Nelson Farm Tour - Sites 26 - 35

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 26

Gay Commercial Building
2530-36 Monroe Street

[PICTURE-Gay Commercial Building]
photograph © Daryl Sherman
Building located so neighborhood residents could walk to shop

The Gay Building Company built these buildings in 1923 to attract residents to their Wingra Subdivision by ensuring that new homeowners could walk to buy their basic needs. Over the years, stores have included the Wingra Meat Market, Wingra Pharmacy, Universal Grocery Co., and Napper's Grocery. Customers could get lines of credit and order home deliveries, which included putting food in the refrigerator. Because the shops were close by, people commonly sent their children to get supplies. In 1999, Pasqual's Salseria and Southwestern Deli occupied three of the four original store fronts.

CAN YOU FIND... A Shopping Center Designed with Neighborhood History and Bicycle and Pedestrian Access in Mind?

Knickerbocker Place (2623-2700 Monroe Street) was developed by the Fiore Company in 1995. The design by Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. seeks to respect the residential and historic character of the neighborhood. The brick patterns, which mimic those of the older buildings across the street, won the firm the Wisconsin Golden Trowel Award. The 11 non-franchise stores have variations in roof lines to avoid the appearance of a mall. Although a parking lot is necessary to support a broader market base than the neighborhood's older commercial developments used to serve, the center also features conveniently located bicycle racks and direct sidewalk connections so customers on foot do not have to cross the parking lot to shop.

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 27

Madison Theatre Guild
2410 Monroe Street

[PICTURE-Madison Theatre Guild]
photograph © Daryl Sherman
Former neighborhood fire station

The lot where the Madison Theatre Guild now stands was owned by the Standard Oil Company in late 1938, when the City purchased the property and constructed Fire Station #7. The building, designed by Philip Homer, who also designed a fire station on North Street, is noted for its tower that was used for hanging hoses to dry. While operating, the Fire Station housed one fire truck and four to five firefighters.

In 1966, Fire Station #7 was moved to Raymond Road. Fire Station #4 at 1329 W. Dayton Street became the neighborhood fire station; it moved to 1437 Monroe Street in 1982.

In the fall of 1966, the Madison Theatre Guild, looking for more rehearsal and performance space, negotiated with the City to lease the abandoned building for one dollar per year. The Madison Theatre Guild occupied the building beginning January 1, 1967 and later that year they constructed an addition to store theater supplies. The Madison Theatre Guild continues to use the building as a storage area and office-rehearsal space.

CAN YOU FIND... A Mediterranean Style Home?

The home at 2438 Commonwealth Avenue is the Mediterranean revival style, with stucco wall finish, a red tile, hipped roof, parapets, large carved medallions, a semi-circular porch with columns and a canopy with cantilevered flanking balconies and wrought iron railings.

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 28

Pedestrian Underpass
Under railroad track between Fox Avenue and Norwood Place

[PICTURE-Pedestrian Underpass]
photograph © Shawn Schey
Pedestrian underpass that used to be a cattle crossing

The abstract for a home in the 2200 block of Fox Avenue includes a requirement for a cow crossing. The railroad obtained a right-of-way through the original 40-acre tract in 1887, before the land was subdivided. As a result, it is believed the owner, Charles Nelson, was required to maintain a cattle guard and crossing for Mrs. Terry's cows [See Site 5]. Today, the underpass from the 2400 block of Fox Avenue to the Hillington Green area is used by pedestrians instead of cows.

CAN YOU FIND... A House that Used to be a Grocery Store?

In 1931, ten groceries served the neighborhood. In 1999, only one grocery store remains. Some were torn down to make way for new business developments, such as Knickerbocker Place. At least one was converted to a house. A close look at 2352 Commonwealth Avenue reveals the outline of what had been a big storefront window.

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 29

Along the northern border of the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood

[PICTURE - bridge]
photograph © Daryl Sherman
Illinois Central Railroad right-of-way

In 1886, construction began on a rail line just to the north of and paralleling the then-called Monroe Road. It was built by hand with picks, shovels, horses and draglines. Lines of gandy dancers rhythmically maneuvered one ton rails into place. There was no room for error or wrong steps. Spikes were driven with narrow headed mauls. By accurate surveying and workmanship, the grade (slope) was kept to one percent or less and curves under six percent.

