Lake Forest drawing from historian David Mollenhoff's "Madison: A History of the Formative years"

Lake Forest drawing from David Mollenhoff’s “Madison: A History of the Formative Years”

Take a fascinating peek into Madison’s past and explore the haunting story of Lake Forest — Madison’s “Lost City” — when you participate in the most unusual walk in the UW-Madison Arboretum repertoire.

The free “Tour of the Lost City” is only offered once a year, usually around Halloween. Join this year’s “Lost City” tour from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 30, 2016 and learn about what Madison historian David Mollenhoff calls “One of the most extraordinary land developments ever launched in Madison.”

Lost CityLake Forest is a failed 1920s residential area in the midst of the Gardner Marsh section of the Arboretum. If you have some older Madisonians in your tour group, you may hear tales about how this was once a popular parking spot for high school students. Now, however, nature has reclaimed the land and not many traces of the development remain.
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A slightly different version of this post was originally published on the Madison Central High School History blog on January 1, 2008. It is a slightly longer version of a page-one feature story I wrote for The Wisconsin State Journal that was published on October 31, 2007 (with different photos). Despite the upbeat tone of the story, six years later more than a few people remain concerned about the future of the arch and MATC’s commitment to preserving it.- NG

Stonemason and sculptor Jacob Arndt working on the restoration of the Central High School arch in October 2007

Stonemason and sculptor Jacob Arndt working on the restoration of the Central High School arch in October 2007

A lone worker stood atop yellow scaffolding and began repairing the Central High arch on Wisconsin Avenue earlier this month. The sight brought sighs of relief from admirers of the arch, who noticed what seemed to be visible signs of structural disintegration this summer.

The arch is all that remains of the Cass Gilbert-designed Madison Central High School building torn down in 1986 to make room for a MATC parking lot. At that time, the arch was allowed to stand as a means of mollifying local preservationists, Central alumni, and the occasional fan of Gilbert, an architect whose works also include the Woolworth Building in New York City and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

In 2002, a proposed development plan involving the Madison Children’s Museum threatened the arch. It survived because the Museum found another home.

However, many Central alumni and preservationists worried the arch’s increasingly fragile condition continued to pose a threat to its existence. Some, including Central alumnus Mark Pankow, tried unsuccessfully to organize a project committee to raise funds to pay for restoration of the arch or to move it to another location. Others feared that MATC, which owns the arch and the property on which it stands, was deliberately allowing the arch to disintegrate so it would eventually become unsafe and have to be torn down.

Now the worrying can cease and the conspiracy theories can be abandoned.

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RADS coverThe truth is simply this: I have no memories of the Sterling Hall bombing. I’d worked until late that night and I slept soundly. Although I lived only a few blocks away, the sound of the explosion did not awaken me, nor did the subsequent wail of police and emergency vehicle sirens. My most vivid memories of the Sterling Hall bombing were created more than two decades later.

August 24th, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. One man, researcher Robert Fassnacht, was killed in the blast. Four men were accused of carrying out the bombing. Three were tried and found guilty. One has never been apprehended.

But this event affected countless lives in a myriad ways. For some, the aftermath brought swift changes. For others, the consequences were more incremental, more subtle: ripples from a pebble tossed in a stream, “butterfly effects.”

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So last night the Madison City Council voted 15-4 to make the Pink Plastic Flamingo the city’s official bird – and of course now you want to buy not one, but two. That’s right two; the original “official” pink flamingos, designed by Don Featherstone for Union Products, were always sold in pairs: one upright, the other with its head toward the ground.

Photograph of pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill in 1979. This photograph of pink flamingos on Bascom Hill is ©Michael Kienitz. It is used here with his permission.

Photograph of pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill in 1979 This photograph of pink flamingos on Bascom Hill is ©Michael Kienitz. It is used here with his permission.

But perhaps you only need to buy one. If you look closely at the iconic Michael Kientiz photograph of the September 4, 1979 assemblage of pink flamingos on Bascom Hill – the memorable event that led to the City Council’s historic vote nearly three decades late, they all appear to have their heads toward the ground. Then if you compare a close-up photograph of one of the original 1,008 Bascom Hill flamingos now in the possession of the Wisconsin State Historical Society with the Wikipedia photos of what are allegedly the “original” Don Featherstone designs, you’ll also note definite differences in the shape of the bird.

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Cropped Joel Memorial June 28, 2005Joel Gersmann hated blogs: He thought they were filled with scurrilous gossip and the inane, meandering thoughts of people who, if they really wanted to write, should be writing serious stuff…like plays, and novels — or at least articles about his beloved Broom Street Theater.

