Madison, Wisconsin facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Madtown, Mad City, "The City of Four Lakes"
|Platted||October 9, 1839|
|Named for||James Madison|
|• City||94.03 sq mi (243.54 km2)|
|• Land||76.79 sq mi (198.89 km2)|
|• Water||17.24 sq mi (44.65 km2)|
|Elevation||873 ft (226 m)|
| • Estimate
|• Rank||US: 84th|
|• Density||3,037.0/sq mi (1,172.6/km2)|
|• Urban||401,661 1 (US: 92nd)|
|• Metro||641,385 (US: 85th)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|1 Urban = 2010 Census|
Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. As of July 1, 2015, Madison's estimated population of 248,951 made it the second largest city in Wisconsin, after Milwaukee, and the 84th largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Dane County and neighboring Iowa, Green, and Columbia counties. The Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area's 2010 population was 568,593.
Madison's origins begin in 1829, when former federal judge James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres (4 km²) of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, with the intention of building a city in the Four Lakes region. When the Wisconsin Territory was created in 1836 the territorial legislature convened in Belmont, Wisconsin. One of the legislature's tasks was to select a permanent location for the territory's capital. Doty lobbied aggressively for Madison as the new capital, offering buffalo robes to the freezing legislators and promising choice Madison lots at discount prices to undecided voters. He had James Slaughter plat two cities in the area, Madison and "The City of Four Lakes", near present-day Middleton.
Doty named the city Madison for James Madison, the fourth President of the U.S. who had died on June 28, 1836 and he named the streets for the other 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution. Although the city existed only on paper, the territorial legislature voted on November 28 in favor of Madison as its capital, largely because of its location halfway between the new and growing cities around Milwaukee in the east and the long established strategic post of Prairie du Chien in the west, and between the highly populated lead mining regions in the southwest and Wisconsin's oldest city, Green Bay in the northeast. Being named for the much-admired founding father James Madison, who had just died, and having streets named for each of the 39 signers of the Constitution, may have also helped attract votes.
Creation and expansion
The cornerstone for the Wisconsin capitol was laid in 1837, and the legislature first met there in 1838. On October 9, 1839, Kintzing Prichett registered the plat of Madison at the registrar's office of the then-territorial Dane County. Madison was incorporated as a village in 1846, with a population of 626. When Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Madison remained the capital, and the following year it became the site of the University of Wisconsin (now University of Wisconsin–Madison). The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad (a predecessor of the Milwaukee Road) connected to Madison in 1854. Madison incorporated as a city in 1856, with a population of 6,863, leaving the unincorporated remainder as a separate Town of Madison. The original capitol was replaced in 1863 and the second capitol burned in 1904. The current capitol was built between 1906 and 1917.
During the Civil War, Madison served as a center of the Union Army in Wisconsin. The intersection of Milwaukee, East Washington, Winnebago and North Streets is known as Union Corners, because a tavern there was the last stop for Union soldiers before heading to fight the Confederates. Camp Randall, on the west side of Madison, was built and used as a training camp, a military hospital, and a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. After the war ended, the Camp Randall site was absorbed into the University of Wisconsin and Camp Randall Stadium was built there in 1917. In 2004 the last vestige of active military training on the site was removed when the stadium renovation replaced a firing range used for ROTC training.
The City of Madison continued annexations from the Town of Madison almost from the date of the city's incorporation, leaving the latter a collection of discontiguous areas subject to annexation. In the wake of continued controversy and an effort in the state legislature to simply abolish the town, an agreement was reached in 2003 to provide for the incorporation of the remaining portions of the Town into the City of Madison and the City of Fitchburg by October 30, 2022.
Geography and climate
Madison is located in the center of Dane County in south-central Wisconsin, 77 miles (124 km) west of Milwaukee and 122 miles (196 km) northwest of Chicago. The city completely surrounds the smaller Town of Madison, the City of Monona, and the villages of Maple Bluff and Shorewood Hills. Madison shares borders with its largest suburb, Sun Prairie, and three other suburbs, Middleton, McFarland and Fitchburg. The city's boundaries also approach the city of Verona, and the villages of Cottage Grove, DeForest, and Waunakee.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 94.03 square miles (243.54 km2), of which, 76.79 square miles (198.89 km2) is land and 17.24 square miles (44.65 km2) is water.
The city is sometimes described as The City of Four Lakes, comprising the four successive lakes of the Yahara River: Lake Mendota ("Fourth Lake"), Lake Monona ("Third Lake"), Lake Waubesa ("Second Lake") and Lake Kegonsa ("First Lake"), although Waubesa and Kegonsa are not actually in Madison, but just south of it. A fifth smaller lake, Lake Wingra, is within the city as well; it is connected to the Yahara River chain by Wingra Creek. The Yahara flows into the Rock River, which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. Downtown Madison is located on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona. The city's trademark of "Lake, City, Lake" reflects this geography.
