Main Births etc
Madison, Wisconsin
—  City and State Capital  —
City of Madison
Downtown Madison skyline


Nickname(s): Madtown, Mad City, “The City of Four Lakes”
Location of Madison in Dane County, Wisconsin
Coordinates: 43°4′N 89°24′W / 43.067, -89.4Coordinates: 43°4′N 89°24′W / 43.067, -89.4
Country United States
U.S. State Wisconsin
County Dane
Municipality City
Platted October 9, 1839[1]
Incorporated 1848
Named for James Madison
 • Mayor Paul Soglin (D)
 • City 94.03 sq mi (243.54 km2)
 • Land 76.79 sq mi (198.89 km2)
 • Water 17.24 sq mi (44.65 km2)
Population (2010)[3]
 • City 233,209
 • Estimate (2012[4]) 240,323
 • Density 3,037.0/sq mi (1,172.6/km2)
 • Urban 329,533 1 (US: 92nd)
 • Metro 568,593 (US: 86th)
 • Demonym Madisonian
Time zone Central (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC−5)
Area code(s) 608
1 Urban = 2000 Census

Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. As of July 1, 2012, Madison had an estimated population of 240,323,[5] making it the second largest city in Wisconsin, after Milwaukee, and the 81st largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Dane County and neighboring Iowa and Columbia counties. The Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area had a 2010 population of 568,593.


View of Madison. From the Water Cure, South Side of Lake Monona, 1855.

View of downtown and Capitol from Washington Street, 1865.

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[1] 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.[8] The original capitol was replaced in 1863 and the second capitol burned in 1904. The current capitol was built between 1906 and 1917.[9]

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 located 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 discontinuous 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.[10]

Madison, Wis., panorama from Capitol dome taken between 1880 and 1899

Geography and climate[]

Astronaut Photography of Madison Wisconsin taken from the International Space Station (ISS)

View of Lake Monona from Monona Terrace

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 communities, Middleton, McFarland and Fitchburg. The city's boundaries also approach the villages of Verona, 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.[2]

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"),[11] 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.[12] 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,[13] often accompanied by high humidity levels. Summer accounts for a greater proportion of annual rainfall, but winter still sees significant precipitation.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1840 172
1850 1,525 786.6%
1860 6,611 333.5%
1870 9,176 38.8%
1880 10,324 12.5%
1890 13,426 30.0%
1900 19,164 42.7%
1910 25,531 33.2%
1920 38,378 50.3%
1930 57,899 50.9%
1940 67,447 16.5%
1950 96,056 42.4%
1960 126,706 31.9%
1970 171,809 35.6%
1980 170,616 −0.7%
1990 191,262 12.1%
2000 208,903 9.2%
2010 233,209 11.6%
Est. 2012 240,323 15.0%
Source: U.S. Census[16]

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.

2010 census[]

As of the census[3] 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-Baraboo CSA:

  Madison MetroSA
  Baraboo MicroSA

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),[17][18][19] which had a combined population of 630,569[20] at the 2010 census.[5]


Madison has a mayor-council system of government. Madison's city council, known as the Common Council, consists of 20 members, one from each district. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote.

Madison is represented by Mark Pocan (D) in the United States House of Representatives, and by Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D) in the United States Senate. Mark F. Miller (D) and Fred Risser (D) represent Madison in the Wisconsin State Senate, and Robb Kahl (D), Melissa Sargent (D), Chris Taylor (D), Terese Berceau (D), and Brett Hulsey (D) represent Madison in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Police and Fire Departments[]

Madison Police Department[]

File:WI - Madison Police.jpg

Madison Police patch

The Madison Police Department is the law enforcement agency in the city. It has over 400 full-time officers. The Department is broken up into five districts: Central, East, North, South, and West.