The rail line was completed to Freeport, Illinois as part of the Illinois Central System in a mere two years. Once completed, this railway provided excellent passenger service as well as freight service for milk and ice to Chicago. World War II restrictions almost entirely eliminated the line's passenger service. In recent decades, freight traffic declined sharply. Despite efforts through the 1980s to keep some rail service operating, by the early 1990s only one freight customer remained, the Brunsell Lumber Company, located just south of the Beltline.

In 1997 - a little more than a century after its construction - service discontinued and the State took possession of the corridor. That same year, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation designated the Madison portion of the corridor for Rail-To-Trail conversion, to create the "Southwest Bicycle and Pedestrian Path." The path will follow the rail corridor from Randall Avenue near the UW campus southwest to Fitchburg, crossing the new bicycle-pedestrian bridge over the Beltline at Hammersley Road. Ultimately, the path will connect with the

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 30

Dolly Mountain
Vacant lot at the Keyes Avenue end of Harrison Street

Place where trolleys ran and then children played

From 1897 to 1935 the streetcars of the Madison City Railway Company traveled between Monroe and Regent Streets via Harrison Street. They crossed the Illinois Central railroad tracks on a high wooden trestle with open gaps between the ties connecting the two rails. Even while the streetcars were still in service, daring children used the trestle as a shortcut. In Hallie Lou's Scrapbook, Hallie Lou Whitefield Blum recalls riding over it on the handlebars of her brother's bicycle to attend Westminster Presbyterian Sunday School at the corner of West Lawn Avenue and Spooner Street in the 1920s.

After the streetcars ceased operation and the trestle was removed, the grassy incline, which the street cars had climbed to approach the tall bridge, remained at the intersection of Harrison Street and Keyes Avenue. By the 1950s the small slope had become an unofficial playground for neighborhood children, who called it Dolly Mountain. They sledded down the hill and far along the Keyes Avenue sidewalk in winter and climbed the willow tree atop it in summer, until a City crew one day demolished both the slope and its tree. Nonetheless, in 1999 the abutment as well as where the trolley tracks had been on Harrison Street remained visible and Dolly Mountain survived as an ironic name for the flat vacant lot adjoining the railroad tracks at Harrison Street. Military Ridge and Sugar River trails, and a proposed trail that will follow the old Illinois Central railway to the Illinois border, near Freeport, Illinois.

From an ecological perspective, the corridor can be divided into two sections. When the railbed was constructed, the original landscape was modified significantly in order to maintain a near flat grade. For the section between Spooner Street and Commonwealth Avenue, a slot was cut down into the landscape, creating a shady, moist environment. On the other hand, between Commonwealth Avenue and Glenway Street, fill was brought in to raise the railbed high above the backyards along Gregory Street. This elevated landscape tends to have drier soils.

As a result of the significantly different growing conditions, different plant communities are attracted to each section. In the shady slot section, plants including white snakeroot, wild grape, catnip, jewelweed, woodland sunflowers, branched coneflower, marsh aster, goldenrod, and giant ragweed (not its cousin, the sneeze-causing common ragweed) commonly grow. West of Commonwealth Avenue, the elevated railbed favors dryland plants: chicory, Queen Anne's lace, thistles, knapweed, and in a wet spot, a huge carrion flower thicket.

These diverse plant communities growing within a contiguous green space attract a wide variety of wildlife. Over 130 bird species visit or nest in the corridor including: catbirds, kinglets, warblers, waxwings, goldfinches, wrens, juncos, hummingbirds, sharp-shin hawks, and rare treats such as the prothonotary warbler (lemon yellow) and Lawrence's warbler, a rare hybrid. Possums, raccoons, rabbits, and chipmunks travel up and down the corridor too. In addition, at least six butterfly species can be seen every season -- red admirals, mourning cloaks, hairstreaks, painted ladies, monarchs, hop merchants -- plus dragon and damsel flies.

CAN YOU FIND... A Beheaded Flying Goose?