Joel died four years ago today. Were he still alive, I think he would have changed his mind about blogs — and he probably would have a Facebook page for the theater if not himself. Once he began to see how useful and effective the Internet could be for disseminating news about Broom Street Theater, as well as locating obscure, out-of-print books and CDs, he would have twisted arms and convinced people to blog on his behalf while he used his mighty intellect to create new plays and finish translating Homer.

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brazenbook_frontIt’s raining at a medium windshield wiper pace and I’m running late for lunch with Penelope Trunk. I was going to park in a ramp, but I spot an open space on West Washington Avenue only a block away from my destination; so I take it even though I only have 85 cents in change for the meter and may well end up with a parking ticket.

The wind is so strong it blows my cheap umbrella inside out, so I decide not to risk taking my Nikon D40 with me. Instead, I tell myself if there’s an opportunity to take a photo I can rely on the little point and shot Olympus I always carry in my purse. Besides, the Olympus has a 10X zoom, so I can sneak up on my subject from a distance if necessary.

I may have to use that zoom lens because I won’t be sitting at the same table as Trunk. I probably won’t even be sitting at a table because my destination is “A Brown Bag Lunch Networking Event” sponsored by Wisconsin Women in Government and it’s being held in a conference room. I may also have to use that zoom lens if I’m late and relegated to standing in the back of the room.

There are still quite a few seats available when I arrive at 11:30 a.m. I pick up my nametag and pause to look at the rows of bottled water and platters of cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, vegetables, and sweet desserts sprawled on tables just inside the door to the conference room. I haven’t brought a brown bag lunch and there is no one standing at the front of the room about to launch into a lecture, so snarfing some goodies and laying claim to 500 ml. of Aquafina seems like a good idea.

Problem: No silverware, not even a bowl of toothpicks. I’m deft enough to pick up small bits of melon without touching somebody else’s nosh, but putting some cheese on a round cracker is a challenge. Someone already tried to dip into the semi-hard cheese ball and there are bits of shattered cracker littered around it. I stick with fruit and baby carrots.

I take a seat on an aisle. It’s a habit I developed from all those years of writing on deadline. It also makes it easier to slip out of the room if the speaker is boring. Not that I expect Trunk to be boring: I’ve been reading her blog too long to believe that.

It’s 11:35 a.m. by the time I finally sit down in this room full of women. There’s still no action in the front of the room. I turn down the volume on my cell telephone in case Himself decides to call me. I haven’t told Himself I’m having lunch with Penelope Trunk because recently he admitted that, “When she writes all of the blood in my veins rushes to the appropriate locations.” I call this Priapic Trunk Syndrome. My spellchecker refuses to recognize the “p” word and offers “prosaic” as an alternative.

In the back of the conference room is a collection of shovels from a groundbreaking ceremony. All the shovels have names. Maybe I should take a photo, just in case I need to blog about shovels if Trunk doesn’t show up to enlighten us about our careers.

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I’m Singing the Blues, Brother: I went to Woodman’s West tonight, but failed to get Dan Ackroyd’s autograph on a Crystal Head vodka bottle

March 26, 2009

There are many things I’ll do for Himself, but buying a bottle of vodka in a crystal bottle shaped like a human skull is not one of them. Firstly, he doesn’t drink; so he’d probably keep the silly thing in his cabinet of curiosities, hoping its value would one day outpace inflation. Secondly, if he […]

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A post for Paul Soglin about the day Bob Dylan didn’t arrive at the Mifflin Street Co-op (July 4, 1969)

Thumbnail image for A post for Paul Soglin about the day Bob Dylan didn’t arrive at the Mifflin Street Co-op (July 4, 1969) March 3, 2009

There are lots of names listed in my 1969 engagement calendar, but Bob Dylan isn’t one of them. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hanging around the Mifflin Street Coop on the 4th of July, but I can’t tell you where I was that day — and I won’t tell you who I was with, either. […]

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Armistice Day — and a play that recognizes two Wisconsin soldiers killed during combat operations in Iraq

November 11, 2008

Today is Armistice Day. In this country we call it Veterans Day. In the British Commonwealth it’s called Remembrance Day. But whatever it may be called today, this holiday has its roots in Armistice Day, a commemoration of the symbolic end of World War I – the war that dramatically changed the face of Europe; […]

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A load of coal and a slice of hot apple pie with cinnamon ice cream at Manchester’s: Historic tidbits about shopping in Downtown Madison

Thumbnail image for A load of coal and a slice of hot apple pie with cinnamon ice cream at Manchester’s: Historic tidbits about shopping in Downtown Madison November 10, 2008

“THRILLS TO MARK STATE ST. LIGHTING JUBILEE THURSDAY!” shouts the full-page announcement in the Tuesday, June 2, 1931 edition of The Wisconsin State Journal. Thursday was the day “a flood of midnight sun would literally bathe State and Fairchild streets” as the new “State Street Bright-Way” was turned on. Up and down State Street’s eight […]

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