City of Madison Logo
Historical Feature Contact the Preservation Planner for information on any historic building or district question you might have. 

Bear Effigy and Curtis Native American Mounds

Place: Bear Mound Park
Location: 1525 Vilas Avenue and 1108 Garfield Street
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: On the western edge of the park is an Indian effigy mound in the shape of a bear. It is 82 feet long and is almost intact except for part of the rear leg which was lost to road development. There is also one linear mound of an original group of two remaining on private residential property south of Vilas Circle. The bear, in the religious beliefs of the mound builders, probably symbolized life on the earth's surface, including people; birds probably symbolized sky spirits; and mounds described in the past as "lizards" may have represented water spirits. It is not clear exactly what the linear mounds represented.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

These mounds were designated a City of Madison landmark on May 19, 1975 and are on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Breese Stevens Field

Place: Breese Stevens Athletic Field
Location: 917 E. Mifflin Street
Built: 1925

Description: This athletic facility was built on a block sold to the City of Madison in 1923 by the widow of former Madison Mayor Breese J. Stevens. The City hired local architects Claude and Starck to design a stadium for the new field in 1925. The stone walls were constructed in 1934 by the federal Civil Works Administration, the same year lighting towers were erected. During its early years the field was used for most outdoor high school athletic events and for minor league baseball. In 1982 a rehabilitation project converted it to a soccer facility.

Designated a City of Madison Landmark on October 16, 1995.

Historic Structure Report (PDF)

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Brittingham Boathouse

Place: Brittingham Park
Location: 617 North Shore Drive
Built: 1910

Description: The construction of this public boathouse represents the spirit of municipal improvement that infused this city at the turn of the last century. The parkland and its model facilities were created through the generosity of lumberman Thomas E. Brittingham and the hard work of a private group, the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, headed by John M. Olin. The facilities also included a large bath house to the west, which was demolished in the 1960s. In 1921 a wing for more boat storage was added to the south in the same design as the original. George B. Ferry and Alfred C. Clas of Milwaukee were distinguished architects known here for their design of the Wisconsin Historical Society building on campus. The boathouse was built on former marshland and has structural problems as a result. It is planned in the near future to move it a little way to sounder ground and renovate the historic structure.

The boathouse was designated a City of Madison landmark on July 18, 1977 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Burrows Park Native American Effigy Mound and Campsite

Place: Burrows Park
Location: east of parking lot
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: On a rise just east of the Burrows Park parking lot is a straight-winged bird effigy mound with a wingspan of about 128 feet. A "running fox" mound used to exist north of the bird. The bird effigy was restored in 1934 by removing tree stumps, repairing mutilations caused by vandals and resodding.

The bird, in the religious beliefs of the mound builders, probably symbolized sky spirits; mounds described in the past as "lizards" may have represented water spirits, and bears and other animals may have represented people and other creatures that lived on the earth's surface.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

The Burrows Park Effigy Mound and Campsite was designated a City of Madison landmark on May 19, 1975
 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Cherokee Marsh Native American Mounds

Place: Cherokee Marsh - North Unit
Location: 6098 N. Sherman Ave.
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: Two large conical mounds at 1/4 mile apart.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

Edna Taylor Conservancy Native American Mounds

Place: Edna Taylor Conservation Park
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: Six linear mounds and one panther effigy are located on a high glacial drumlin along the eastern side of the Edna Taylor Conservancy. Originally another linear mound followed the hill crest to the north of the existing group and a conical mound and another very long linear mound extended to the south.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

The mound group was designated a City of Madison landmark on May 7, 1990 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Elvehjem Sanctuary Native American Mound

Place: Elvehjem Sanctuary
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: One conical mound.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

Forest Hill Cemetery Native American Mound Group

Place: Forest Hill Cemetery
Location: Southeast side of cemetery
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: Beautiful views of the surrounding area were the reason for acquiring this land as a city cemetery, but it was the same reason that the Native Americans used the site for their burials and effigy mounds many centuries before. The Forest Hill Cemetery Mound Group once consisted of 7 mounds: four linear, two panther and one rare flying goose. Of this group, three of the linear mounds have been destroyed. The head of the goose was destroyed in 1886 by grading for the IC railroad.

The mounds group is designated as a City of Madison landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Elmside Group Native American Mounds

Place: Hudson Park
Location: corner of Maple and Lakeland
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: Overlooking Lake Monona are two well-preserved animal effigies. Referred to for many years as a lynx and a bear, the actual animals or spirits that they were intended to represent is not entirely clear. These mounds were originally part of the same cluster as the Hudson Park mound.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

These mounds were designated a City of Madison landmark on May 7, 1990 and are on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Hudson Park/Mill Woods Native American Mound

Place: Hudson Park
Location: corner of Hudson and Lakeland
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: Overlooking Lake Monona is a long tailed effigy mound that has been referred to as a turtle, lizard, panther and water spirit. Part of the tail was cut off when Lakeland Avenue was constructed. This mound was originally part of a dense and extensive cluster of mounds that extended from the Yahara River to what is now Olbrich Park. The site was still a favored Ho-Chunk campground as late as the late 19th century.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

The Hudson Park Mound was designated a City of Madison landmark on May 7, 1990 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Bernard-Hoover Boathouse

Place: James Madison Park
Location: 622-1/2 E. Gorham Street
Built: 1915

Description: In the days before individual boat ownership became widespread, renting pleasure boats for lake excursions was a significant summer business in Madison. Numerous commercial enterprises developed here in the nineteenth century to cater to the demand, the first being the one German native Charles Bernard started on this site in 1855 as a fishing station.

