A tour of the old neighborhood

Readers may recall “East Side, West Side,” featuring various aspects of growing up on the far East Side of Madison, much closer to the Interstate than the State Capitol.

A high school classmate found this about Madison and Monona neighborhoods, which were part of the Town of Blooming Grove before much of it was annexed into Madison and Monona. Their source was, I am told …

Blooming Grove was formed in 1850; in surveyors’ terms it is Town 7 North, Range 10 East. Many of the original settlers were from New York and Vermont as well as Germany, Norway, and Ireland. Almost all were farmers whose properties usually ranged from about 40 to 160 acres, although a few were more than 320 and several were almost 600.

By the late 1870’s, the population was about 1,000 and some recreational enterprises were appearing along the eastern shore of Lake Monona. A good-sized retail district was developing in the Schenk’s Corners/Atwood Avenue area primarily to serve farmers.

By 1900 manufacturing plants along the railroad tracks from downtown Madison were expanding beyond the Yahara River. Rapid growth led to the formation of the village of Fair Oaks in 1906. The village was incorporated into the City of Madison May 29, 1913. By 1920 the industrial workforce in Madison was about 5,000, which included 700 women. Industrial employment continued to grow especially after the Oscar Mayer family moved much of its meat packing and sausage business to Madison in 1919.

East High School opened in 1922. By the mid 1920’s, homes for “workingmen,” which meant wage earners, extended to the western bank of Starkweather Creek.

Lansing Place, Walterscheit Plat, Schenk School, Eastmorland

An ad in the Capital Times on June 23, 1928, announced an auction sale of lots in Lansing Place on Milwaukee Street, east of Fair Oaks Avenue, adjoining the city limits. The owner was George C. Rowley, an established Madison developer. He seems to have chosen the first and last names of local residents for all of the street names. The Lansing family, for example, had lived in Blooming Grove since the mid-1800’s and many of the other names appear on plat maps and tombstones over the years.

The 1930, 1940, and 1942 City of Madison maps show Starkweather Drive, Leon Street, Lansing Street, Farrell Street, Richard Street, Judd Street, Hargrove Street, and Harding Street in their present locations. They also show Wayne Street running from Leon Street to Starkweather Creek and Willow Street and Thorp Street in the area that later became O. B. Sherry Park.

In Dane County Place-Names (1947, expanded edition 1968, most recent printing Madison, 2009) Frederic G. Cassidy states that Starkweather Creek was named for John C. Starkweather who built a log bridge over the creek in 1846.

In the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s Madison and regional developers became interested in the Lansing Place area as a perfect site for veterans housing. This led to the construction of Walter Street parallel to Harding Street and the renaming of a portion of Harding Street that ran east to Dempsey Road as Tulane Avenue. These are shown on the 1950 City of Madison map, as is a “future school site” that became the location of Herbert C. Schenk school which opened in 1953. Schenk Street, also named for Herbert C. Schenk, runs north and south east of the school. Herbert C. Schenk (1880-1972) was owner of the Schenk Hardware Co. at Winnebago Street and Atwood Avenue, a school board member from 1922 to 1950, a state assemblyman, a Madison alderman, and president of the East Side Business Mens’ Association.

Schenk was a member of the Progressive Party, representing Dane County from 1935 to 1939.

Paus Street and Hynek Road, east of Schenk Street, are both named for neighborhood residents.

In the early 1950’s Aaron Elkind, Albert McGinnis, and Donald B. Sanford became business associates. Elkind, born about 1918, had already built a number of pre-cut houses on Harding Street. He was a Milwaukee native, 1940 graduate of the University of Wisconsin and a war hero. McGinnis (1919-2003) was from Superior, Wisconsin, had earned a law degree from the University of Wisconsin, and had started a practice in the Atwood Avenue area. He was also active in church and civic affairs.

Sanford never revealed much about his personal life to the newspapers; he and Elkind may have become acquainted about 1950 when both men worked for the Humphrey Tree Expert Co, a regional arborist firm with offices in the Security State Bank on Winnebago Street.

Said Security State Bank was my father’s first and only employer … sort of, since Security State Bank was purchased by Marine Bank, which was then purchased by Bank One, and which after his retirement was purchased by Chase. As for Sanford, he comes up later.