In the corridor between the Illinois Central right-of-way and the Forest Hill Cemetery overlooking Gregory Street are several American Indian mounds: two panthers, a linear mound, and a large flying goose which was beheaded when the Illinois Central tracks were laid. Three other linear mounds, in line with the tail of one of the panthers, were destroyed during early cemetery construction.


Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 31

Monroe Street
Major arterial street marking the neighborhood's south side

[PICTURE-Monroe Street]
Original connection from Madison to Monroe, Wisconsin

Designated as Wisconsin's first public road by the territorial legislature in 1838, Monroe Road, as it was originally called, was named for its Wisconsin destination although it actually followed American Indian trails as far south as Freeport, Illinois.

The first users of the route were Winnebago (Ho-Chunk), who had camped around Lake Wingra for at least 200 years [See Site 2]. Later travelers also had used the road to attend Madison's first Legislative session in November 1838. They arrived walking and on horseback, wearing homespun wool clothes and wide brim hats, carrying muzzle-loaded rifles, and perhaps bedrolls and whiskey casks. Most had a buffalo robe provided by James Doty to help them survive winter at Belmont, the previous temporary capital.

Monroe Road traced the jagged route of present Highway 69 and was little more than a trail: dust and ruts in summer, mud and ice in winter, fallen trees, stones--and no funds for improvements. At Verona, the road ran south to Belleville, west four miles, and south again, avoiding the Little Sugar River and wetlands, with their reputation for causing rheumatism.

As the territory grew into a state, traffic on Monroe Road increased. Carpenters and masons sought work. Land dealers, perhaps agents for eastern investors, sought sites to subdivide and sell for $100 per lot. Sawmill operators sought trees. Millers wanted waterpower sites.

Cattle drovers from Illinois heading to Green Bay stopped at the Plough Inn [See Site 19] to eat and to sell fresh meat to innkeepers. There were also travelers from Galena and Milwaukee, and at least one from England who had a low opinion of Madison. Monroe Road also had a trickle of settlers going north where wooded land was four dollars per acre, compared to $20+ per acre for cleared land in Walworth County.

In the 1890s, Monroe Road was renamed Monroe Street to reflect its new role as a neighborhood street, after developers bought several farms west of Camp Randall, and started selling lots 'in the country'. Residents relied on their feet, horse-and-buggy, or the streetcar to get around. The farm store at the corner of Monroe and Garfield Streets was joined by other stores to serve the mostly professional families that lived east of Edgewood Avenue, which was the city limits in 1903.

As recently as the 1920s, only the streets that the streetcar used were plowed. The few automobiles that were around were put up on blocks for the winter. In 1935, the trolley tracks were removed and the street was widened. The first traffic signal was installed in 1951 at the intersection of Monroe and Regent Streets. Traffic volumes on Monroe Street have risen approximately one percent every year since 1956. In 1994, a study counted 18,600 vehicles traveling Monroe Street a day and in 1999 the total was over 20,000.

In 1998, a new traffic signal was installed at the intersection of Monroe and Leonard Streets, bringing the total to four. That same year, on-going congestion, speeding and pedestrian crossing concerns led the D-MNA to implement a 'Pedestrian Zone' campaign, urging motorists not to speed and to obey the State law requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

CAN YOU FIND... The Site of the Old Neighborhood Lumberyard?

There used to be a lumberyard at the intersection of Gregory and Copeland Streets, complete with a spur off the rail line for deliveries. The yard supplied lumber to contractors who built houses in the neighborhood, but ceased operation in 1944 when it was destroyed by fire.


Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 32

Withey Home
1921 West Lawn Avenue

[PICTURE-Withey Home]
photograph © Shawn Schey
Prairie style home with strong horizontal base clapboards

Alvan E. Small designed and built this home in 1914 for Professor Morton O. Withey, who served as Dean of the Engineering School at UW-Madison from 1946-1953, and his wife, Iola. Small excelled at designing in the Prairie style, and a number of his buildings survive in Madison.