Gradually, Bernard's business expanded to include both boat and fishing gear rentals.

By the 1890s Bernard was building his own boats as well, including several large, steam-powered excursion boats that operated on Lake Mendota. Bernard ferried picnickers to his private park (gone) near Mendota State Hospital. After his death in 1907, son William ran the business. William and his son Carl became known across the United States as avid ice boat builders and racers.

In 1911 the Bernards replaced the original buildings with a larger frame structure. Four years later that building was destroyed by fire and was replaced with the present frame building. Carl Bernard sold out to Harry Hoover in 1943; Hoover continued to operate the board livery and gave excursion rides until 1968 when he sold the property to the City. Today the Bernard-Hoover boathouse is the only survivor of the early days of Madison's love affair with pleasure boating.

The boathouse was designated a City of Madison landmark on October 18, 1976
 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Gates of Heaven Synagogue

Place: James Madison Park
Location: 300 E. Gorham Street
Built: 1863

Description: Noted Madison architect, August Kutzbock, who was trained in Germany, designed this little gem of a building. He also used this distinctive Germanic style for the Pierce and Keenan Houses at Pinckney and Gilman Streets. Gates of Heaven (Shaare Shomain in Hebrew) was built in 1863 on W. Washington Avenue for Madison's first Jewish congregation. The building later served as the first Unitarian Society Meeting House, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the English Lutheran Church and a funeral home. It was moved to this site in 1971 through the efforts of local citizens and the City of Madison to save it from the wrecking ball.

Gates of Heaven was designated a City of Madison landmark on May 20,1974 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Dean House

Place: Monona Golf Course
Location: 4718 Monona Drive
Built: ca. 1856

Description: Nathaniel W. Dean was one of Madison's early pioneers. He was born in Massachusetts and came to Madison in 1842. He and his brother ran a general store that for several years was the leading commercial business in the village. In 1847 he married Harriet Morrison, daughter of one of Madison's earliest settlers. In 1857 Dean retired from the mercantile trade to devote his time to managing his land interests in the Town of Blooming Grove, which were extensive. This cream brick Italianate farmhouse was one of several that he owned, and because of its generous proportions was probably the one that his family lived in when they were not in Madison. He continued to expand his land interests into various other parts of Wisconsin and beyond, including a fine farm in Kansas. The Deans' downtown house was where the Park Hotel is now, and indeed, Dean built the original Park Hotel and moved the house off the site to make room for it. He died in 1880.

In 1926 the old farm became a private golf course and the Dean farmhouse was remodeled as the clubhouse. The City of Madison purchased the golf course in 1935 and continued using the farmhouse as the clubhouse until the 1970s. It has been restored by the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society and is now the only historic house museum in the City of Madison.

Dean House was designated a City of Madison landmark on July 15, 1974 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Monona Lake Assembly Normal Hall

Place: Olin Park
Location: 1156 Olin-Turville Court
Built: 1884

Description: This pavilion was built as a 450-seat lecture hall for the Monona Lake Assembly. Established to provide instruction for Sunday school teachers, it soon became a popular summer camp for tourists from throughout the Midwest. As many as 15,000 came each year for religious instruction, entertainment, recreation, and lectures by such notables as William McKinley and "Fighting Bob" La Follette. The Normal Hall is one of the last buildings remaining from Madison's heyday as a resort community.

Designated  a City of Madison Landmark on March 21, 1988.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Vilas Park Native American Mound Group

Place: Vilas (Henry) Park
Location: corner of Erin and Wingra Street
Built: ca. 700 - 1200 A.D.

Description: Overlooking the zoo at the corner of Erin and Wingra Streets is an Indian mound group consisting of a bird effigy, a linear and six conicals. Two additional conical mounds and another bird were destroyed long ago. Most of Vilas Park was originally a marsh, providing a bounty of fish, birds small game and wild rice to the mound builders.

Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States and the Madison area has one of the highest concentration of effigy mounds remaining. Most mounds were lost to 19th century agricultural practices and city development. The mound builders were farmers who also engaged in hunting and gathering. They lived in small villages and migrated from one to another based on the seasonal availability of natural resources. The mounds often, but not always, have burials associated with them, but their exact purpose is not entirely understood. Mounds tend to have been built in places with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The mounds are considered sacred by modern Native Americans and should be treated with respect.

This mound group was designated a City of Madison landmark on May 7, 1990 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Yahara River Parkway

Place: Yahara River Parkway
Location: 501 S. Thornton Avenue
Built: 1903 - 1906

Description: The Yahara River Parkway was designed by noted landscape architect O. C. Simonds of Chicago. At the time it was at the eastern edge of the City. When European-Americans first settled here, the Yahara River meandered through marshland between Lakes Mendota and Monona. It had been canalized for use by the mills at the northern end of the river, and was used as an informal trash dump for decades.

The parkway was developed by the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association, a group of private citizens who worked tirelessly at the turn of the last century to provide parks and scenic drives for the benefit of the citizens of Madison. The Yahara River Parkway was the first park funded by donations from Madisonians rather than large gifts from a few donors. The design of the parkway is an excellent and intact example of the Prairie School of landscape architecture, a design theory that honored the native landscapes of the Midwest and paralleled the Prairie School of architecture

The Yahara River Parkway was designated a City of Madison Landmark on July 10, 1995 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.



More Information: Landmark Nomination (PDF)