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Highlights Archives

Headquarters Surrounded by Construction

The Historical Society's headquarters building with the first floor under construction, January 1898
WHI 28824

A well-known joke claims that Madison has only two seasons, winter and construction. It's not winter, so visitors should know that construction projects have modified approaches to the Society's headquarters. The University of Wisconsin Memorial Union parking lot is now closed to the public as a result of renovation work being undertaken on the building's west wing. Until July 23 you can drop passengers beside the Society on Langdon Street, but plan to leave your car at the city's Lake Street Ramp. Langdon Street will be closed from Park Street to Lake Street from July 23 until August 6, or later depending upon the weather, to make way for excavation and underground utility work associated with the Memorial Union project.

Important Things to Know

Library Mall, the Memorial Union parking lot, and adjacent sections of Langdon Street are a construction site. You may find sidewalks, crosswalks, pathways and bus stops in unfamiliar places. Construction crews and equipment populate the vicinity this summer as densely as students do during the academic year. Traffic on Langdon St. is scheduled to run one-way westbound starting about October 1.

Most importantly, all Society programs will remain open, and all services will continue to be accessible throughout the construction.

Why All the Commotion?

Renovation of the University's Memorial Union has begun. Offices in the Union's west wing have closed, and parking at Helen C. White Hall is restricted, but the Union Terrace remains open. More details are in this article at

The university's century-old utility tunnels that carry steam, HVAC, electrical and communication lines alongside the Society need to be replaced. The Society also needs to install three new handicapped-accessible ramps and an entrance, which will face Memorial Union. The stone balustrades on the east and north sides of the Society, overlooking Library Mall and Langdon Street, need to be repaired. In recent years, these venerable stone walls have gradually leaned perilously far from vertical. Each will be reset with a new concrete foundation. The uneven granite steps on the north and east sides will receive similar treatment, and the carved stone lions above the main entrance will be repaired. The underground vault running beneath the Society's east terrace also will be excavated in order to receive a new watertight seal.


Work began earlier this month with fencing on Langdon and Park streets and installation of project offices on Library Mall. Steam tunnel excavation and demolition will ramp up this summer, and the improvements on Society property should begin about September 1. The work is currently scheduled to last about 12 months, or until the early fall of 2013.

If you'd like up-to-the-minute advice about visiting the Society headquarters, call the Library Reference Desk at 608-264-6535. Staff who've just negotiated their way into the building will be happy to answer your questions.

:: Posted July 19, 2012

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