Local identity varies throughout Madison, with over 120 officially recognized neighborhood associations. Neighborhoods on and near the eastern part of the isthmus, some of the city's oldest, have the strongest sense of identity and are the most politically liberal. Historically, the north, east, and south sides were blue collar while the west side was white collar, and to a certain extent this remains true. Students dominate on the University of Wisconsin campus and to the east into downtown, while to its south and in Shorewood Hills on its west, faculty have been a major presence since those neighborhoods were originally developed. The turning point in Madison's development was the university's 1954 decision to develop its experimental farm on the western edge of town; since then, the city has grown substantially along suburban lines.
Madison, along with the rest of the state, has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb/Dfa), characterized by variable weather patterns and a large seasonal temperature variance: winter temperatures can be well below freezing, with moderate to occasionally heavy snowfall and temperatures reaching 0 °F (−18 °C) on 17 nights annually; high temperatures in summer average in the lower 80s °F (27–28 °C), reaching 90 °F (32 °C) on an average 12 days per year, often accompanied by high humidity levels. Summer accounts for a greater proportion of annual rainfall, but winter still sees significant precipitation.
|Climate data for Madison, Wisconsin (KMSN), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1869–present|
|Record high °F (°C)||58
|Average high °F (°C)||26.4
|Average low °F (°C)||11.1
|Record low °F (°C)||−37
|Precipitation inches (mm)||1.23
|Snowfall inches (cm)||12.9
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||9.2||10.5||12.1||11.9||11.1||10.6||9.4||9.3||9.8||10.6||10.1||124.8|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||9.8||7.9||5.8||2.0||0.2||0||0||0||0||0.5||3.8||8.7||38.7|
|Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990), The Weather Channel|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $41,941, and the median income for a family was $59,840. Males had a median income of $36,718 versus $30,551 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,498. About 5.8% of families and 15.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, there were 233,209 people, 102,516 households, and 47,824 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,037.0 inhabitants per square mile (1,172.6/km2). There were 108,843 housing units at an average density of 1,417.4 per square mile (547.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.9% White, 7.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 7.4% Asian, 2.9% from other races, and 3.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.8% of the population.
There were 102,516 households of which 22.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.1% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 53.3% were non-families. 36.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.87.
The median age in the city was 30.9 years. 17.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 19.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 31.4% were from 25 to 44; 21.9% were from 45 to 64; and 9.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.2% male and 50.8% female.
Combined Statistical Area
Madison is the larger principal city of the Madison-Baraboo CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Madison metropolitan area (Columbia, Dane and Iowa counties) and the Baraboo micropolitan area (Sauk County), which had a combined population of 630,569 at the 2010 census.
Madison is the episcopal see for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison. Saint Raphael's Cathedral, damaged by arson in 2005 and demolished in 2008, was the mother church of the diocese. The steeple and spire survived and have been preserved with the intention they could be incorporated in the structure of a replacement building.
The USA's third largest congregation of Unitarian Universalists, the First Unitarian Society of Madison, makes its home in the historic Unitarian Meeting House, designed by one of its members, Frank Lloyd Wright.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA has its headquarters in Madison. Most American Christian movements are represented in the city, including mainline denominations, evangelical, charismatic and fully independent churches, including an LDS stake. The city also has a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, three mosques and several synagogues, a Bahá'í community center, a Quaker Meeting House, and a Unity Church congregation.
In 1996 Money magazine identified Madison as the best place to live in the United States. It has consistently ranked near the top of the best-places list in subsequent years, with the city's low unemployment rate a major contributor.
The main downtown thoroughfare is State Street, which links the University of Wisconsin campus with the Capitol Square, and is lined with restaurants, espresso cafes and shops. Only pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles and bikes are allowed on State Street.
On Saturday mornings in the summer, the Dane County Farmers' Market is held around the Capitol Square, the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country. This market attracts numerous vendors who sell fresh produce, meat, cheese, and other products. On Wednesday evenings, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs free concerts on the capitol's lawn.
The Great Taste of the Midwest craft beer festival, established in 1987 and the second longest running such event in North America, is held the second Saturday in August. The highly coveted tickets sell out within an hour of going on sale in May.
Madison was host to Rhythm and Booms, a massive fireworks celebration coordinated to music. It began with a fly-over by F-16s from the local Wisconsin Air National Guard. This celebration was the largest fireworks display in the Midwest in length, number of shells fired and the size of its annual budget. Effective 2015, the event location was changed to downtown and renamed Shake The Lake.
During the winter months, sports enthusiasts enjoy ice-boating, ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowkiting. During the rest of the year, outdoor recreation includes sailing on the local lakes, bicycling, and hiking.