Special units[]

  • K9 Unit
  • Crime Scene Unit
  • Forensic Unit
  • Narcotics and Gangs Task Force
  • Parking Enforcement
  • Traffic Enforcement Safety Team
  • S.W.A.T Team
  • Special Events Team
  • C.O.P.S (Safety Education)
  • Mounted Patrol
  • Crime Stoppers
  • Amigos en Azul

2012 controversy[]

The Madison Police Department was criticized for absolving Officer Steve Heimsness of any wrongdoing in the November 2012 shooting death of an unarmed man, Paul Heenan. The department's actions resulted in community protests, including demands that the shooting be examined and reviewed by an independent investigative body.[21] called into question the MPD's facts and findings, stating that the use of deadly force by Heimsness was unwarranted.[22] There were calls for an examination of the Madison Police Department’s rules of engagement and due process for officers who use lethal force in the line of duty.

Madison Fire Department[]

The Madison Fire Department (MFD) provides fire protection and emergency medical services to the city. The MFD operates out of 12 fire stations, with a fleet of 10 engines, 5 ladders, 2 rescue squads, 2 haz-mat. units, 2 water rescue units, and 9 ambulances. The MFD also provides mutual aid to surrounding communities.[23][24][25][26][27][28]


Wisconsin State Capitol atop Madison's isthmus

City voters have supported the Democratic Party in national elections in the last half-century, and a liberal and progressive majority is generally elected to the city council. Detractors often refer to Madison as The People's Republic of Madison, the "Left Coast of Wisconsin" or as "77 square miles surrounded by reality." This latter phrase was coined by former Wisconsin Republican governor Lee S. Dreyfus, while campaigning in 1978, as recounted by campaign aide Bill Kraus.[29] In 2013, there was a motion in the city council to turn Dreyfus' insult into the official city "punchline," but it was voted down by the city council.[30]

The city's voters are generally much more liberal than voters in the rest of Wisconsin. For example, 76% of Madison voters voted against a 2006 state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage,[31] even though the ban passed statewide with 59% of the vote.[32]

Current politics[]

Madison city politics remain dominated by activists of liberal and progressive ideologies. In 1992, a local third party, Progressive Dane, was founded. Recently enacted city policies supported in the Progressive Dane platform have included an inclusionary zoning ordinance, later abandoned by the mayor and a majority of the city council, and a city minimum wage. The party holds several seats on the Madison City Council and Dane County Board of Supervisors, and is aligned variously with the Democratic and Green parties.

In early 2011, Madison was the site for large protests against a bill proposed by Governor Scott Walker that abolished almost all collective bargaining for public worker unions. The protests at the capitol ranged in size from 10,000 to over 100,000 people and lasted for several months.

Historical politics[]

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Madison counterculture was centered in the neighborhood of Mifflin and Bassett streets, referred to as "Miffland". The area contained many three-story apartments where students and counterculture youth lived, painted murals, and operated the co-operative grocery store, the Mifflin Street Co-op. Residents of the neighborhood often came into conflict with authorities, particularly during the administration of Republican mayor Bill Dyke. Dyke was viewed by students as a direct antagonist in efforts to protest the Vietnam War because of his efforts to suppress local protests. The annual Mifflin Street Block Party became a focal point for protest, although by the late 1970s it had become a mainstream community party.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, thousands of students and other citizens took part in anti-Vietnam War marches and demonstrations, with more violent incidents drawing national attention to the city and UW campus. These include:

  • the 1967 student protest of Dow Chemical Company, with 74 injured;
  • the 1969 strike to secure greater representation and rights for African-American students and faculty, which resulted in the involvement of the Wisconsin Army National Guard;
  • the 1970 fire that caused damage to the Army ROTC headquarters housed in the Old Red Gym, also known as the Armory; and
  • the 1970 late summer predawn ANFO bombing of the Army Mathematics Research Center in Sterling Hall, killing a postdoctoral researcher, Robert Fassnacht. (See Sterling Hall bombing)

These protests were the subject of the documentary The War at Home.[33] David Maraniss's book, They Marched into Sunlight, incorporated the 1967 Dow protests into a larger Vietnam War narrative. Tom Bates wrote the book Rads on the subject (ISBN 0-06-092428-4). Bates wrote that Dyke's attempt to suppress the annual Mifflin Street block party "would take three days, require hundreds of officers on overtime pay, and engulf the student community from the nearby Southeast Dorms to Langdon Street's fraternity row. Tear gas hung like heavy fog across the Isthmus." In the fracas, student activist Paul Soglin, then a city alderman, was arrested twice and taken to jail. Soglin was later elected mayor of Madison, serving from 1973 to 1979, 1989 to 1997, and is the current mayor, elected again in April, 2011. During his middle term he led the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace.