Beginning in 1954, these three developed the 75 acre, 314 house Eastmorland project on land surrounding the Schenk School site.

They sold houses the way automakers sold cars. A buyer had the choice of several models, could select a number of options, take possession on a set date, and arrange a fixed payment schedule at the time of purchase.

There were eight house styles to choose from in Eastmorland; about 80 per cent of the buyers decided on a simple ranch with a conventional roof line.

Elkind, McGinnis, and Sanford also feminized the product just as the car firms had feminized automobiles. Their houses featured large kitchens and often came with appliances. Buyers could choose from many interior and exterior color combinations.

The project name and the street names were chosen for market appeal. Eastmorland suggests more land to the east and a pleasant English countryside. It was an imitation of Westmorland, the name of a successful west side development begun by the McKenna’s in the 1920’s.

Because Elkind and the others had chosen to promote Eastmorland by emphasizing comfort and prestige the street names such as Sussex, Bradford, Buckingham, Wilshire, and Cumberland are all reminiscent of places in England or Virginia.

The Walterscheit plat runs south from present Tulane Avenue across the former Chicago and North Western Railway tracks to Atwood Avenue. It was begun in the late 1920’s on land that had been occupied for many years by the Walterscheit family.

The 1930 City of Madison map shows a portion of Harding Street in the area now occupied by Walter Street south of the railroad tracks. There is a Grand View Street which later became Sargent Street,and Johns Street, Margaret Street, Busse Street, and Bernard Street. These all appear to have been the first or last names of local residents. Olbrich Street was added before 1942 probably for Michael Olbrich who had donated the land for Olbrich Park.

Margaret Street extended north across the railroad tracks. Huron Street later became Ring Street, Erie Street became Gunderson Street, and Ontario Street is still Ontario Street. Anchor Drive and Coral Court first appear on the 1950 City of Madison map.

Royster Avenue was added about 1948 to honor the F. S. Royster Guano Co. factory at the intersection of Dempsey Road and Cottage Grove Road. Royster’s main office was in Norfolk, Virginia. The Madison plant formally opened on March 24, 1948 and closed in 2006. It blended many mixtures of plant food for farm use.

The neighborhood’s eastern border was fixed about 1950 when the East Beltline Highway was built east of Dempsey Road and U. S. Highway 51 was rerouted from Monona Drive. The new route was called South Stoughton Road, the East Beltline Highway and just 51.

Dempsey Road is for a local farm family, although, as with many other street names in the area, it is impossible to say when the name was chosen or if it honors the family in general or just one family member. In fact, if a street name in Blooming Grove has a German, Irish, or Norwegian name it was probably named for a local farm family or land owner.

Dempsey Road is near the house my parents owned when I was born and where St. Dennis Catholic Church and school is located; its history can be read here, with added details about the road’s namesake:

Following the Second World War, a swelling population and rapid housing development on Madison’s East Side necessitated the formation of a new Catholic parish. Miss Esther Dempsey donated eleven and one half acres of beautiful and expansive land, her family homestead, for this new parish.

Bishop William P. O’Connor established the founding of Saint Dennis Parish on June 1, 1956. The first pastor, Father Joseph Niglis, was joined by approximately five hundred families in a temporary, steel fabricated building that was dedicated on December 2nd of that year. That structure still exists at the heart of the present church complex as the chapel, sacristy, and social area just north of today’s spacious church lobby.

“Spacious” except on Sundays and holidays. About Niglis, an outstanding weekly newspaper once reported this, which amuses me no end:

In February 1956, after a deputy sheriff was fired, Sheriff Robert Seemeyer was accused of, among other things, ignoring gambling activities, including bingo games and dice played at the annual Labor Day celebration of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Dickeyville (which is still held) and at a veterans rally.

Retired judge A.W. Kopp was selected to head an investigation of the accusations leveled against the sheriff. Kopp selected Leary Peterson of Prairie du Chien to pursue the allegations and question witnesses at an investigative hearing.

A sheriff’s deputy who directed traffic at the Dickeyville event denied seeing bingo games in progress. Peterson went so far as to call Rev. Joseph C. Niglis of Holy Ghost to testify. He freely admitted that bingo, which he called “homer,” was played, but denied being promised immunity from prosecution by the sheriff.

Failing to find specific wrongdoing, Gov. Walter Kohler dismissed the charges against Sheriff Seemeyer.

