scaffolded renovation in progress. Now it’s Madison’s classiest place to read or study. An April 23-24 open house will celebrate the new look. What and where is this room? Photo challenge answers are due by next Monday (how to play the challenge).

Last week’s challenge asked about Unseen Madison hero Charles E. Brown (Charlie, as he was affectionately known). Name a Madison effigy mound and Brown likely had a hand in saving it from development. From 1908 to 1944 he recorded and preserved mounds and archaeological sites throughout the state as museum director of the state historical society. For 40 years he was secretary of the Wisconsin Archeological Society, which he founded in 1903.

Charlie Brown also studied Ho-Chunk cultural traditions. Because Ho-Chunks (among other modern tribes) are probable descendants of the mound builders,  Brown helps us understand Wisconsin’s effigy mound landscape. Ho-Chunks in Madison were frequent visitors to Brown’s home, and Brown heard tribal stories by visiting Ho-Chunk friends camped on Lake Wingra (some families camped there seasonally until the 1920s). Learn more about Charles Brown in our Dead Lake Ridge podcast.

Photo challenge of the week (#11)

April 6, 2010

photo of week 12 This gravestone stands in Forest Hill cemetery, up the hill from effigy mounds saved by the man who was buried here in 1946. In fact, he’s responsible for preserving most of Madison’s remaining mounds. To accomplish that he surveyed the mounds, lobbied (and criticized) city and university officials, appeared on WHA radio, raised money, and wrote letters, pamphlets, scholarly articles, and newspaper stories.

Bob Birmingham, an authority on the effigy mounds of Wisconsin and Madison, says “a biography of [Mr. X] is a book waiting to be written.” Some Madisonians want to name a city park after him. Who is buried here? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play photo challenge).

The woodcock is last week’s answer. Our non-photo challenge: go see the male’s peentingtwitteringchipping aerial display. The peents and chips are vocal, but not the twittering—that’s produced by the male’s first three primary feathers. In Madison, witness the sky dance (as Aldo Leopold called it) at dawn or dusk on the edge of Curtis prairie, near the UW arboretum‘s visitor parking lot.