Political groups and publications[]

Madison is home to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which attempts to influence government in matters relating to the separation of church and state. The largest national organization advocating for non-theists, FFRF is known for its lawsuits against religious displays on public property, and for advocating removal of "In God We Trust" from American currency. The group publishes a monthly newspaper, Freethought Today.

Madison is associated with "Fighting Bob" La Follette and the Progressive movement. La Follette's magazine, The Progressive, founded in 1909, is still published in Madison.


Madison is the episcopal see for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison.[34] Saint Raphael's Cathedral, damaged by arson in 2005 and demolished in 2008, was the mother church of the diocese.

The USA's third largest congregation of Unitarian Universalists,[35] 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 headquarter in Madison. Most American Christian movements are represented in the city including mainline denominations, evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic and fully independent churches. The city also has a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, three mosques and several synagogues, a Bahá'í community center, an LDS stake, and a Unity Church congregation.


Wisconsin state government and the University of Wisconsin–Madison remain the two largest Madison employers. However, Madison's economy today is evolving from a government-based economy to a consumer services and high-tech base, particularly in the health, biotech and advertising sectors. Beginning in the early 1990s, the city experienced a steady economic boom and has been less affected by recession than other areas of the state. Much of the expansion has occurred on the city's south and west sides, but it has also affected the east side near the Interstate 39-90-94 interchange and along the northern shore of Lake Mendota. Underpinning the boom is the development of high-tech companies, many fostered by UW–Madison working with local businesses and entrepreneurs to transfer the results of academic research into real-world applications, especially bio-tech applications.

Many businesses are attracted to Madison's skill base, taking advantage of the area's high level of education. 48.2% of Madison's population over the age of 25 holds at least a bachelor's degree.[36] Forbes magazine reported in 2004 that Madison has the highest percentage of individuals holding Ph.D.s in the United States. In 2006, the same magazine listed Madison as number 31 in the top 200 metro areas for "Best Places for Business and Careers."[37] Madison has also been named in Forbes ten Best Cities several times within the past decade. In 2009, in the midst of the late-2000s recession, Madison had an unemployment rate of 3.5% and was ranked number one in a list of "ten cities for job growth".[38]


The largest employer in Madison is the Wisconsin state government, excluding employees of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics employees, although both groups of workers are state employees.[39]

The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics is an important regional teaching hospital and regional trauma center, with strengths in transplant medicine, oncology, digestive disorders, and endocrinology.[40] Other Madison hospitals include St. Mary's Hospital,[41] Meriter Hospital, and the VA Medical Center.

Madison is home to companies such as Spectrum Brands (formerly Rayovac), Alliant Energy, American Family Insurance, American Girl (a subsidiary of Mattel), the Credit Union National Association and its CUNA Mutual Group, Dean Health Systems, Madison-Kipp Corporation, MGE Energy, Pacific Cycle, Schoeps Ice Cream, and Sub-Zero & Wolf Appliance. Technology companies in the area include Google, Microsoft,[42] Broadjam, a regional office of CDW, Epic (located in nearby Verona), FSBO Madison, Full Compass Systems, Human Head Studios, Netconcepts (recently purchased by Covario), Raven Software, Sonic Foundry, TDS Telecom, and TomoTherapy.

Biotech firms include Panvera (now part of Invitrogen), Promega, and the Iceland-based Nimblegen. The contract research organization Covance is a major employer in the area.[43]

Oscar Mayer has been a Madison fixture for decades, and was a family business for many years before being sold to Kraft Foods. The Onion newspaper and the pizza chains Rocky Rococo, the Glass Nickel Pizza Company, and Ian's Pizza originated in Madison.[44][45]


In the mid-2000s Madison partnered with Merrimac Communications to develop and build Mad City Broadband, a wireless internet infrastructure for the city.[46] In early 2010 a grass-root effort to bring Google's new high-speed fiber Internet to Madison failed.[47]

Madison is served by Madison Gas and Electric and Alliant Energy, which provide electricity and natural gas service to the city.