Fr. Niglis thought the most important thing about St. Dennis was Catholic education, and so …

Saint Dennis School opened September 7, 1960 under the leadership of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. …

Father Delbert Klink became the second pastor of Saint Dennis in 1981. On the feast of Saint Dennis one year later, October 9, 1982, Bishop Cletus O’Donnell broke ground for a permanent church building which had fulfilled the dreams of many parish members. The church was used for the first time on June 13, 1983 as Bishop George Wirz conferred the sacrament of Confirmation on an enthusiastic group of young adults. Then, once again, on the feast of Saint Dennis, October 9, 1983 Bishop Wirz returned to dedicate the new church.

“On November 7, 1960, an aerial photograph was taken of Saint Dennis. The view, looking to the north-east, shows the connection between the school gym and the church is yet to be built, Stoughton Road is still a 2-lane highway, and the original Farm & Fleet is across from Saint Dennis, on Stoughton Road. Additionally, the Dempsey homestead is clearly visible in the foreground (thanks to Bob Spoerl for sharing this).”
The original church building, which apparently replaced a Quonset hut.
The school, which opened in 1960; most Sunday Masses were held in the gym at least in my day, thus making me think all churches had wood floors, basketball hoops and scoreboards. The church was on the south end, and the “new” church is also on the south end.

Now, back to the old neighborhood(s):

Leon Park, also known as Lansing Park, was renamed O. B. Sherry Park in 1974 in honor of Orven B. Sherry, a Madison real estate dealer, who donated land for the park’s expansion that eliminated Willow Streetand the eastern portion of Thorp Street.Wayne Street was reduced to a remnant that is now so short there is only room for one house on one side of the street.

In 1993, the Madison School Board renamed the middle school portion of Schenk School for Annie Greencrow Whitehorse (1906-1990), a respected member of the Madison area American Indian community.

Lake Edge Park, Morningside Heights, Allis Heights, Quaker Heights

The area south of Cottage Grove Road, east of Monona Drive, west of U. S. 51, and north of Pflaum Road changed from farm to suburban use in stages from about 1910 to 1960. The first suburban development was Lake Edge Park near the intersection of Cottage Grove Roadand Monona Drive at the site of an earlier Lake Edge dairy.

In a series of newspaper ads from 1912 to 1915 the Lake Edge Park Co. promoted the subdivision as “The Model Suburb.” Lots were 75 x 150 feet complete with trees and shrubs, all owners were guaranteed lake access via a company-owned park, and commercial use was forbidden.

An ad in the Wisconsin State Journal on April 1, 1915 compared Lake Edge Park with three Madison subdivisions.

According to the ad:

A 75 x 150 lot in Lake Edge Park was $500

A 60 x 120 lot in Wingra Park was $1,600

A 50 x 120 lot in West Lawn was $1.400

A 40 x 120 lot in Fair Oaks was $600

The most unusual feature of the streets is that the more or less north-south streets are at a right angle to a southeastern oriented portion of Buckeye Road, which the developers called Main Avenue.

Buckeye Road (Co. Hwy AB) was for many years the main route to Madison from the southeast, especially the Stoughton-McFarland areas. The name may refer to a grove of buckeye trees (horse chestnuts) or may be connected to a person or business related to Ohio, the Buckeye State.

For some reason, the developers ignored the fact that there was already a Main Street in Madison. Their Wisconsin Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, and Park Boulevardwere also similar to Madison street names.

By 1942 the Lake Edge Main Avenue had reverted to Buckeye Road, Wisconsin Avenuebecame Davis Street, Lincoln Avenue became Drexel Avenue, Lawrence Avenue became Hegg Avenue, and Park Boulevard became Lake Edge Boulevard.

The Morningside Heights subdivision, first advertised in 1923, is just east of Lake Edge Park and was promoted as a site for workingman’s homes; most of the streets are extensions of those in Lake Edge Park and share their skewed alignment. Morningside Avenue is named for the subdivision. Maher Avenue and Major Avenue are for local residents.

Morningside Heights was a project of Laurence M. Rowley. In 1924 Rowley announced Allis Heights, a 108 acre subdivision that is essentially a continuation of Morningside Heights. Most of the streets such as Spaanem Avenue are also named for local residents.

