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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Yahara River Parkway (HIstoric Marker Erected 1996)


501 S. Thornton Ave., Madison, Dane County

In January 1903, the leader of Madison's park development and president of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, John M. Olin, presented a grand development plan for the Yahara River to city leaders. The plan called for deepening, widening and straightening the river between lakes Mendota and Monona and creating a parkway. In only six months and with contributions from many Madison citizens, Olin and the Park and Pleasure Drive Association raised the money and secured the land to begin construction. The Yahara River Parkway was designed by renowned landscape architect Ossian Cole Simonds, who fostered a regional style of landscape architecture known as the "Prairie School." Using native Midwestern plants such as hawthorne, dogwood, and crabapple, Simonds created a naturalistic landscape for the parkway. As part of the design, several bridges were erected or reconstructed, and a lock was built at the Mendota outlet for boat passage between the lakes. The parkway was completed in 1906.

[Source: Source: Source: McBride, Sarah Davis. History Just Ahead (Madison:WHS, 1999).]

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