University of Wisconsin–Madison

According to Forbes magazine, Madison ranks second in the nation in education.[48][49] The Madison Metropolitan School District serves the city and surrounding area. With an enrollment of approximately 25,000 students in 46 schools, it is the second largest school district in Wisconsin behind the Milwaukee School District.[50] The five public high schools are James Madison Memorial, Madison West, Madison East, Madison LaFollette, and Malcolm Shabazz City High School, an alternative school.

Among private church-related high schools are Abundant Life Christian School, Edgewood High School,[51] located on the Edgewood College campus, and St. Ambrose Academy, a Catholic school offering grades 6 through 12.[52] Madison Country Day School is a private high school with no religious affiliation.

The city is home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Edgewood College, Madison Area Technical College, and Madison Media Institute, giving the city a post-secondary student population of nearly 50,000. The University of Wisconsin accounts for the vast majority of students, with an enrollment of roughly 41,000, of whom 30,750 are undergraduates.[53] In a Forbes magazine city ranking from 2003, Madison had the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita, and third highest college graduates per capita, among cities in the United States.[54]

Additional degree programs are available through satellite campuses of Cardinal Stritch University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, Globe University, Lakeland College, the University of Phoenix, and Upper Iowa University. Madison also has a non-credit learning community with multiple programs and many private businesses also offering classes.


Madison is served by the Dane County Regional Airport, which serves more than 100 commercial flights on an average day, and nearly 1.6 million passengers annually. Most major general aviation operations take place at Morey Field in Middleton 15 miles (24 km) from the city center. Madison Metro operates bus routes throughout the city and to some surrounding towns.[55] Madison has four taxicab companies (Union, Badger, Madison and Green), and several companies provide specialized transit for individuals with disabilities.


A high-speed rail route from Chicago through Milwaukee and Madison to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, was proposed as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. Funding for the railway connecting Madison to Milwaukee was approved in January, 2010, but Governor-elect Scott Walker's opposition to the project led the Federal Railroad Administration to retract the $810 million in funding and reallocate it to other projects.[56] The nearest passenger train station is in Columbus, Wisconsin, 28 miles (45 km) away to the northeast. There, the eastbound Empire Builder provides daily service to Milwaukee and Chicago, and the westbound Empire Builder provides daily service to Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

WSOR number 4025 painted for the railroad's 25th anniversary, seen in Madison July 23, 2005.

Railroad freight services are provided to Madison by Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). Wisconsin & Southern has been operating since 1980, having taken over trackage owned since the 19th century by the Chicago and North Western and the Milwaukee Road.

The Transport 2020 project proposed a hybrid commuter rail-light rail transit line along one of the existing rail corridors from Middleton, Wisconsin to Reiner Road between Madison and Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, serving the University Avenue corridor, UW-Madison campus, the isthmus, and northeast Madison. In June 2008, the project submitted an application with the Federal Transit Administration to begin preliminary engineering for the project. However, in June 2011, authorizing legislation for regional transit authorities in Wisconsin was repealed and the application was withdrawn. The project is currently on hold.


In addition to public transportation, regional buses connect Madison to Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis–Saint Paul, and many other communities. Badger Bus, which connects Madison andMilwaukee, runs several trips daily. Greyhound Lines, a nationwide bus company, serves Madison on its Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis–Saint Paul route. Van Galder Bus Company, a subsidiary of Coach USA, provides transportation through Rockford to Chicago – stopping at Union Station, O'Hare Airport, and Midway Airport. Jefferson Lines provides transportation to Minneapolis–Saint Paul via La Crosse. Megabus provides limited stop service to Chicago and Minneapolis–Saint Paul. Lamers Bus Lines has once daily trips from Madison to Wausau, Dubuque, and Green Bay.