Allis Heights, Allis Avenue, and the nearby Frank Allis School that opened in 1917 are named for Frank W. Allis (1865-1915) who was the son of Edward P. Allis (1824-1899), a Milwaukee industrialist whose foundries and machinery factories were among the largest in the United States. The City of West Allis is named for the Allis family. In 1901 the Allis company and several others merged to become Allis-Chalmers.

Frank chose agriculture over manufacturing and moved to the Madison area about 1893 where he concentrated on pure-bred Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle raised on his “Monona Farm.” The farm covered 600 acres in parts of Blooming Grove, sections 9, 16, and 17. His lake shore home still stands at 4123 Monona Drive and is called San Damiano Friary.

Sometime after 1917 parts of the Allis property including several houses and barns were purchased by the Quaker Oats Company for use as an experimental farm to test dairy cattle rations.

The 200 acre Quaker Oats farm closed about 1940 and the land was purchased by Jerome Jones. In 1944, John C. McKenna Jr. bought the Jones land for post-war development and named the area Quaker Heights. Jerome Street honors Jerome Jones. Quaker Circle and Quaker Park are for the experimental farm.

Some of the Allis land became the location of the Monona Golf Course begun in the 1920’s as a private venture. The City of Madison took over the course in the mid-1930’s. It was an 18-hole course until the early 1960’s when some land was lost to school construction. It is now nine holes.

The Village of Monona was created in 1938; the first elections for the City of Monona took place in April 1969.

Three streets in the golf course area share names with those in the City of Monona.

Winnequah, as in East Winnequah Drive, was coined from “Winnebago squaw” by Frank Barnes in 1870 in honor of his Indian wife.

Cold Spring Avenue is probably named for a spring in Monona.

East Dean Avenue is for Nathaniel Dean (1817-1880) whose 500 acre farm was located in the area. Dean House, at 4718 Monona Drive, which was the Dean family’s part-time residence, is now a house museum operated by the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society.

The Monona Grove High School, 4400 Monona Drive, built on land donated by the Blooming Grove volunteer fire department, opened in 1955 to serve students from the Village of Monona, the Town of Blooming Grove, and the Town and Village of Cottage Grove.

The Robert M. La Follette High School on Pflaum Road was built in 1963. It is named for Robert M. La Follette (1855-1925) who was a member of Congress from Wisconsin from 1885-1891, governor of Wisconsin from 1901-1906, and U. S. Senator from Wisconsin 1906-1925. He ran for U. S. President in 1924 for the Progressive Party, which he founded, and received 17 per cent of the national popular vote.

That would be the same Progressive Party of which the aforementioned Rep. Schenk was a member. As I’ve written here before, I cannot explain why the La Follette teams are the Lancers and not the Fighting Bobs.

In 1970, the junior high school/middle school portion of the La Follette High School was renamed Ray F. Sennett Middle School in honor of Ray F. Sennett (1904-1970) who served on the Madison School Board from 1948 to 1969. He was a graduate of the Madison Central High School and the University of Wisconsin, an outstanding athlete, and vice-president of the Randall and Security State Banks. After his death the Wisconsin State Journal (April 10, 1970) wrote that he was “a quiet, stalwart, dignified man with a ready smile that revealed his innate gentleness.”

Glendale, Edna Taylor Conservation Park

The Glendale neighborhood has two parts. The first area is east of the Monona Golf Course to Camden Roadand south to Pflaum Road. The second area extends from Monona Drive to Camden Road and from Pflaum Road to the southern border of the Edna Taylor Conservation Park.

In 1954 several developers including Harry Vogts, Pete Beehner, the Herro brothers, and Oscar Seiferth began to build hundreds of single family homes in Glendale. These projects were mostly complete by 1956 or 1957; the apartments on Camden Road were built in 1961 and a number of houses were built near the northern edge of the Edna Taylor Park from 1971 to about 1979.

A booklet published by the Glendale Neighborhood Assocation, “Glendale, a Neighborhood, a School, and their Park” (Madison, 2005) gives the origins of many street names.

The name Glendale comes from the Glendale Development Corporation owned by Phil and Norm Herro and Oscar Seiferth. Glendale has been a popular place name in the United States since at least the 1850’s, as in Glendale, Ohio. The Glendale Elementary School opened in 1957.

