Term: Madison, Dane Co.
Part of George Harrison's 1855 Map of Madison (WHi-23644)
The capital city of Wisconsin, located in Dane Co. at latitude 430423N and longitude 0892404W; also, county seat of Dane Co.
A large collection of pictures, texts and other sources on the city's history is available on our Madison history pages.
Description from John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer: "MADISON, town, the capital of Wisconsin, and seat of justice of the county of Dane, is situated on sections 13, 14, 23 and 24, in town of same name, at the geographical centre of the county, and midway between Lakle Michigan and the Mississippi river, being about 80 miles from each. It is widely noted for the beauty, health and pleasantness of its location, which is on an isthmus about one mile in width, lying between the Third and Fourth Lakes. The surface is somewhat uneven, but in no place too abrupt for building purposes. From either lake it rises to an altitude of about fifty feet, and is then depressed and elevated alternately, making the site of the village a series of gently undulating swells. The State house, a substantial edifice of lime-stone, is built, at the corners of the sections, in the centre of a square park, containing fourteen acres, covered with a luxuriant growth of native oaks, and upon the highest point between the lakes, overlooking each and the surrounding village. It has a large hall through the centre, and contains all of the State offices -- the state library, the legislative chambers, and several committee rooms. The corners of the Capitol square are to the cardinal points of the compass, and from each of them a street extends, terminating, excepting the western, in the water. The streets are all straight, sixty-six feet wide, and, with the exception of those just described, are parallel to the sides of the Capitol square, and, consequently, diagonal with the meridian. From the centre of each side of the park, and at right angles with it and the principal streets, broad avenues, eight rods wide, extend completely across the town plat. At the termination of the street leading from the western corner of the park, and one mile directly west from the Capitol, on College Hill, near the shore of Fourth Lake, and in the middle of a park of fifty-five acres, commanding an extensive view of the town, lakes, and surrounding country, the buildings of the University of Wisconsin are located. Near the southern corner of the Capitol square, the Court House of Dane county, a large structure of lime-stone, containing commodious rooms for courts and county officers, is built. About a mile from the northern corner of the Capitol park, on the shore of Fourth Lake, at its outlet, is the best flouring mill in the State, and other machinery, owned by L. J. Farwell, present Governor of Wisconsin. Near the eastern corner of the square, the Post Office, Bank, Hotels, Stores, and other business stands, are located. The site of the town was located as early as 1833 by James Duane Doty, afterwards Governor of the Territory, and more recently Member of Congress; and the village plat was made out by his direction in 1836. A large addition to this plat was laid out in 1850, near the University, known as the "University Addition." Another addition has just been surveyed, on the northeast, by Governor Farwell, by whom it is owned. Several causes operated to retard the prosperity of Madison until 1847, since which time it has gradually and healthfully increased in growth, wealth, and population. Several railroads are in progress of construction to this place, one at least of which will be completed during the present year, and the others soon after. From its location in the centre of a large agricultural district, having no important rival within a circle of forty miles, and being the permanent Capital of the State, and the seat of the richly endowed University, Madison has special advantages that cannot fail to make it a commanding business point, and a large and flourishing town. To the man of business, the merchant and manufacturer, there are offered great inducements to settle in this thriving and rapidly increasing community. The retired merchant -- the student -- the lover of the picturesque seeking a healthy and pleasant location for a home, is presented the refreshing breezes and pure air of the lakes -- the beautiful scenery, unrivalled in any country -- the quiet of a country residence, united with the social advantages and the excitements of a city, while the great abundance of game in the prairies and openings, and the variety of fish in the lakes and streams, afford a relaxation to all in pursuit of health or pleasure. As the Capital of the State, the shire town of the county, it becomes the great centre of public business, calling together, at frequent intervals, people from all parts of the State and county, at the annual meetings of the legislature, at the session of the courts, the convocations of political conventions, and the sessions of the different benevolent societies of the day. The present population of Madison is about 3,500, with 700 dwellings, 26 stores, 15 groceries, 11 taverns, 2 large printing offices, and a book bindery; a grist mill, with eight run of stone, 3 saw mills, an iron foundry, a woollen factory, an oil mill, 2 steam planing mills, a hominy mill propelled by steam; a bank, the first organized in the State; three churches, with three others to be built during the present season; and mechanical shops of all kinds."
On June 5, 1857, a fire in Madison swept up Washington Avenue from the corner of Webster Street to Bruen's block, burning up six stores and doing $50,000 worth of damage.
View historic pictures of this community at Wisconsin Historical Images.
View related articles at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.
View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.
[Source: U.S. Geographic Names Information Server; WHS Library reference file]