The Origins of Some Madison, Wisconsin, Street Names
By Burr Angle, Dolores Kester, and Ann Waidelich
Copyright © Burr Angle 2010
Please credit the source if you use this resource - thank you!
Part VII - The Origins of Some Westside Madison, Wisconsin, Street Names: Western Suburbs North of the Beltline to About 1970
This article discusses the origins of many street names on the Westside of Madison from the 1830s until about 1970. The area covered is west of Glenway Street and Franklin Avenue, north of the Beltline highway, south of Lake Mendota, and east of Gammon Road and the Middleton City Limits.
The Village of Shorewood Hills and most of the Midvale Heights neighborhood are not included because their street names have been examined by other writers.
Most of the street names are discussed in the context of the subdivision in which they are located. Because space is limited, many streets in smaller subdivisions are not mentioned (there were 47 subdivisions just in the Midvale Heights area).
Anyone interested in a street name in one of these smaller subdivisions may find an online database called Newspaper Archive useful. This database contains digitized images of microfilmed pages from several thousand newspapers. It can be accessed through Linkcat at the South Central Library System. Ask the reference librarian at any Madison Public Library for help if necessary.
It is usually best to search Madison newspapers in Newspaper Archive by the name of the subdivision in which a street is located. A lucky search will reveal ads for the subdivision, legal notices about utilities and street improvements, and possibly an article or two.
University Avenue now begins in Madison at Bassett Street and ends in Middleton at Highway 12. This is a simple and logical name for the present route.
The road began in the 1830s as settlers and miners improved an Indian trail to the Sauk City-Devil’s Lake area. Its course from Madison to the Town of Middleton was influenced both by the 1830s government surveys and by the route chosen by the Milwaukee Road in the mid-1850s.
The stretch from the University campus to at least as far west as the present bridge or viaduct over the railroad tracks west of Hilldale was long known as Sauk Road. (Old Sauk Road was entirely different and is treated separately.)
This usage continued until about 1920 or 1930 when the easternmost portions of Sauk Road began to be called University Avenue for a continuation of the street in Madison. The 1942 City of Madison map shows that University Avenue was the official name most of the way to the bridge.
Meanwhile, in 1918 Sauk Road became part of State Highway 12 when Wisconsin adopted a highway numbering system and became US 12 in 1926 when the federal government did the same. It later also became portions of US 14 and Wisconsin State Highway 13.
By about 1940, a section beyond the bridge had been greatly enlarged from an earlier road. This became the present 4-lane highway from the bridge to Allen Boulevard just inside the Middleton city limits. The term Sauk Road had by then been abandoned and this section was called the Middleton Road or the New Middleton Road to differentiate it from the Old Middleton Road that followed the railroad tracks south of the bridge and then west to the Middleton depot.
The two names, University Avenue and Middleton Road, were confusing, especially to tourists. Some businesses just gave up and listed their address as “University Avenue – Middleton Road.”
The situation resolved itself in the 1960s when “new” Middleton Road was also named University Avenue. Highways 12 and 14 were rerouted to the Beltline Highway. State Highway 13 no longer serves Madison; its south end is now at Wisconsin Dells.
Old Sauk Road, Mineral Point Road, Speedway Road
Old Sauk Road begins at Old Middleton Road and runs almost perfectly straight west to the western part of the Town of Middleton. Plat and topographical maps show that Old Sauk is a section line road. This means that it was built by settlers after the 1830s government surveys. Old houses, barns, and fences show it was flanked by farms whose owners used the road on their trips to Madison.
Mineral Point Road is also a section line road that in many places is exactly one mile south of Old Sauk Road. It begins at Glenway Street and extends almost all the way to Mt. Horeb. It is named for Mineral Point in the mining regions of southwest Wisconsin.
From the early 1900s until after WWII, an 11-mile stretch of Mineral Point Road from Regent Street to Cross Plains was informally called the Speedway Road because motorists used it to test their automobiles. In the 1930s and 1940s Madison newspapers used both “Speedway Road” and “Mineral Point Road,” sometimes in the same issue. Speedway is now the official name only for the road that cuts diagonally between Forest Hill Cemetery and Resurrection Cemetery from Regent Street to Mineral Point Road.
John C. McKenna, 1878-1949, was born on an Iowa County farm and moved to Madison about 1901. He entered the real estate business about 1905. The 1910 U. S. Census lists John C. McKenna, 30, as a real estate agent living in the 10th Ward of Madison with his wife Marcia Nickles McKenna, 23, and a son John, 12 months. Marcia’s brother Robert owned an electrical shop. In 1913 Robert Nickles and John McKenna were among the founders of the Madison Rotary Club. John became its first president.