I-39, I-90 and I-94 expressways intersect at Madison, connecting the city to Milwaukee, Chicago, Rockford, Illinois, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Wausau. U.S. Routes US-12, US-14, US-18, US-51 and US-151 connect the city with Dubuque, Iowa, the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse and Janesville, Fond du Lac and Manitowoc. The Beltline is a six-to-eight lane freeway on the south and west sides of Madison and is the main link from downtown to the southeast and western suburbs. Several carsharing services are available in Madison, including Community Car a locally owned company, and U-Haul subsidiary Uhaul Car Share.


Madison is home to an extensive and varied number of print publications, reflecting the city's role as the state capital and its diverse political, cultural and academic population. The Wisconsin State Journal (weekday circulation: ~95,000; Sundays: ~155,000) is published in the mornings, while its sister publication, The Capital Times (Thursday supplement to the Journal) is published online daily, with two printed editions a week. Though jointly operated under the name Capital Newspapers, the Journal is owned by the national chain Lee Enterprises, and the Times is independently owned. Wisconsin State Journal is the descendant of the Wisconsin Express, a paper founded in the Wisconsin Territory in 1839. The Capital Times was founded in 1917 by William T. Evjue, a business manager for the State Journal who disagreed with that paper's editorial criticisms of Wisconsin Republican Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. for his opposition to U.S. entry into World War I.

The free weekly alternative newspaper Isthmus (weekly circulation: ~65,000) was founded in Madison in 1976. The Onion, a satirical weekly, was founded in Madison in 1988. Two student newspapers are published during the academic year, The Daily Cardinal (Mon-Fri circulation: ~10,000) and The Badger Herald (Mon-Fri circulation: ~16,000). Other specialty print publications focus on local music, politics and sports, including The Madison Times, Madison Magazine, The Simpson Street Free Press and fantasy sports web site There is a strong community of local blogs including Althouse, dane101, and The Critical Badger.

The Progressive, published in Madison, is a left-wing periodical that may be best known for the attempt of the U.S. government in 1979 to suppress one of its articles before publication. The magazine eventually prevailed in the landmark First Amendment case, United States v. The Progressive, Inc. During the 1970s, there were two radical weeklies published in Madison, known as TakeOver and Free for All, as well as a Madison edition of the Bugle-American underground newspaper.

Madison hosts two volunteer-operated and community-oriented radio stations, WORT and WSUM. WORT Community Radio (89.9 FM), founded in 1975, is one of the oldest volunteer-powered radio stations in the United States. A listener-sponsored community radio station, WORT offers diverse music and talk programming that is locally produced and hosted by local DJs. WSUM (91.7 FM) is a student radio station whose programming and operation are carried out almost entirely by students.

Madison's Wisconsin Public Radio station, WHA, was one of the first radio stations in the nation to begin broadcasting, and remains the longest continuously broadcasting station in the nation.

Widely heard public radio programs that originate in Madison include Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?, Zorba Pastor On Your Health, To the Best of Our Knowledge and Calling All Pets.

WXJ-87 is the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards station located on Madison's west side, with broadcasts originating from the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Wisconsin.

See also:

  • List of radio stations in Wisconsin
  • List of television stations in Wisconsin
  • List of Madison magazines
  • List of Wisconsin daily newspapers


In 1996 Money magazine identified Madison as the best place to live in the United States.[57] 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, taxis, delivery vehicles and bikes are allowed on State Street.

On the other side of the Capitol Square is King Street, which has more upper-end restaurants and cafes than on the more student-budget State Street.

The skyline of Madison, with Wisconsin ANG F-16 jet fighters in the foreground

On Saturday mornings in the summer, the Dane County Farmers' Market is held around the Capitol Square.[58] 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.[59]

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.[60]

Madison is host to Rhythm and Booms, a massive fireworks celebration coordinated to music. It begins with a fly-over by F-16s from the local Wisconsin Air National Guard. This celebration is the largest fireworks display in the Midwest in length, number of shells fired and the size of its annual budget.[61]

Sailboats approaching the south shore of Lake Mendota and downtown Madison – north side of isthmus

During the winter months, sports enthusiasts enjoy ice-boating, ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowkiting.[62] 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.[63] 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.[64] The Madison metro area has a higher percentage of gay couples than any other city in the area outside of Chicago and Minneapolis.[65]

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.[66] 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."[67] 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.[68]

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.[69]


Madison's vibrant music scene covers a wide spectrum of musical culture.[70]

Several venues offer live music nightly, spreading from the historic Barrymore Theatre and High Noon Saloon on the east side to[71] 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 Theater, the Frequency, and the Great Dane Pub. 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[]

Garbage is the city's most recognized contemporary contribution to popular music. The multi-million album selling alternative-rock band has been based in Madison since it was formed in 1994 by producer-musician Butch Vig of Viroqua. Vig and bandmate Steve Marker also owned Smart Studios in Madison, which closed in 2010.

