Grady Wetlands Tour - Sites 10 - 18

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 10

Sycamore Tree Arbor Drive near Pickford Street

photograph © Daryl Sherman
Tree with biggest leaves

This massive American Sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis, is growing at the northernmost range for this species. It is believed that the Arboretum planted the tree about the same time the neighboring Ho-nee-um Pond was dredged in 1940. Since then, the tree has grown to be 50-feet high, with an 80-foot spread and a four-foot-diameter trunk.

Several features make this tree stand out from its surroundings. In addition to its light color, large trunk and long limbs, the tree has particularly large leaves and distinctive peeling bark.

The unique fruits, sometimes called button balls, appear hairy when immature. They consist of many tiny, elongated seeds with upright hairs at the base. The fruit breaks apart when ripe.

The tree has been a popular subject for artists and photographers over the years and was featured in the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association 1999 directory.

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 11

Wheeler Council Ring
Look for sign along the asphalt path through the Wingra Oak Savanna

[PICTURE-Wheeler Council Ring]
photograph © UW Arboretum
Civilian Conservation Corps project designed by Jens Jensen

The Kenneth Jensen Wheeler Council Ring, completed in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was designed by Jens Jensen, one of the founders of native or natural landscape architecture. Jensen believed that a person's character is influenced by the landscape and that therefore landscape designs should be consistent with the region's character.

Jensen carefully chose the location and plantings to reflect these beliefs: "The spring is secret - it is eternal youth... the plum trees are the harbinger of spring, the resurrection of life. The crabapples the poets - the brides of May. The roses - love, the hawthorn - the symbol of the plains. Oaks and sugar maples for strength and durability... Violets for sweet perfume and love."

The Council Ring is a memorial to Jensen's grandson, Kenneth Wheeler, a landscape architecture student who died just before his graduation from the University of Wisconsin. The 25-foot diameter circle is constructed of native limestone. Its single entrance and continuous stone seat around the circle's inner side express Jensen's interest in fostering informal programs, storytelling, and the egalitarian traditions of the folk schools of his native Denmark and the campfires of the American Indians and the pioneers.

The Wheeler Council Ring design is similar to ones that Jensen designed in Door County at The Clearing, and at the Glenwood Children's Park [See Site 18].


Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 12

Wingra Oak Savanna
Along Monroe Street west of Arbor Drive

[PICTURE-Wingra Oak Savanna]
photograph © UW Arboretum
An area being restored to its pre-settlement landscape

The 20-acre Wingra Oak Savanna is bordered by Monroe Street; the Marion Dunn Prairie [See Site 13]; a remnant sedge meadow; and Ho-nee-um Pond (an Indian name meaning "sanctuary"), which was created by dredging in 1940. The savanna is unique amongst UW Arboretum plant communities -- whereas much of the land now included in the Arboretum had been farmland, the Wingra Oak Savanna is a remnant landscape now being restored to its pre-settlement landscape.

The savanna showcases large hackberry and burr oak trees that are at least 120 years old, some possibly dating back to before statehood. In this way, the Wingra Oak Savanna brings into the neighborhood a hint of the wilderness landscape that the first European settlers found here.

Oak savannas used to be the dominant landscape in southern Wisconsin (5.5 million acres), but now only about 300 acres remain. The dominant oak savanna landscape feature is broad, open-grown oaks. A broad range of grasses, sedges and forbs grow under and between the widely dispersed oaks. The American Indians maintained this relatively open landscape to facilitate their hunting efforts. Fires they set cleared brush and small trees, except the burr oaks, which have thick bark to protect them from fire damage.

Artifacts found at the Wingra Oak Savanna dating back 4,000 years suggest American Indians used the site for centuries as a hunting and fishing camp.

After settlement, the site was kept open, presumably by grazing animals. When it became part of the Arboretum in the 1930s, grazing animals and fires were no longer allowed, so many woody plants sprang up under the oaks. By the mid-1980s much of the area had become a nearly impenetrable thicket of box elder, dogwood, cottonwood, honeysuckle, buckthorn and other invasive trees and shrubs.

In the late 1980s, a growing interest in savanna restoration led UW Arboretum staff to take a close look at the Wingra Oak Savanna. They found large, open-grown oaks believed to be an important clue to the site's history. Tree-ring dating and early surveyors' records confirmed the theory that the site was, in the not-so-distant past, an oak savanna.

The first giant cottonwood shading the oak savanna was cut in the winter of 1991-1992. Neighbors voiced concerns about losing the large cottonwoods, bird habitat, neighborhood green space, and privacy since the cutting opened vistas from Lake Wingra into the neighborhood.

To address these concerns, UW Arboretum staff held a series of meetings with the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association. In 1992, armed with a better understanding of what the Arboretum aims to achieve, the D-MNA and other volunteers became active partners with Arboretum staff to restore the savanna.

Work days, held the second Saturday of each month, involve volunteers in ecological restoration as a way of learning about, and developing a stronger sensitivity to nature. To honor the land and the volunteers' work, the D-MNA and UW Arboretum co-sponsor an annual spring celebration including a speaker, planting activities and a potluck dinner.

