Unseen Madison beneath the ground

December 16, 2009 by

Lake Wingra spring (David Thompson photo)

Madisonian David Thompson has a great blog which he describes as “a newsletter of ideas about the Upland-Hillcrest Greenway, Sunset Village Creek, and wider issues of restoring our natural streams in Madison.” Recently the Capital Times featured Thompson and Madison’s lost streams, including what he calls Sunset Village creek (which once flowed into Willow Creek near what is now Hilldale).

Thompson’s Dec. 15 post, “Unseen, beneath our feet,” has some fascinating information and photos about another realm of Unseen Madison: the many wonderful springs that surround and flow into Lake Wingra and the groundwater beneath that feeds them. See the post at saveourstream.blogspot.com.

End-of-decade holiday blowout quiz

November 24, 2009 by

The year’s final quiz is open-book and open-Internet. If you’re not sure, give your best guess—who can pass up a chance at this prize? The winner gets either two lively hours in the field with Gordon and Jeff (hot chocolate provided), or Bob Birmingham’s Spirits of Earth, a book about Madison’s effigy mounds due out in December. Terrence the Unseen Madison cat breaks ties. Send answers via e-mail (jeff@unseenmadison.com or gordon@unseenmadison.com) or comment.

1. In 1855, the Yahara chain of lakes got a new set of names: Kegonsa, Waubesa, Monona, and Mendota replaced First, Second, Third, and Fourth lakes (numbered in the order they’d been surveyed). Where did the new names come from?

a. what the Ho-Chunk called the lakes

b. what the Sauk and Fox called the lakes

c. what the Ojibwe called the lakes

d. what Madison officials called them after consulting faulty vocabulary lists to find attractive Indian names

2. Which tree species dominated the Four Lakes area as noted in the 1834 public land survey?

3. How many trees older than the 1776 Declaration of Independence still stand in Madison?

a. only one (PDF)

b. about 50

c. about 150

d. about 250

4. What landscape feature on the east side of the isthmus caused Madison’s factory area to develop there?

5. How did the maple forest east of Lake Mendota (which gave Maple Bluff its name) survive in a savanna landscape that Native people burned regularly, since maple isn’t fire-resistant?

Visiting Nine Mounds in Verona with quiz winner

November 12, 2009 by

Recently our September quiz winner, Mirna Santana, collected her prize: spending a wet morning with Gordon and Jeff in Verona. Thanks to Mirna’s good company it was more fun than it sounds. Our modest mission was to find the reason for Nine Mound Road in Verona. We supposed there had been nine effigy mounds nearby, and it turns out that “Nine Mounds” stood on a hilltop near the Sugar River, a little west of today’s Nine Mound Road (click map to enlarge). The mounds were probably plowed under in the 1880s.

After our Dead Lake Ridge podcast we couldn’t help noticing the massive quarry operations along Nine Mound Rd. Unlike Dead Lake Ridge, here the quarries had nothing to do with the destruction of the mounds. The quarries mine sand and gravel from the outwash of the Johnstown moraine, the farthest reach of the last glacier. The moraine is easy to see at Prairie Moraine county park. Listen to audio from our trip:

Visit October quiz locations before winter

November 2, 2009 by

Unseen Madison is impressed: our October quiz winner knew all 7 locations for these Madison-area effigy mounds. Another person had 6 and two had 5. Pheasant Branch Conservancy and Spring Harbor were the most unfamiliar locations. You’ll see from the photo that Pheasant Branch is worth a special visit. Spring Harbor, just off University Ave., may be on your way. The great thing about our local effigy mounds is that most are easy to find. We encourage you to take one small detour a week to see mounds! Click the thumbnails for larger images and more information.

We’ll have a November quiz soon. Once again the stakes will be high! As always the winner receives two hours in the field with Gordon and Jeff, or something else we haven’t thought of yet (October’s alternative prize was Indian Mounds of Wisconsin by Bob Birmingham and Leslie Eisenberg).

Where exactly was Dead Lake Ridge?

October 22, 2009 by

See two stunning 1870 stereoscopic photos of Dead Lake Ridge, plus maps of today’s streets superimposed on 1901 Madison. Dead Lake Ridge was still a high and formidable feature in 1901, though quarrying was well underway.

Note the wetlands on both sides of the ridge — lakes Wingra and Monona did not have distinct shorelines. Park St., West Shore Drive, and N. Wingra Drive are built on fill.

Dead Lake Ridge podcast

October 20, 2009 by

Our new podcast could be about a humble and charming Madison landmark — but it’s not. Listen to the story of a dramatic place, Dead Lake Ridge, with a dramatic appearance: “a ridge of considerable elevation the crest of which is serrated by a series of ancient monuments of earthwork.” The ridge was in the middle of the city and overlooked Madison’s lakes and isthmus until the early 1900s. Its destruction was “a crime which should never have been perpetrated.”

More excerpts from Effigy Tree ceremony

October 8, 2009 by

Bill Barker, President of the Madison Parks Commission, talks about the sculpture’s significance to himself and to the neighborhood as a whole.

Gordon Thunder, brother of Effigy Tree sculptor Harry Whitehorse and master of ceremonies at the re-dedication event, talks about the history and cultural traditions of the Ho-Chunk nation.

Traditional drumming and singing by the Thundercloud Singers, with an introduction by Gordon Thunder.

Effigy Tree re-dedication ceremony on Sept. 26

September 29, 2009 by

At Saturday’s formal re-dedication ceremony in Hudson Park on the east side of Madison, where the bronzed incarnation of the Effigy Tree sculpture now resides, area residents and the artist himself tell the story of the sculpture’s creation, its significance to the community, and how the neighborhood pulled together to save it from destruction. Unseen Madison reports…

Watergate and Madison’s dividing ridge

September 28, 2009 by

We’re not sure what it says about our podcast, but we recently deleted this 11-second segment. Can you tell who is Richard Nixon and who is Jeff?

What’s happening now

September 25, 2009 by

:: Gordon attends a dedication for the Effigy Tree sculpture in Hudson Park on Saturday, Sept. 26 (details here). Next week we’ll play some of his audio clips from the event.

:: New quiz for October coming soon: look at photos and guess locations of local effigy mounds. We’ll award either two hours in the field with us or a copy of Indian Mounds of Wisconsin. Your choice!

:: We have a September quiz winner. Word is she’s looking forward to two hours with us, even though the book is the ultimate guide to the state’s effigy mounds and possibly signed by co-author Bob Birmingham. (OK, you may be better off with the book, but we are available.)

:: Follow Jeff or Gordon on Twitter. We don’t tweet often, but when we do you can be sure you’re getting your 140 characters’ worth.

:: We swear that our first Unseen Madison podcast is almost done. The highlight of our outtakes: a Richard Nixon Watergate clip!

Win big in September quiz!

September 1, 2009 by

To the winner of Unseen Madison’s September quiz: a two-hour tour of an “unseen” place in the Madison area. We (Gordon and Jeff) will be your friendly and sometimes knowledgeable guides. On to the quiz!

Look at the banner photo (taken in 1902) at the top of the page.

1. what large feature is in the foreground?

2. what prominent elevation is on the middle horizon?

3. name the building silhouetted against the sky at the far left

4. name one building silhouetted near the far right

Check your answers here. Let us know if you were correct by using Contact in the sidebar. If there’s more than one winner we’ll either hold a random drawing, or invite all winners if it’s not too much hassle.