Madison has a lively independent rock scene, and local independent record labels include Crustacean Records, Science of Sound,[72] Kind Turkey Records,[73] and Art Paul Schlosser Inc. A Dr. Demento[74] and weekly live karaoke[75] favorite is The Gomers,[76] who have a Madison Mayoral Proclamation named after them.[77] They have performed with fellow Wisconsin residents Les Paul and Steve Miller.[78]

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 fame, and musicians Roscoe Mitchell, Richard Davis, Ben Sidran, blues vocalist Queenie McCarter, Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters, Reptile Palace Orchestra, Killdozer,Zola_Jesus, BEEFUS, Caustic, Colorphase, PHOX, Harmonious Wail, The Hussy, Lou & Peter Berryman and many more.

Music festivals[]

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.[79]


Museums include the UW–Madison's Chazen Museum of Art (formerly the Elvehjem Museum), the Wisconsin Historical Museum (run by the Wisconsin Historical Society),[80] the Wisconsin Veterans Museum,[81] the Madison Children's Museum,[82] and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Madison also has many independent art studios and galleries. It hosts the annual Art Fair on the Square, a juried exhibition, and the complementary Art Fair Off the Square.

Performing arts[]

The Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Forward Theatre 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 not on Broom Street).

Madison offers one comedy club, the Comedy Club on State, and has other options for more alternative humor, featuring several improv groups, such as Atlas Improv Co., Monkey Business Institute, as well as sketch comedy groups The Public Drunkards and The Rabid Badger Theatre Company. The WiSUC Project hosts the annual "Funniest Comic in Madison" contest at the High Noon Saloon.

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.[83]


Several films have been made in Madison. One of the most noted was the documentary The War at Home, which chronicled the anti-Vietnam War movement in Madison. Another that made extensive use of the city as a backdrop was the 1986 comedy Back to School, starring Rodney Dangerfield. The 2006 film The Last Kiss used Madison and the university as a back-drop. In 2008, scenes were shot at the state capitol and surrounding area for use in the 2009 film Public Enemies, featuring Christian Bale and Johnny Depp.

  • Stroszek (1977)
  • The War at Home (1979)
  • Back to School (1986)
  • I Love Trouble (1994)
  • Chain Reaction (1996)
  • The Big One (1997)
  • The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)
  • Side Effects (2005)
  • The Last Kiss (2006)
  • Barefoot to Jerusalem (2008)
  • Madison (2008)
  • Public Enemies (2009)


Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol dome, closely based on the dome of the U.S. Capitol, is the jewel of the Madison skyline, and is visible throughout the Madison area because of its position on the high point of the isthmus. A state law limits building heights within one mile (1.6 km) of the structure.[84] The Wisconsin capitol's dome is the second tallest in the nation, after that of the capitol in Washington D.C.[85] Because of its location in the urban core, Capitol Square is well integrated with everyday pedestrian traffic and commerce, and the spoke streets—especially State Street and E. Washington—offer dramatic views of the capitol.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent much of his childhood in Madison and studied briefly at the University, and is responsible for several Madison buildings. Monona Terrace, a convention and community center overlooking Lake Monona, designed by Taliesin Architect and student of Wright Anthony Puttnam, was based on a 1957 Wright design. Wright designed the seminal Usonian House, which is located here. Another key Wright building, the Unitarian Meeting House, is in the adjacent suburb of Shorewood Hills. The Harold C. Bradley House in the University Heights neighborhood, designed collaboratively by Louis H. Sullivan and George Grant Elmslie in 1908–1910, now serves as the Sigma Phi Fraternity.