One challenge to the restoration efforts has been re-establishing ground layer plant species. The original restoration strategy had been to seed and plant the area after clear cutting, but opportunistic species, such as bitter dock, dame's rocket, and tall goldenrod proved to be too much competition for the desired species, which are slower to become established. More recently, burning and gradually clearing the understory vegetation, followed by seeding, has been attempted as an alternative restoration strategy.

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 13

Marion Dunn Prairie
Along Monroe Street at the Foot of Glenway Street

[PICTURE-Marion Dunn Prairie]
photograph © UW Arboretum
A well-disguised desilting pond

Because storm water run-off from Monroe Street and erosion from the ridge above it were slowly smothering the Arboretum wetland below, a holding pond was built in 1983 to catch silt, excess fertilizer, road salt and other debris. As bulldozers cleared, scalped and graded the area to form the pond, the bare land became an invitation to weeds.

Marion J. Dunn (1917-1987), a retired nurse, was a central figure in establishing a prairie around the pond to beautify the area. It was slow, hard work, as young prairie plants are easily overwhelmed by aggressive undesirable species, although once established, they can hold their own against invaders. In 1986, she received an Orchid Award from Capital Community Citizens for her prairie restoration efforts.

The prairie landscape constantly changes, featuring different forms, colors and textures at different times of year. Fall is perhaps the most dramatic season, for this is when sunflowers, coneflowers, asters, cup plants, goldenrod, and evening primrose are all in bloom, and the prairie dock and big blue stem grass tower above them.

CAN YOU FIND... A House with a 1"/2" in its Address?

The home at 3510 1/2 Gregory Street is a garage home set at the back of the lot [See Site 6].

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 14

Parman's Service Station (demolished 2011 - replaced by Parman Place)
3502 Monroe Street

[PICTURE-Parman's Service Station]
One of 12 original gas stations on Monroe Street

Clayton Parman, Sr., began building this service station at the intersection of Monroe and Glenway Streets in 1940. Having lived on a farm on Odana Road near Monroe Street, he knew the site had an ideal mix of out-of-town and neighborhood traffic.

The building was completed in 1941, just before the World War II gasoline rationing. Parman's sons, Clayton, Jr., and Keith, distributed flyers door-to-door to announce the opening and that the price of gas was 15.9 cents per gallon. The sons worked at the station while growing up, and they later took over its operation.

The building's appearance is practically unchanged, but in December 1998, the gas pumps and underground tanks were removed from the lot. The tanks were over 20 years old, and new federal laws prohibited using the older tanks because of concerns with gasoline leakage into the ground water. The Parmans decided not to undergo the expense of replacing the gas tanks, opting instead to remain a repair/maintenance service station.

John Parman, the earliest American ancestor of the Madison Parman family, was also in the business of making and repairing things with wheels. He arrived in Mazomanie in the 1850s and established a wheel wright, or wagon-making, trade, which prospered into the 1870s.

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 15

Mallatt's Pharmacy
3506 Monroe Street

[PICTURE-Mallat's Pharmacy]
photograph © Daryl Sherman
Halloween costume and make-up hot spot

In 1941, it was considered a big financial gamble to move to the edge of subdivision development. Nonetheless, that year Adolph Mallatt built a new building at 3506 Monroe Street and moved his pharmacy there from its original State Street location. Mallatt's opened for business in January 1942, just before World War II halted such construction.

The building includes an apartment above the pharmacy where Mr. Mallatt's mother-in-law lived until 1953. Until about 1960, a soda fountain, booths and a juke box made the store a popular place to hang out.

Mr. Mallatt's two sons, Jim and Bill, worked there while attending the University of Wisconsin. Bill, who had started mopping floors and stoking the coal furnace at age twelve, joined his father in 1960 as a pharmacist, and in 1972 bought out his dad. In 1982, Mike Flint began working at Mallatt's, and in 1992 he bought the pharmacy.

It used to be popular for pharmacies to carry a make-up franchise. Mallatt's specialized in Max Factor. In 1973, employee Kathy Joyce expanded the franchise with make-up for local theatrical productions and Halloween. After she began to decorate the windows, word spread quickly about what was to become, with the addition of costume rental, the big seasonal focus of the store.

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 16

Percy's Service Station
3600 Monroe Street

[PICTURE-Percy's Service Station]
Former fisherman's hangout

The blue roof and the 'P' on the chimney indicate that Percy's used to be a Pure Oil station. At the time it was built in 1937 there were three gas pumps, a service bay, and another service lift outside. It was a charming little oasis on the way out of town where you could fill up your gas tank and have your radiator checked. It was decorated as an English cottage, with geraniums and hollyhocks waving in the summer breeze next to the station, creating a cozy neighborhood atmosphere.

