Author Archive

Lake Wingra public art

August 31, 2012

Madisonians and  the Madison Arts Commission got full value from Brenda Baker’s willow and dogwood sculpture in Vilas Park, When Water Was Here. Planned as a six-month installation from Dec. 2007 to June 2008—from  winter solstice to summer  solstice—the art stayed in place until 2011.

The fit of art and location was perfect. The canoe looked at home in the trees, seasonally harmonizing with the oak foliage or looming dramatically over the path. In the podcast below, listen to Brenda talk about deciding where to suspend the canoe, and other artistic and Wingra matters. Also listen to Unseen Madison favorite Charles Brown (as played by a voice actor who may be Gordon) describe the place before it was Vilas Park.

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Dancing Sands podcast

May 22, 2012

Listen to our story of a Lake Wingra spring complex with no fewer than four names, composed of two separately named springs, one of which has a nickname. Confused? We clear things up and show you a beautiful strip of arboretum next to busy Monroe Street.

Edgewood’s lost springs

May 22, 2012

We talk to Edgewood College biology professor Jim Lorman about two Edgewood springs: one was rediscovered, and one reappeared. Even surrounded by city, many Lake Wingra springs still flow. Lake Wingra, we learn, is still surprisingly wild.

To learn more from the podcast, see:

  • Friends of Lake Wingra
  • Cadwallader Washburn, Wisconsin governor (1867-1871) and namesake of Governor’s trout pond
  • The hydrography, fish, and turtle population of Lake Wingra by Wayland Noland
  • Arboretum springs podcast

    May 22, 2012

    Our tour guide, UW arboretum naturalist Kathy Miner, talks about Big Spring, largest of Lake Wingra’s springs with a flow rate around 500 gallons/minute. We also visit Big Spring’s neighbor, White Clay, and learn the history of both springs from Charles Brown, Madison’s outstanding preserver of culture (more on Charlie here and here).

    Read us in Madison Magazine

    May 17, 2012

    Don’t be left out! We’ve heard talk that much of Madison, or at least several close relatives, are reading our article, Ten Views of Lake Wingra, in the current (June) issue of Madison Magazine. The online magazine also has four of our audio stories about Lake Wingra. Soon you can listen to them here, too.

    Another take of Park Street

    May 15, 2012

    Zane Williams’s Double Take: A Rephotographic Survey of Madison, Wisconsin (2002) not only looks great on a coffee table, it shows how Madison buildings and street scenes changed over half a century. On each left-facing page we see large-format views by Angus McVicar, a commercial photographer, photographed between the mid-1920s and mid-1950s. On right-facing pages, Williams meticulously reproduces the same views in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    McVicar shot “Park St. from Viaduct” in 1934 for a Capital Times story on the Greenbush neighborhood’s newly paved Park and Regent streets. Williams rephotographed McVicar’s view in 1998, and returned in 2000 after construction of a new underpass and viaduct. The camera location is now on the southwest bike path. The main difference from 2000 is UW’s 21 N. Park building, which houses the welcome center.

    Photo challenge summer vacation

    May 10, 2010

    olbrich orchardFor photo challengers, the sundial by Michael Burns in last week’s photo is in Olbrich botanical gardens. Olbrich is worth a visit in all seasons, though the Bolz conservatory is a perfect winter infusion of warmth and tropical vegetation.

    We can’t mention Olbrich gardens without talking about Michael Olbrich. From a threadbare childhood on an Illinois farm, Olbrich became a respected lawyer, UW regent, and key member of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, which created Madison’s great early parks. (Until 1931 city officials regarded parks as luxuries it couldn’t afford. The MPPDA was run—and largely funded—by familiarly named people: John Olin, Edward Owen, William Vilas, Daniel Tenney, Thomas Brittingham, Frank Hoyt, Ernest Warner.)

    In the 1920s Michael Olbrich pushed to develop a UW arboretum. He also bought up and donated land for an eastside park on Lake Monona. Olbrich Park was named for him after he committed suicide in 1929, at 48. Many obituaries speculated that  he was driven to it by the stress of a lawsuit, financial pressure, and illness.

    With a busy summer ahead, we’re turning to new projects and breaking from weekly photo challenges. Look for more audio and video in 2011!

    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.

    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.

    Photo challenge of the week (#9)

    March 23, 2010

    photo of week 9This week’s challenge presents two photos from the same tucked-away landmark. The photo at left (click to enlarge) shows where the plaque is. Another clue: the designer of this 1938 limestone memorial also designed Madison’s Glenwood Children’s Park. Worthy of a story in his own right, he was born on a large farm in Denmark, served in the Prussian Imperial Guard, immigrated to America when his family disapproved of him marrying someone (they felt) beneath their class, worked as street sweeper for the Chicago parks district—and then became a renowned landscape architect. What is this rock feature? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play the challenge).

    photo of week 9aListen below to audio from the same location. Singing cardinals don’t give away the answer, but the sound of gently flowing water is suggestive!

    Our previous photo challenge asked for the location of this effigy mound group (mounds in gray, including the block-long bird, no longer exist). The two remaining mounds overlook Lake Monona in Hudson Park, near Harry Whitehorse’s now-bronze Effigy Tree sculpture.

    Photo challenge of the week (#8)

    March 16, 2010

    photo of week 8This Madison neighborhood is kind to its remaining effigy mounds. The small lakefront park here has two mounds, a bear and unknown effigy (sometimes labeled a lynx). Madison’s dense and extensive mound groups are now miniaturized. Before the city expanded, this pair was part of a larger group, including a nearly 600-foot bird effigy. Note the blackened mound from a recent burn stimulating prairie plants. Where is this effigy mound? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play photo challenge).

    In effigy mound news, hear former state archaeologist Bob Birmingham talk about his new book on Madison mounds at 2 p.m. on March 21 at the Dean House, home of the Blooming Grove historical society,

    The last photo challenge asked how Machinery Row got its name. Located in a rich farm region, Madison became a distribution center for farm equipment. So “Machinery” refers to farm implements, and “Row” to two blocks of farm businesses on Williamson Street, also called Implement Row. See photos of Implement Row in 1918 and 1936. Across the street stood the railroad depot.