Harold C. Bradley House

The Overture Center for the Arts, designed by Argentina-born architect César Pelli, stands on State Street near the capitol. Since opening in 2004, the center has presented shows and concerts in its Overture Hall, Capitol Theater and The Playhouse. The center houses the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Its style, unlike Pelli's Petronas Towers, leans toward sleek modernism, with simple expanses of glass framed by stone that are intended to complement the historic building facades preserved as part of the building's State Street exposure.

Many of the over 175 Madison buildings designed by the architectural firm of Claude and Starck are still standing, including Breese Stevens Field, Doty School (now converted to condominiums), and many private residences.[86]

The UW–Madison campus includes many buildings designed or supervised by architects J. T. W. Jennings, including the Dairy Barn and Agricultural Hall, and by Arthur Peabody, including the Memorial Union and the Carillon Tower. The density of the campus has grown to include 8- to 10-story high-rises including dormitories, research facilities, and classrooms. Several campus buildings erected in the 1960s exhibit brutalist architecture, which is now unpopular. In 2005 the University of Wisconsin embarked on a major redevelopment initiative that will transform the east end of its campus. The plan calls for the razing of a nearly a dozen 1950s to 1970s vintage buildings and the construction of new dormitories, administration, and classroom buildings, as well as the development of a new pedestrian mall extending to Lake Mendota.


Over the years, Madison has acquired nicknames and slogans that include:

  • Mad City[87][88]
  • Madtown[89][90]
  • The Berkeley of the Midwest[91]
  • 78 square miles surrounded by reality[92]
  • The Athens of the Midwest[93]
  • The Paris of South-Central Wisconsin
  • The People's Republic of Madison[94][95]
  • Four Lakes City[96]
  • Lake City


In 2008, Men's Health magazine ranked Madison as the "Least Armed and Dangerous" city in the United States in an article about "Where Men Are Targets".[97] Between 2004 and 2007, 17 murders were reported.[98][99][100] In 2008, Madison Police reported 10 homicides.[101]


Men's ice hockey game in the Kohl Center

Madison's reputation as a sports city exists largely because of the University of Wisconsin. In 2004 Sports Illustrated on Campus named Madison the #1 college sports town in the nation.[102] Scott Van Pelt also proclaimed Madison the best college sports town in America.[103]

The UW–Madison teams play their home-field sporting events in venues in and around Madison. The football team plays at Camp Randall Stadium. In 2005 a renovation was completed that added 72 luxury suites and increased the stadium's capacity to 80,321, although crowds of as many as 83,000 have attended games. The basketball and hockey teams play at the Kohl Center. Construction on the $76 million arena was completed in 1997. In 2006, the men's and women's Badger hockey teams won NCAA Division I championships, and the women repeated with a second consecutive national championship in 2007.[104] Some events are played at the county-owned Alliant Energy Center (formerly Dane County Memorial Coliseum) and the University-owned Wisconsin Field House.

Despite Madison's strong support for college sports, it has proven to be an inhospitable home for professional baseball. The Madison Muskies, a Class A, Midwest League affiliate of the Oakland A's, left town in 1993 after 11 seasons. The Madison Hatters, another Class A, Midwest League team, played in Madison for only the 1994 season. The Madison Black Wolf, an independent Northern League franchise lasted five seasons (1996–2000), before decamping for Lincoln, Nebraska. Madison is currently home to the Madison Mallards, a college wood-bat summer baseball league team in the Northwoods League. They play in Warner Park on the city's north side from June to August.

The now defunct Indoor Football League's Madison Mad Dogs were once located in the city. In 2009 indoor football returned to Madison as the Continental Indoor Football League's Wisconsin Wolfpack, who call the Alliant Energy Center home.

Madison is home to the Madison Mustangs, a semi-pro football team that is part of the Ironman Football League. Games are typically played on Saturday during the summer months, with the home field being Middleton High School. The Mustangs have the nation's longest active winning streak at 49 games, and have won 4 straight Ironman Football League championships.

The Wisconsin Wolves is a women's semi-pro football team based in Madison that plays in the IWFL Independent Women's Football League. The Wolves home field is located at Middleton High School.

