Now & Then: The YWCA Building on State Street

In October the Wisconsin State Journal reported plans to build a $30 million boutique hotel on State Street that would require demolition of 122 State St., once home to the YWCA. The building was badly updated in the early 1970s with stucco and brick completely covering facades on State, Carroll and Dayton streets. Side walls […]

Now & Then: The Long and Short of It

Our history can be near or far, which can be a measure of distance or time. For these Now & Then pieces the geographic focus is our neighborhood and the time horizon is usually long, at least by Madison standards. This month I begin by looking back only a few years to 2012 when a […]

Now & Then: Madison’s Steel Structures

Trachte buildings are common across the Madison area. Vintage Trachtes are easily identified corrugated steel buildings with vertical walls and an arched roof* that are used as garages, utility sheds, gas stations, boathouse or commercial buildings. They are plentiful here because Trachte was founded in Madison in 1901. The business began with brothers George and […]

Now & Then: Taking It to the Limit

The battle over the height of buildings in downtown Madison was sparked 100 years go when the Gay Building was erected on the capitol square. The nine-story structure, now known as the Churchill Building, opened in 1915. It was the project of Leonard Gay, described as “a leading Madison real estate developer, building erector, and […]

Now & Then: Bracketology for Buildings

Each spring brings a lot of talk about brackets for fans of the NCAA basketball championships. Being more of building guy than a sports guy, I think about brackets on buildings. An architectural bracket projects from a wall in order to support something else like a beam or cornice. Brackets had their heyday in the […]

Now & Then: Long Live the Queen

“The queen of Madison’s hostelries, the Park Hotel, is dead.” So wrote Frank Custer in The Capital Times on Aug. 5, 1961, when he detailed the demolition of the old Park Hotel to make way for the building that stands today at 22 S. Carroll St. Throughout its 144-year history, the hotel has been renovated […]

Now & Then: Dome Sweet Dome

The capitol dome defines the skyline of central Madison. But it was not the first dome nor the first capitol building—and there had been another dome at the top of Bascom Hill. Both communicated the dignity of important institutions. The current capitol is the third to stand in Madison. The second statehouse was built from […]

Now & Then: Heads and Beds

The downtown landscape can change quickly in Madison. It was a little more than two years ago (April 21, 2013) that the Wisconsin State Journal reported on “the most ambitious mixed-use project ever on State Street.” Today, The Hub is ready for occupancy at State and Frances Streets. The University Inn, demolished in November of […]

Now & Then — Madison’s Iron Age

Cast iron was a popular building material in the last half of the 19th century. It was inexpensive and could be easily molded or cast into almost any shape, often imitating carved stone. Aesthetically, many contemporary critics dismissed cast iron as vulgar and unrefined. Cast iron has drawbacks, too; it rusts easily and can be […]