He achieved the horizontal emphasis which characterizes Prairie style by combining a strong base of wide clapboards with grouped windows and natural wood trim set in stucco walls. Wide overhanging eaves on a flared edge gable roof complete the effect. Masonry walls flanking the front entrance and similar flat piers on the side porch form vertical counterpoints, further emphasizing the horizontal and evoking the essential flatness of the prairie landscape.

The home is remarkably well preserved. As is common in Prairie style homes, an open floor plan creates a grand feeling of space. Despite the fact that the original stained birch trim has been painted, much of the interior remains intact. A Small-designed built-in hutch in the dining room with a sliding door pass-through into the kitchen is a unique original feature. Plans for the house include a wheeled sideboard which was never executed or failed to survive.

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 33

Kinne Home
2105 West Lawn Avenue

[PICTURE-Kinne Home]
photograph © Shawn Schey
Home influenced by Arts and Crafts style designed by James Law

James Law designed this home for UW-Madison Engineering Professor William S. and Ethel Kinne in 1916. Although of the same vintage as Prairie style homes, the Kinne home is better described as an Arts and Crafts-influenced Colonial Revival. This a very early example of a successful design formula that Law employed throughout a long and illustrious career in Period Revival architecture.

The front entrance features traditional Craftsman style post-and-beam brackets supporting an arched overhang with flared edges. The hanging porch lights are original to the home. Small, narrow Arts and Crafts style stained glass sidelights complete the composition. The wide eaves of the gable roof reflect the strong Arts and Crafts influence, as do the flared buttress walls and arched openings of the side porch.

Remarkably, original stained birch trim survives unpainted in the interior, as do French doors leading to the dining room. A window seat and Arts and Crafts style built-in bookcases, all executed in stained birch, flank the fireplace. While only minor changes to the exterior of the home have occurred, these have a significant effect on the original appearance. The side porch, originally screened, was enclosed in 1964. In addition, window shutters were added at a later date.

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 34

McQuillen Home2107 West Lawn Avenue

[PICTURE-McQuillen Home]
photograph © Shawn Schey
Prairie style home with a 'secret' front door

The construction firm J.W. Groves and Son built this home on speculation in 1917. Despite the fact that the architect is unknown, this is arguably one of the purest expressions of the Prairie style in Madison. Typical for this pure form of Prairie style architecture, intentional asymmetry achieved by the placement of the front porch and the hidden front entrance created a strong sense of privacy from the outside world. In addition, the simple, rectangular wood trim is set almost flush with the broad expanses of flat stucco walls, creating a simplicity of form that contrasts with the nostalgic feeling of the Tudor and Colonial revival style homes in the neighborhood.

In addition to the "secret" front door, this house contains several unique features. Steel "I" beams are an important structural element of the front porch. Elegant leaded casement windows, with storm windows and screens on the inside, grace the structure throughout. Matching leaded sidelights flank the opening between the living and dining room. In addition, by making casement windows flank the corners, the corners in effect disappear from within and lend a remarkable sense of openness, while simultaneously providing much privacy.

Changes to the house include a rear addition in 1924. The architectural firm Flad and Moulton designed and executed the front porch enclosure and addition of the garage in 1927. During most of the 1990s, the house underwent a detailed and sensitive restoration.

Nelson Farm Tour -- Site 35

Donkle Home
2213 West Lawn Avenue

[PICTURE-Donkle Home]
photograph © Shawn Schey
Prairie style home with an open side porch

The Stark Land and Building Co. built this Prairie style home on speculation for L.B. Donkle in 1917. Because the side porch has not been enclosed, this house offers a rare opportunity to experience an unadulterated Prairie style design. The multiple horizontal shadow lines cast by the clapboards of the first story are echoed by the window groupings and horizontal wood bands on the second story. The bold downward flare of the wood beltcourse between the first and second stories is balanced by the upward flare of the roof's edge.

Note the beautiful curved Arts and Crafts style brackets supporting the flat roof of the front porch, as well as the asymmetrical mullions (vertical strips dividing the panes of a window) of the upper sash in the double-hung windows. The flared edges of the main roof form integral rain gutters and once fed a large cistern in the back yard. A major addition to the rear of the house was completed in 1997, taking care to blend the addition into the existing structure.