McKenna specialized in suburban development; for example, Edgewood Park near the Dominican Sisters’ land off Monroe Street about 1905, College Hills west of the University about 1913, and McKenna Park on the Northside about 1911.
He lost everything during the WWI housing slump but bounced back in the 1920s with College Hills, Shorewood, Westmorland, and others. He scraped through the early 1930s building houses on speculation. If a house didn’t sell quickly, the McKennas lived in it. Marcia said they moved 37 times.
He and Marcia had five children. A 1940 newspaper article mentions that the two daughters and three sons all graduated from the University of Wisconsin. Marcia and son Don were championship golfers.
During WWII John Jr. was an employee at the Badger Ordnance Works, “the powder plant” near Sauk City. Don became a volunteer with the Royal Canadian Air Force and then an officer in the United States Army Air Forces. He flew 38 bombing missions over Europe as a B-17 pilot and ended the war as a flight instructor. Roger served 30 months in the Pacific as a Lieutenant in the U. S. Navy.
John McKenna carried on until the end of the war with developments such as Homestead Heights in Monona where purchasers could buy lots to be used for victory gardens, then as home sites after the war.
John Jr. and Don McKenna joined or rejoined the family business in 1946 and remained in real estate, especially on the West Side for many years. Roger moved elsewhere such as Illinois and California and there are later references to Doctor Roger McKenna.
The McKennas were respected for their love of nature and Midwestern landscapes. John Sr. was said to insist on preserving every hummock and ravine on his developments.
In 1948 the Village of Shorewood Hills named McKenna Park in his honor. After his death in 1949, the McKenna family donated marshy land in the western portion of what is now Odana Hills Golf Course in his memory with the stipulation that it always remain undisturbed.
The Westmorland Neighborhood is bordered by Mineral Point Road on the north, Midvale Boulevard to the west, the former Illinois Central Railroad tracks (now a bike and pedestrian path) to the south, and Glenway Street to the east.
Tom Martinelli, using information from past issues of the neighborhood association newsletter which go back to 1941 and other sources, compiled this list of streets that now exist within the area.
Anthony Lane – named for Anthony Sokolski, the owner of the land that would become the Sokolski Addition to the City of Madison sub-division, in 1952, between Tokay Boulevard and Odana Road
Birch Avenue – named by John McKenna Jr., one of the developers of Westmorland, because it was a “nice sounding” name which had no double in the city at the time the street was laid out
Birch Circle – same as Birch Avenue
Caromar Drive – a combination of the name of a friend of John McKenna Jr., Caroline Marie Rach
Chatham Terrace – named for the fields near the city of Chatham located in southeast Great Britain near London
Clifden Drive – named for a city on the west coast of Ireland west of Galway
Critchell Terrace – named for a friend of John McKenna’s
Euclid Avenue – another “nice sounding” name given by John McKenna
Fern Court – unknown
Frederick Circle – same as Frederick Lane
Frederick Lane – named for Frederick Tillotson, the son of Joseph Tillotson, the owner of the 13 acre farm that was developed as the Tillotson sub-division plat between Frederick Lane and the old railroad tracks in 1950
Gately Terrace – named for Marian Gateley McKenna (1912-2000), wife of John C. McKenna Jr.
Glen Drive – named for the former rock quarry that came to be known as “The Glen” on Glenway Street south of the railroad grade. The quarry became the “Glenwood Children’s Park” in 1949 when it was annexed to the City of Madison
Glenway Street – originally a dirt path known as “Swain Road” after the Swain family that once owned the Plough Inn, now the Arbor House B&B, at 3402 Monroe Street. First referred to “Glenway Street” on the “West Wingra Addition” sub-division plat filed by Otto Toepfer in 1916 and first shown as a street on a 1926 Town of Madison plat map. The street was the first and natural thoroughfare towards the first homes in the Westmorland development “via or by the way of a glen” up the hill next to “The Glen” stone quarry.
Herrick Lane – unknown
Holly Avenue – named for the holly tree. It is not known if there were ever any holly trees on the street.
Keating Terrace – named for a friend of John McKenna Jr.
Leeds Street – unknown
Meyer Avenue – named for Mr. Henry Meyer, Sr. and the Meyer family who were among the first homeowners in Westmorland at 502 Glenway Street in 1910. Mr. Meyer purchased lots in the area and built many of the houses on Meyer Avenue, Winnemac Avenue, Birch Avenue, and Glenway Street.
Mineral Point Road – one of the first dirt roads constructed in Dane County to connect Madison with the lead mining villages of Dodgeville and Mineral Point. The road is shown on Town of Madison plat maps as early as 1855 and was referred to as Speedway Road until the mid-1930s when it began to be listed as Mineral Point in city directories.