The Blackhawk Ski Club, formed in 1947, provides ski jumping, cross country skiing and alpine skiing. The club's programs have produced several Olympic ski jumpers, two Olympic ski jumping coaches and one Olympic ski jumping director. The club had the first Nordic ski facility with lighted night jumping.

The Madison 56ers is a Madison amateur soccer team in the National Premier Soccer League. They play in Breese Stevens Field on East Washington Avenue.[105]

Madison is home to the Wisconsin Rugby Club, the 1998 USA Rugby Division II National Champions, and the Wisconsin Women's Rugby Football Club, the state's only Division I women's rugby team. The city also has men's and women's rugby clubs at UW–Madison, in addition to four high school boy's teams and one high school girl's team. The most recent addition to the Madison rugby community, Madison Minotaurs Rugby Club, is composed largely of gay players and is Wisconsin's first and only IGRAB team, but is open to any player with any experience level. All ten teams play within the Wisconsin Rugby Football Union, the Midwest Rugby Union and USA Rugby.

Nearly 100 women participate in the adult women's ice hockey teams based in Madison (Thunder, Lightning, Freeze, UW–B and C teams), which play in the Women's Central Hockey League. The Madison Gay Hockey Association is also in Madison.

Madison also has a hurling team, organized as The Hurling Club of Madison.

The roller derby league, Mad Rollin' Dolls, was formed in Madison in 2004 and is a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.[106]

Madison is home to several endurance sports racing events, such as the Crazylegs Classic, Paddle and Portage, the Mad City Marathon, and Ironman Wisconsin, which attracts over 45,000 spectators.[107]

Current teams[]

Club League Sport Venue Established Championships
Madison Mustangs IFL American football Brentbach Stadium 1997 4 consecutive Ironbowls
Madison Mallards NL Baseball Warner Park 2001 1 championship
Madison 56ers NPSL Soccer Breese Stevens Field 2005 0 championships
Wisconsin Rugby Club WRFU Rugby Wisconsin Rugby Club Sports Complex 1962 1 championship
Madison Minotaurs WRFU Rugby Yahara Rugby Field 2007 0 Bingham Cups
Wisconsin Badgers Big Ten, NCAA Div.1 23 Varsity Teams Camp Randall Stadium, Kohl Center 1849 27 championships
Edgewood Eagles NAC, NCAA Div.3 16 varsity teams Edgedome 1974 35 championships
Madison College Wolfpack N4C, NJCAA Div.3 8 varsity teams Redsten Gymnasium, Roberts Field 1912 21 championships
Mad Rollin' Dolls WFTDA Roller derby Alliant Energy Center 2005 0 championships
Madison Blues GLHL Hockey Capitol Ice Arena 2010 0 championships

Points of interest[]

Monona Terrace, as seen from Lake Monona

The Thai pavilion at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Gates of Heaven Synagogue (1863) at James Madison Park

Skyline of Madison from Picnic Point

  • Alliant Energy Center The Veteran's Memorial Coliseum and Exhibition Hall
  • Camp Randall Stadium
  • Chazen Museum of Art
  • Henry Vilas Zoo
  • The Kohl Center
  • Mifflin Street, home to the annual Mifflin Street Block Party
  • Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center
  • 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
  • Unitarian Meeting House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum
  • University of Wisconsin Field House
  • UW–Madison Geology Museum
  • Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Wisconsin State Capitol
  • Picnic Point, scenic hiking and picnic area by the campus

Sister cities[]

Former sister cities include:

Notable Madisonians[]

See also[]

  • List of tallest buildings in Madison
  • Madison Fire Department
  • Madison Police Department



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  • Bates, Tom, Rads: The 1970 Bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Its Aftermath (1993) ISBN 0-06-092428-4
  • Maraniss, David, They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967 (2003) ISBN 0-7432-1780-2 ISBN 0-7432-6104-6 (about the Dow Chemical protest, and a battle in Vietnam that occurred on the previous day)
  • Mollenhoff, David V., Madison : A History of the Formative Years (1982, revised 2003) ISBN 0-8403-2728-5 ISBN 0-299-19980-0

External links[]

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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Madison, Wisconsin. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.