Madison was named the number one college sports town by Sports Illustrated in 2003. In 2004 it was named the healthiest city in America by Men's Journal magazine. Many major streets in Madison have designated bike lanes and the city has one of the most extensive bike trail systems in the nation.
There are many cooperative organizations in the Madison area, ranging from grocery stores (such as the Willy Street Cooperative) to housing co-ops (such as Madison Community Cooperative and Nottingham Housing Cooperative) to worker cooperatives (including an engineering firm, a wholesale organic bakery and a cab company).
In 2005, Madison was included in Gregory A. Kompes' book, 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live. The Madison metro area has a higher percentage of gay couples than any other city in the area outside of Chicago and Minneapolis.
Among the city's neighborhood fairs and celebrations are two large student-driven gatherings, the Mifflin Street Block Party and the State Street Halloween Party. Rioting and vandalism at the State Street gathering in 2004 and 2005 led the city to institute a cover charge for the 2006 celebration. In an attempt to give the event more structure and to eliminate vandalism, the city and student organizations worked together to schedule performances by bands, and to organize activities. The event has been named "Freakfest on State Street." Events such as these have helped contribute to the city's nickname of "Madtown."
In 2009, the Madison Common Council voted to name the plastic pink flamingo as the official city bird.
Also in 2009, Madison ranked No. 2 on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns," a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg.
Every April, the Wisconsin Film Festival is held in Madison. This five-day event features a films from a variety of genres shown in theaters across the city. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute sponsors the Film Festival.
Madison's vibrant music scene covers a wide spectrum of musical culture.
Several venues offer live music nightly, spreading from the historic Barrymore Theatre and High Noon Saloon on the east side to small coffee houses and wine bars. The biggest headliners usually perform at the Orpheum Theatre, the Overture Center or the UW Theatre on campus. Other popular rock and pop venues include the Majestic Theatre and the Frequency. During the summer, the Memorial Union Terrace on the University of Wisconsin campus, offers live music five nights a week. The Union is located on the shores of Lake Mendota and offers beautiful scenery and sunsets. Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center, located in the heart of downtown, also hosts free rooftop concerts during the summer months.
The Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps has provided youth aged 16–22 opportunities to perform across North America every summer since 1938. The University of Wisconsin Marching Band is a popular marching band.
Popular bands and musicians
The band Garbage formed in Madison in 1994, and has sold 17 million albums.
Madison has a lively independent rock scene, and local independent record labels include Crustacean Records, Science of Sound, Kind Turkey Records, and Art Paul Schlosser Inc. A Dr. Demento and weekly live karaoke favorite is The Gomers, who have a Madison Mayoral Proclamation named after them. They have performed with fellow Wisconsin residents Les Paul and Steve Miller.
Madison is also home to other nationally known artists such as Paul Kowert of Punch Brothers, Mama Digdown's Brass Band, Clyde Stubblefield of Funky Drummer and James Brown fame, and musicians Roscoe Mitchell, Richard Davis, Ben Sidran, Reptile Palace Orchestra, Ted Park, DJ Pain 1, Killdozer, Zola Jesus, Caustic, PHOX, and Lou & Peter Berryman, among others.
In the summer Madison hosts many music festivals, including the Waterfront Festival, the Willy St. Fair, Atwood Summerfest, the Isthmus Jazz Festival, the Orton Park Festival, 94.1 WJJO's Band Camp, Greekfest, the WORT Block Party and the Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival, and the Madison World Music Festival sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Theater (held at the Memorial Union Terrace and at the Willy St. Fair in September). Past festivals include the Madison Pop Festival and Forward Music Festival (2009–2010.) One of the latest additions is the Fête de Marquette, taking place around Bastille Day at various east side locations. This new festival celebrates French music, with a focus on Cajun influences. Madison also hosts an annual electronic music festival, Reverence, and the Folk Ball, a world music and Folk dance festival held annually in January. Madison is home to the LBGTQA festival, Fruit Fest, celebrating queer culture and LGBT allies. Madison also plays host to the National Women's Music Festival. UW-Madison also hosts the annual music and arts festival, Revelry, on campus at the Memorial Union each spring. The festival is put on by students for students as an end of the year celebration on campus.
- See also: List of public art in Madison, Wisconsin
Art museums include the UW–Madison's Chazen Museum of Art (formerly the Elvehjem Museum), and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which annually organizes the popular Art Fair on the Square. Madison also has many independent art studios, galleries, and arts organizations, with events such as Art Fair Off the Square. Other museums include Wisconsin Historical Museum (run by the Wisconsin Historical Society), the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Madison Children's Museum,.
The Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Forward Theater Company, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Madison Ballet are some of the professional resident companies of the Overture Center for the Arts. The city is also home to a number of smaller performing arts organizations, including a group of theater companies that present in the Bartell Theatre, a former movie palace renovated into live theater spaces, and Opera for the Young, an opera company that performs for elementary school students across the Midwest. The Wisconsin Union Theater (a 1300-seat theater) is home to seasonal attractions and is the main stage for Four Seasons Theatre, a community theater company specializing in musical theater, and other groups. The Young Shakespeare Players, a theater group for young people, performs uncut Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw plays.
Community-based theater groups include Children's Theatre of Madison, Strollers Theatre, Madison Theatre Guild, the Mercury Players, and Broom Street Theater (which is no longer on Broom Street).
Madison offers one comedy club, the Comedy Club on State (which hosts the Madison's Funniest Comic competition every year since 2010), owned by the Paras family. Madison has other options for more alternative humor, featuring several improv groups, such as Atlas Improv Co., Monkey Business Institute, as well as open-mics virtually every night.
Madison has one of the world's major entertainment industry archives at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, part of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The Wisconsin State Capitol dome was modeled after the dome of the U.S. Capitol, and was erected on the high point of the isthmus. Visible throughout the Madison area, a state law limits building heights within one mile (1.6 km) of the structure to 1,032.8 feet (314.8 meters) above sea level to preserve the view of the building in most areas of the city. Capitol Square is located in Madison's urban core, and is well-integrated with everyday pedestrian traffic and commerce. State Street and East Washington offer excellent views of the capitol.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent much of his childhood in Madison and studied briefly at the university. Buildings in Madison designed by Wright include Usonian House, and the Unitarian Meeting House. Monona Terrace, now a convention and community center overlooking Lake Monona, was created by Anthony Puttnam—a student of Wright's—based on a 1957 Wright design. The Harold C. Bradley House in the University Heights neighborhood was designed collaboratively by Louis H. Sullivan and George Grant Elmslie in 1908–10, and now serves as the Sigma Phi Fraternity.
The Overture Center for the Arts, opened 2004, and the adjacent Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, opened 2006, on State Street near the capitol were designed by architect César Pelli. Located within the Overture Center are Overture Hall, Capitol Theater, and The Playhouse. Its modernist style, with simple expanses of glass framed by stone, was designed to complement nearby historic building facades.
The architectural firm Claude and Starck designed over 175 Madison buildings, and many are still standing, including Breese Stevens Field, Doty School (now condominiums), and many private residences.
Architecture on the University of Wisconsin campus includes many buildings designed or supervised by the firm J. T. W. Jennings, such as the Dairy Barn and Agricultural Hall, or by architect Arthur Peabody, such as the Memorial Union and Carillon Tower. Several campus buildings erected in the 1960s followed the brutalist style. In 2005 the university embarked on a major redevelopment at the east end of its campus. The plan called for the razing of nearly a dozen 1950s to 1970s vintage buildings; the construction of new dormitories, administration, and classroom buildings; as well as the development of a new pedestrian mall extending to Lake Mendota. The campus now includes 12 to 14-story buildings.
Points of interest
- Alliant Energy Center / Veteran's Memorial Coliseum and Exhibition Hall
- Camp Randall Stadium
- Chazen Museum of Art
- Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
- Madison Children's Museum
- Henry Vilas Zoo
- The Kohl Center
- Mifflin Street, home to the annual Mifflin Street Block Party
- Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
- Memorial Union
- Olbrich Botanical Gardens
- Overture Center for the Arts
- Gates of Heaven, the eighth-oldest surviving synagogue building in the U.S.
- State Street
- Williamson ("Willy") Street
- Smart Studios, Butch Vig and Steve Marker's longtime studio where many notable alternative rock records of the 1990s and 2000s were recorded and/or produced
- Unitarian Meeting House, another notable & tourable Frank Lloyd Wright structure, is adjacent to Madison city limits in suburban Shorewood Hills
- University of Wisconsin–Madison
- University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum
- University of Wisconsin Field House
- UW–Madison Geology Museum
- Wisconsin Historical Society/Wisconsin Historical Museum
- Wisconsin Veterans Museum
- Wisconsin State Capitol
- Lakeshore Nature Preserve, a campus-associated preserve which features notable long peninsula called Picnic Point
Over the years, Madison has acquired nicknames and slogans that include:
- Mad City
- The Berkeley of the Midwest
- 77 square miles surrounded by reality
- Four Lakes City
- People's Republic of Madison
- Ainaro, East Timor, since 2001
- Arcatao, El Salvador
- Cuzco, Peru
- Camagüey, Cuba, since 1988
- Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, since 1986
- Managua, Nicaragua, since 1987
- Mantua, Italy, since 2001
- Obihiro, Hokkaido, Japan, since 2006
- Goiânia, Brazil, since 1983
- Vilnius, Lithuania, since 1989
- Tepatitlan de Morelos, Jalisco, Mexico
Former sister cities include:
- Bắc Giang, Vietnam
- Oslo, Norway
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