Odana Road – originally called “Piper Road” after the Piper family farm through which the road passed. The name changed when the Nakoma neighborhood gave all of its streets Indian names. The Ojibwe Indian word “odanah” means village. There is evidence that a native American village once stood on what became the Odana Golf Course.
Park Lane – borders the eastern side of Westmorland Park
Parman Terrace – named for Lewis W. Parman, who owned a farm south of Odana Road and built the Farmhouse at 4214 Odana Road. Mr. Parman’s grandsons still operate Parman’s Service Station opened by Mr. Parman in 1941 on Monroe Street.
Paunack Avenue – named for Mr. August O. Paunack who was a prominent businessman, banker, and community leader in Madison during the 1920s through the 1940s. He was one of the early developers of Westmorland. Mr. Paunack purchased the Toepfer house at 4001 Mineral Point Road in 1930.
Rolla Lane – unknown
South Midvale Boulevard – named for the Midvale Heights neighborhood west of Westmorland that was first developed in 1947. The name describes the terrain that the street passed through. The portion of Midvale Boulevard that passes Midvale School and Sequoya Commons was constructed in 1955.
South Owen Drive – named in memory of the two daughters of UW professor E. T. Owen who donated the right of way for Owen Parkway and Sunset Point Park, in Sunset Village north of Mineral Point Road, to the City of Madison
Summerset Terrace – unknown
St. Clair Street – another “nice sounding” name given by John McKenna Jr.
Toepfer Avenue – named for Otto Toepfer, the first developer of Westmorland. Mr. Toepfer purchased 60 acres in Westmorland around 1905 and built the house at 4001 Mineral Point Road in 1906.
Tokay Blvd – another “nice sounding” name picked by John McKenna
Travis Terrace – unknown
Waite Circle – unknown
Wakefield Street – unknown
Westmorland Blvd – named for the Westmorland Realty Company that developed the original sections of Westmorland and sold lots in the 1920s and 1930s
Winnemac Avenue – another “nice sounding” name picked by John McKenna
More Information About Westmorland
In 1928 John C. McKenna announced a new subdivision west of Glenway and south of Speedway (Mineral Point Road) to be called Westmorland. Planning for the subdivision had started several years earlier. Investors included Otto Toepfer, a developer, neighborhood resident, and farmer, and August O. Paunack, officer in several financial companies, and president of the Commercial National Bank. The map labeled “About 1930” shows the original layout and the first round of street names. The subdivision was in the Town of Madison just outside the Madison City Limits. Children attended Madison schools such as Dudgeon Elementary that opened in 1927 and the West Side High School that opened in 1930. Newspaper ads from 1928 to 1930 claim that lots were selling quickly and that many houses were being built.
In 1928 a group of Madison investors began to build a 9-hole, 69-acre golf course just west of the new subdivision. It became the Westmorland Golf Course and opened for partial use in 1929. There was a formal opening ceremony on July 28, 1930.
Tom Martinelli reports that the stone pillars at Mineral Point Road and Westmorland Boulevard were to mark a grand entrance to a golf course clubhouse. The clubhouse was never built.
The course closed in 1945 when 5 ½ acres were sold to Our Lady Queen of Peace church.
In 1946 and later the rest of the former golf course and surrounding land all the way west to present Midvale Boulevard were platted by the McKennas and others, establishing the current boundaries. These newer areas were actually additions to Sunset Village, also a McKenna project, but came to be associated with Westmorland. The developers, the City of Madison and the Town of Madison worked together to ensure that streets, schools (Midvale School opened in 1951) and fire stations would be in place when needed. There have been only a few changes to the street names in the post-war sections. There were quite a few changes in the original plat.
Most of these took place between 1930 and 1935. Several may have been ordered by the post office to eliminate duplication with streets in the City of Madison. Between 1930 and 1935:
- The Westmorland portion of Larkin Street disappeared to make way for more lots
- Maple Street became Winnemac Avenue
- Elm Street became St. Clair Street
- Linden Street became Shannon Street
These streets all appear on the 1942 official City of Madison map (a full-size copy of this very large map is in the Madison Public Library).
Between 1941 and 1946 several other changes were caused by events leading to the establishment of Westmorland Park:
- Carob Street was discontinued
- Shannon Street was discontinued
- The stub of Shannon Street became Fern Court
Carob Street was named for the Mediterranean tree and its fruit. It was just north of Tokay Street (now Boulevard) that was named for the Hungarian grape and wine. The origins of Shannon, Winnemac, and St. Clair are uncertain but Shannon Street may have been named for the Town of Shannon in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland.