When Hugh Percy (simply "Percy" to his friends and customers) took over, he personalized the little station, offering a unique allure. In the front window, Percy displayed 'treasures' he had collected on trips to the Northwoods: beaver-gnawed logs, paper wasp nests, snowshoes, and tree stumps with mushrooms and other fungi growing on them. George Vukelich, who used to visit Percy's frequently, commemorates Percy's in his North Country Notebook I as 'Hugo Willie's Gasoline Emporium', where "you could hear the news of the day, listen to the cranes mating in the Arboretum wetland just a stone's throw away or ruminate upon where the best snow shoeing country might be."

After Percy's death in 1998, his business partner, Jerry Nechkash, took over. He hopes to restore the blue-tiled roof to its original charm in keeping with the photograph he found of the original owners posing in front. Percy's time-worn motto, stuck to the cash register with yellowing tape, continues to be honored as well: "Great Service at a Great Price".

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 17

American Chestnut Trees
Across the street from 718 Briar Hill

[PICTURE-American Chestnut Trees]
photograph © Daryl Sherman
Rare tree with spiny leaves and fruits

Generations of school children memorized Longfellow's "Under a spreading Chestnut tree the village smithy stands..."

The Complete Guide to North American Trees describes the American Chestnut as follows: "The Chestnut has been perhaps the most familiar of our trees because everyone enjoys gathering Chestnuts in the fall... It is a stately tree, 40-100 feet high. The attractive foliage, especially when the tree is in flower, presents a picture scarcely equaled in beauty by any other tree... It was one of our most abundant and valuable trees."

An imported fungus has completely destroyed the American Chestnut in its native range -- the Eastern United States as far west as Michigan. Botanists believe the tree will come back when the fungus has lost its virulence. Its fruit, a very sweet, edible nut, made up part of the food that supported the once enormous flocks of passenger pigeons. The pigeons are gone forever and the Chestnut is now so rare that many people have never seen one.

The only American Chestnut trees surviving today are isolated specimens found outside its native range, such as these five across the street from 718 Briar Hill. Another (shown in the above photograph) grows in front of 600 Chapman Street.

Grady Wetlands Tour -- Site 18

Glenwood Children's Park
602 Glenway Street

[PICTURE-Glenwood Children's Park]
Area designed and developed by Jens Jensen for children to learn about nature

A quarry on the present site of the Glenwood Children's Park probably was the source of the highly prized buff sandstone, used in the Plough Inn [See Site 19], the Edgewood Villa [See Site 3], and North and South Halls on the UW Campus. In the 1850s the sandstone was split and pried out by hand, using picks, steel wedges, and sledge hammers. Hand-driven drills were also used to make holes for blasting powder -- much more dangerous than dynamite, which was not invented until some twenty years later.

Eventually, the quarry was abandoned, but several civic leaders recognized its potential as a park. It lay beyond the western edge of the city and was useless to housing developers because it had been used as a quarry. In approximately 1927, Attorney Michael Olbrich, head of the Madison Parks Foundation, wrote, "There is this little glen or dell that is filled with plants and very picturesque with its ravine and exposed stones."

After Olbrich's death in 1929, William Longenecker, a UW Professor of Landscape Architecture, kept interest in the site alive. Eventually, Col. Joseph W. Jackson persuaded the Louis Gardner family to purchase it and donate it to the City in 1943.

In 1942, Jens Jensen, then in his 80s and known as the "dean of naturalistic landscaping", visited the glen and proceeded to design a children's park. His plan envisioned using the formations left by the quarry to create a series of circles, including a council ring similar to the Wheeler Council Ring [See site 11]. He intended it to be an area where children and parents could gather for activities and conversation amid native wild flowers, shrubs and trees.

As Jensen visited the site he was quoted as saying, "Yes, it is good. It won't be the biggest children's park in America, but maybe we can make it the best. I planned the first one. Maybe this will be the last one that I will plan. I will put my heart into it."

After the City annexed the area in response to a neighborhood petition, Jensen himself directed the planting by a volunteer work party and high school members of the Madison Youth Council. Plantings included shade-tolerant bushes, cherries, plums and hawthorn. The volunteers also exposed and enhanced the rock outcroppings. Through these efforts, Jensen created sunny open spaces along with secluded forest areas.

The park was dedicated on October 7, 1949. It was in constant use for many years. Playground equipment was added in 1957, and there were supervised summer activities. Runoff became an increasing problem when the Westmorland neighborhood was developed, so in 1974 storm sewers were installed.

In 1975, through the efforts of the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association, the Glenwood Children's Park was designated a Madison Landmark. Over the next several years, the park was restored, including new native plants and additional erosion control measures. The restoration efforts received an Orchid Award from the Capital Community Citizens.

Another restoration effort began in 1997 to repair the deteriorating council ring, to remove overgrown trees and shrubs, and to restore some of the original plantings. The Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association Capital Fund Drive raised $2,000 to match funds from the City Parks Division in order to fund the council ring restoration. The D-MNA holds yearly cleanup and planting days with the cooperation of the neighbors and the Madison Parks Division.

CAN YOU FIND... Dead End Streets that Used to Go Through?

Leonard Street used to go through to Monroe Street; Cross Street through Glenway Street; and Briar Hill to the Monroe-Nakoma-Odana intersection.