Many of the street names are those of local residents such as Pflaum, Tompkins, Kvamme, and Bjelde. Jeanette Pugh Johnson chose the name Crestview for a subdivision and Crestview Drive. She named Bryn Trem Road for the Welsh phrase “view from a hill” and also named Maldwyn Lane; Maldwyn is the Welsh version of Baldwin.

The developer Pete Beehner named a subdivision and Linda Vista Avenuefor his daughter Linda.

Harry Vogts named the Aceview subdivision for his Ace Builders, Inc.: “Ace sets the pace.”

Norm and Phil Herro named Herro Lanefor the family; Dixie Lane is from their brother Burt’s nickname. Oscar Seiferth named Joylynne Drive for his wife Joyce and daughter Lynne.

Indian Trace, which runs south from Crestview Drive was originally an extension of Groveland Terrace. Mary Schatz, a neighborhood resident, suggested renaming this section Indian Trace because Jeanette Pugh Johnson said that an old Indian had lived in the area for many years. The Madison City Council approved the new name in 1972.

Kay Street and Ruth Street are first names. Spaanem Avenue and Maher Avenue are extensions of streets in Morningside Heights and Allis Heights. Acacia Lane and Alder Lane are named for trees. Hob Street is for a developer. Admiral Drive in Aceview may reflect Harry Vogts’ love of everything nautical.

Perhaps ironically, I went to high school with a Sponem who was not a Spaanem.

Crestview Drive, Woodland Drive, and Parkview Driveoverlook the northern border of the Edna Taylor Conservation Park.Camden Road, Douglas Trail, Louden Lane, and Lamont Lane may be named for local residents.

The Edna Taylor Conservation Park, established in 1972, consists of 56 acres of land behind the Glendale Elementary School south to Femrite Pond. Thirty-five acres of the park were purchased by the Madison Parks Division from the estate of Edna Giles Norden Taylor.

Edna Taylor (about 1903-1972) arrived in Madison about 1929 where her husband Harry Giles was on the University of Wisconsin faculty. She was born and raised in New York City where she played minor roles in Broadway productions. In Madison she was active in community theater as an actor and director. She was also affiliated with the U. W. English department as a graduate student and writing instructor. A second husband was named Thomas Norden.

At some point Mrs. Taylor acquired 111 acres of land in the present U. S. 51 and Femrite Road area and used some of it as a Guernsey farm that she named “Heartenland.” Part of this land went into the Edna Taylor Park.

Now to the neighborhood we moved to after my younger brother was born:

Elvehjem Neighborhood, Mira Loma Park Area

The first subdivision in the area south of Cottage Grove Road east of U. S. 51 was Harry Vogts’ Acewood from 1959. By 1962 many small, medium, and large builders and developers were active in the area; two of the larger were Towne Realty of Milwaukee that used Findorff, a Madison company, to build its houses, and the Lucey Realty Service owned by Patrick J. Lucey who was governor of Wisconsin from 1971 to 1977.

Lucey is probably the last Democratic governor of Wisconsin who cared very much about business, perhaps due to his business background. He was a native of Ferryville and attended the former Campion High School in Prairie du Chien. But I digress. Again.

Many streets are named for local residents: Steinhauer Trail, Starker Avenue, Vinje Court, and Droster Road. Several are for builders; Montgomery Drive is for William C. Montgomery. First names are common as in Bonnie Lane, Ellen Avenue, Wendy Lane,and Melinda Drive. Female names greatly outnumber male names. Painted Post Roadis from Lucey’s Painted Post Subdivision. Bird streets are Meadowlark Drive, Sandpiper Lane, Pelican Circle, and Tern Court.

In the Mira Loma area south of Buckeye Road are several mini-themes such as Ranch House Lane, Oxbow Road, Blacksmith Lane, Bellows Circle, Wagon Trail, Forge Drive, and Anvil Lane.

Spanish phrases appear in La Crescenta Circle, La Sierra Way, Paso Roble Way, and Mira Loma, which means “view of the hillside.”

Along with Eldorado Lane, where said house was.

Mira Loma Park was established in 1981 and renamed Orlando Bell Park in 1997. Orlando Bell (1950-1994) came from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to study at the University of Wisconsin. He was an artist and art instructor, director of the South Madison Neighborhood Center, a Boy Scout leader, and president of the Madison NAACP chapter from 1990 to 1993.

