Archive for the ‘photo of the week’ Category

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!

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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.

Audio challenge of the week (#10)

March 30, 2010

Stroll through the UW arboretum‘s Curtis prairie on an early spring evening right before darkness falls, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear the male of this bird species making these distinctive sounds as he performs his spectacular mate-attracting acrobatics. What is the name of this bird? Answers are due by next Monday (how to play the challenge).

Margaret's council ringWheeler council ring is the answer to last week’s challenge. Jens Jensen designed it to memorialize Kenneth Jensen Wheeler, his grandson, who died in 1935 just before his graduation from the UW. For Jensen, the council ring had deep meaning, symbolizing equality and democracy and having Danish and American Indian roots. Read Jensen’s statement on the plaque of another council ring near the arboretum visitor center.

Madison has more Jens Jensen connections, including Glenwood Children’s Park and a council ring on the UW campus. Not only is Jensen’s legacy of harmonious landscaping still alive, a PBS documentary is in progress.

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.


Photo challenge of the week (#7)

March 8, 2010

photo of week 7 Most Madisonians, especially cyclists and fine diners, know Machinery Row. In the spirit of recalling original meanings, we offer this challenge: what machinery (it’s not bicycles) does Machinery Row refer to? Why a row? In other words, why is this building called Machinery Row? Send an answer by next Monday (how to play photo challenge).

Last week’s photo challenge asked for the name of the UW arboretum‘s massive (and sadly, dead) white oak at the western edge of Curtis Prairie. In 1963, the Jackson Oak (PDF) was named to honor Joe Jackson, also known as Col. Jackson (he’d been a lieutenant colonel in World War I). It would be hard to overestimate Jackson’s impact on the arboretum. In the early decades Jackson was everywhere: negotiating for land, desperately raising money to meet deadlines, promoting the arboretum to citizens and regents. What else can we name after him?

Photo challenge of the week (#6)

March 1, 2010

photo of week 6The photo (click to enlarge) shows the best-known tree in Madison—not that there’s a lot of competition. That title won’t last forever, as this white oak died in the late 1990s at almost 200 years old. For now it stands strong in the UW arboretum, providing habitat for birds, insects, and bats. A red-tailed hawk often perches on the open-grown limbs. In 1930 it stood by itself in a large field (look below woods in upper left quarter of photo, along curving white road). What is the name of this tree? Send your answer by next Monday (how to play photo challenge).

Now to last week’s challenge. Sid Boyum’s Blue Dragon Urn is on Atwood Ave., next to the Capital City trail (here, to be more precise). Boyum’s public sculptures can be seen around the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood.

Photo challenge of the week (#5)

February 22, 2010

A dozen outdoor sculptures by Madisonian Sid Boyum make up almost a quarter of the city’s public art. Boyum’s works can be playful, rustic, or Asian-inspired. He died in 1991, and a decade later neighbors moved Boyum’s sculptures out of his backyard for public display (see video). On what street is this Sid Boyum sculpture located? Click the photo to enlarge, and send your answer by next Monday (how to play photo challenge).

We may have been too clever in our last photo challenge, which asked for the old name of this lake. A close look shows the latest installment of Madison’s replica Statue of Liberty, so the lake is Mendota. Until 1855, Mendota was known as Fourth Lake. Why such a mathematical name? Federal surveyors mapping Wisconsin used the Wisconsin-Illinois border as a baseline. Among the Four Lakes, Lake Kegonsa was reached first and called First Lake. That meant Mendota was Fourth Lake.

Photo challenge of the week (#4)

February 16, 2010

photo of week 4aWe promise we’re not obsessed with Madison’s frozen lakes. This week’s photo challenge is straightforward—with a twist. What was the name of this Madison lake before its current name? Click the photo to enlarge, and see the clue you need. Send an answer by next Monday (how to play photo challenge).

The last two challenges have featured beavers (#2) and coyotes (#3), animals not usually considered urban. Lake Wingra has a special advantage for wildlife: the 1,200-acre UW arboretum. The outlines of Wingra marsh haven’t changed in 80 years.

Coyotes are so adaptable they often live more successfully in cities than rural areas. Chicago, for example, has a coyote population around 2,000. Nobody knows Madison’s population, but coyotes are in the news recently for migrating to the city and preying on pets. The great irony is that hating the coyote (and fearing its wolf cousin), we spent a couple centuries trying to destroy them. Now coyotes are moving in with us.

Photo challenge of the week (#3)

February 8, 2010

photo of week 3Last week’s challenge asked you to identify a structure standing near a spring on Lake Wingra. Though it looks like a king-sized muskrat lodge, it belongs to a beaver. This corner of Wingra has plenty of beaver sign, both the usual—chewed trees such as this one—and unusual: a chewed boardwalk just yards from the lodge, where the beaver has rounded the edge for more comfortable travel.

Now to this week’s photo challenge (how to play). Tracks of a wide-ranging mammal crisscross Wingra marsh and the southwest margin of Lake Wingra. Other signs include a possible bed and, sometimes at night, its voice. Given these clues, what animal do these tracks belong to?