The Elvehjem neighborhood name comes from the Elvehjem Elementary School that was dedicated on December 12, 1962 in honor of Conrad Arnold Elvehjem (1901-1962). “Connie” Elvehjem was raised on a farm near McFarland within three miles of the school. He attended Stoughton High School before entering the University of Wisconsin where he soon became a biochemist best known for discovering the vitamin niacin and the cure for pellagra. He became president of the University of Wisconsin in 1958 and died of a heart attack on July 27, 1962.

Now to the neighborhood where my parents built their first house:

Kingston-Onyx, Rolling Meadows, Heritage Heights

By 1958 when large scale suburban development began in the area east of U. S. 51, south of Milwaukee Street, and north of Cottage Grove Road, developers such as Aaron Elkind, Donald Sanford, and Albert McGinnis knew a lot about selling houses to middle income clients.

They made certain that subdivisions named Kingston-Onyx, Rolling Meadows, and Heritage Heights promised pleasant surroundings. Streets with names such as Diamond, Turquoise, and Crystal sparkled with the promise of a high-quality product in a landscape filled with singing birds on streets named Chickadee Court, Bob-o-link Lane, and Meadowlark Drive.

Heritage Heights suggested merry England with Kingsbridge Road, Queensbridge Road, and Knightsbridge Road.

Not to mention Vicar Lane, which comes up momentarily. What of Spicebush Lane?

Aaron Elkind wrote ads that said the houses in Kingston were “fit for a queen and built for a king.” Residents could talk about a gem of a neighborhood.

The jewel box consists of Diamond Drive, Pearl Lane, Garnet Lane, Jade Lane, Turquoise Lane, Onyx Lane, Topaz Lane, Cameo Lane, Crystal Lane, Flint Lane, and Agate Lane.

The bird streets are Chickadee Court, Goldfinch Drive, Bob-o-link Lane, Shearwater Street, Hummingbird Lane, and Meadowlark Drive.

Heritage Heights offers Sudbury Way, Cavendish Court, Severn Way, Brookshire Lane, Westminster Court, Windsor Court, St. Albans Avenue, Portsmouth Way, and Merryturn Road.

As was common in the 1950’s and 1960’s several streets are named for builders and their wives and children, which was an expression of pride in workmanship and family; in some cases it was a statement of joy in having survived years of deprivation and war long enough to have a family. Charleen Lane, Lois Lane, Ralph Circle and Beehner Circle are examples. Pete J. Beehner (about 1919-2004) was a well-known Madison builder and developer whose “Beehner built” houses were said to be among the best.

There are several mini-themes such as Lamplighter Way, Stagecoach Trail, and Hackney Way.

In the peaceful sector there are Quiet Lane, Harmony Hill Drive, and a number of “wood” streets—Shady Wood Lane, Inwood Way, Open Wood Way and Twin Oaks Drive. Some of these contain two words which was still fairly uncommon in the 1960’s.

One major street, Acewood Boulevard, began about 1959 in Harry Vogts’ Acewood subdivision. Vogts (1908-1994) owned Ace Builders, Inc., and had already named one subdivision in Glendale Aceview.

Vogts had been an outstanding musician at the East Side High School and the University of Wisconsin. He was a frequent national champion motor boat racer and a well-known Madison area golfer and bowler. He was an officer in the Madison Brass Works, a non-ferrous metals foundry established by his father Henry Vogts in 1907. His wife Betty was also a champion motor boat racer.

Kennedy Elementary School and Kennedy Park are named for President John F. Kennedy. McGinnis Park is named for Albert McGinnis; it is surrounded by his developments.

Tom George Greenway is for Thomas T. George (1924-1999), a Madison lawyer, alderman from 1971 to 1975, and a Heritage Heights resident who lived at 905 Inwood Way.

Most of the Kingston-Onyx, Rolling Meadows, and Heritage Heights area was filled by 1970.

That depends on your definition of “most.” Our house, sold by Sanford Homes (a ranch, one of approximately five available house plans in the neighborhood), was built when Spicebush Lane wasn’t paved yet. (The basement was poured on my sixth birthday.) Vicar Lane, the street to the west, was the last street in the neighborhood until streets were built to the north up to Milwaukee Street. Until then, everything north of Vicar Lane was a cornfield.

So that’s where I grew up — started near St. Dennis, then in the Acewood neighborhood, then in Heritage Heights. The houses in the neighborhood are going on 50 years old, but, I’m told, still in very good shape. (And if you’re interested in one of them — including a house across the street — click here.)

I have never lived in a suburb of a major city, but that’s what living where we lived felt, as if there should have been a city limits sign at the intersection of Acewood Boulevard and Cottage Grove Road or something. As I wrote before, everything except Kennedy School and the Boy Scout troop meetings three blocks from our house was a car drive away. Things that happened in downtown Madison or on the UW–Madison campus seemed a world away.

8 thoughts on “A tour of the old neighborhood

  1. Enjoyed this very much. Growing up in the east side, there was always a proud thing I held for it. Nice to read more about it.

  2. Great info Steve! Just an FYI for you — my parents built a house on Windsor Court in 1978 and the plans for the house stated the lot was located in the “Charing Cross” addition for Heritage Heights. This makes sense with all the British street names around the neighborhood and the info you had on this area. What great info about the East Side! ( I also went to St. Dennis and remember attending church in the small building and gym! Oh the memories of hard folding chairs!) 😊
    Thanks for a great blog!

  3. Wonderful article! I am a 66 year old West Sider who has loved Madison all her life. Your name caught my attention as I recognized it. I taught sixth grade at Schenk Middle School from 1972 – 1978. Before I was married in 1975, I was Patricia Doyle. Ring a bell? I taught with Al Beauchaine, Bernie Seifert, Carol Reuter, and others.

  4. So MANY great memories growing up on the “Far East Side” of Madison! Born in December 1956 on Elinor Street (behind the East YMCA – back then, it was a field & a small creek that we ice skated on in later years); went to St. Dennis Grade School 1st to 8th grade and fondly remember Fr. Niglis – on St. Nicholas Day, he would give each student a small paperbag filled with rock-candy & an apple….such a special memory!; then on to LaFollette High School, graduating in 1975. My Mom still lives in the same house on Elinor Street that my 3 sisters, 3 brothers & I grew up in (house was built around 1952). Iceskating in the Winter and Summer Day Camps (remember “gymp”?) at Lakeview Park on Dempsey Rd; swimming lessons at Olbrich Beach; Trick-or-Treating from 6-10 PM with no fear; and riding our bikes EVERYwhere, even in the dark, as long as we had a light (hand-held flashlight) and bell on our bikes and were home by 10 PM. Things have changed since then, but I still love going “home” to visit my Mom and reminisce about growing up in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home with 9 people – HAPPY YEARS! thank you for sharing this!

  5. When mentioning Heritage Heights, you did not include Whitehall Drive, which was the last north/south street, paralleling Interstate 90/94. The north end of Canterbury Rd. intersected with Vicar Ln, then curved to the west, which became Retana Drive. Retana Dr. extended further west, crossing Merryturn and connecting with Meadowlark Dr. Our home, 405 Whitehall Drive, was the last house built in that section of Heritage Heights, November of 1976, It, and the tudor-style home at 401 Whitehall Dr. were built by Impala Holmes. In 1978, houses on the south side of Retana Dr., between Merryturn and Meadowlark Dr., saw the construction of new homes. In this same period, Merryturn Rd. was extended north toward Milwaukee St. by way of Thompson Drive. A large housing development was built in that space. A large greenway separated the houses on the north side of Retana Dr. and the new construction. That was to be the Charing Cross addition to Heritage Heights. In the 1980’s, additional housing (duplex and multi-family) was built in the small area at the corner of Milwaukee St. and Thompson Drive, with the interstate highway and the Milwaukee St. bridge enclosing the mini-development. There was a plan in the ’70’s to build Thompson Drive to connect Cottage Grove Rd. and Milwaukee St., paralleling very close to the interstate. That was never completed, and thank goodness. It would have been basically a service road, and the best quarter-mile drag strip on the east side!!
    BTW, there is still a survivor of the Dempsey family that donated the land for St. Dennis Parish and nearby. A daughter, Virginia (Ginny), married a fellow named Bonner. He was the owner/operator of Bonner’s Body Shop, just south of Farm & Fleet. When Mr. Bonner passed away, Ginny took over the business and kept it going for several more years before retiring.

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