There’s a good chance that John C. McKenna Sr. named Winnemac Avenue for the fictional north central state which is the setting for several novels written by Sinclair Lewis, 1885-1951, the first American to receive a Nobel Prize for literature. Lewis wrote such best sellers as Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith and Elmer Gantry that were published from about 1916 onward. Winnemac contains portions of the names for Wisconsin , Michigan, and Minnesota.
St. Clair Street may be a tribute to Lewis, because Sinclair is a French and Scottish corruption of St. Clair.
How Westmorland Got Its Name
Tom Martinelli of the Westmorland Neighborhood Association History Committee found two 1940s stories in the neighborhood newsletter about who named Westmorland and why the word was chosen. Here are the stories:
Have you ever wondered how our neighborhood got its name? Past issues of the Westmorland newsletters (originally called the “Dope” in 1941 and then the “Courier”) recorded two different versions on the answer to this question.
In the original issues of the newsletter issued on June 20, 1941, a Mr. Albert C. Barton, Dane County Register of Deeds and “a student of local history,” reported the following story:
Here is the plain, unvarnished tale as told by John McKenna of McKenna’s, Inc. (one of the original developers of Westmorland). One nice morning, probably in the fall of 1926, John McKenna, Jr. and his dad were driving along on the way to see Otto Toepfer. As they viewed the great sweep of land before them, they discussed what they should call it. What would be a nice name? Then a flash of inspiration came to John, Jr. He thought of “West,” then of “Moor” (according to Webster…”a broad tract of open land”) – the moorland before them, and then of “land.” After that, it was just as writers do; take the words that Webster had made and put them end to end, so he got “Westmorland.”
Later, in the April 25, 1949 issue of the Westmorland Courier, the following explanation was given under a column called “It’s a Fact…”:
That the late Mr. Otto Toepfer named this area Westmorland logically because it was west of Lake Wingra and the West Wingra territory which Mr. A. O. Paunack and Mr. John McKenna, Sr. had just previously developed. How come he did not use the “E” in “ – mor” as they did in the East?”
Frederic C. Cassidy, 1907-2000, offered a third version. In his book Dane County Place-Names Cassidy states that John C. McKenna Sr., his wife Marcia, and their son John C. McKenna Jr. jointly chose the name to suggest “more land” to be platted to the “west.” John C. McKenna Jr. said that since the land was treeless and rolling it suggested “moorland” and also reflected the English County of Westmoreland, frequently spelled “Westmorland.” Westmoreland is in the Lake District so much loved by English romantic poets such as Coleridge and Wordsworth. Cassidy lists both John Sr. and John Jr. as informants.
John C. McKenna, Sr., said that he named Sunset Village partly because it is located near Sunset Point (about where Regent Street and Owen Parkway intersect) and partly because he thought in 1937 that it would be the last major project before his retirement – the sunset of his career.
He conceived of Sunset Village as a community of two and three bedroom single family homes on good sized lots for middle income clients. Many houses were built by 1941, many more after WWII. There were five additions east of Midvale Boulevard.
The sixth and seventh additions were south of Mineral Point Road and west of Westmorland Boulevard: these aren’t considered to be part of the Sunset Village neighborhood. The eighth and ninth additions were established north of Mineral Point Road and west of Midvale Boulevard in the early 1950s for single-family houses and 4-unit apartment buildings.
Four streets are curled around Sunset Park – North, South, East, and West Sunset Court. Hillcrest Drive, Meadow Lane, Bluff Street, Hillside Terrace, and Upland Drive are named for geographic features. Owen Drive and Owen Parkway are for Professor Edward T. Owen and his family. Bagley Parkway is probably for William R. Bagley, 1860-1938, a Madison lawyer who shared a practice with several prominent developers. DuRose Terrace is for a local family. Lucia Crest and Eugenia Avenue are probably the first names of wives or children. Felten Place, Falles Crest, Vaughn Court, and Merlham Drive are probably for local families.
Sunset Hills/Pilgrim Village
Sunset Hills is enclosed by Regent Street, Larkin Road, Mineral Point Road, and Westmorland Boulevard and has north and south sections. The area south of Hillcrest Drive was developed first, in 1941 and 1942, as Pilgrim Village because it was the site of many two-bedroom colonial style single-story homes built to standard designs. The area north of Hillcrest was built up in the 1960s and contains many large houses of modern design.
All of the street names in Pilgrim Village were taken from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1858 narrative poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish” which Longfellow said was based on his family’s early history.
The poem is set in the Massachusetts Plymouth Colony about 1621 to 1623. The main characters are Miles Standish, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins. Miles was captain of the militia; a short but able soldier. His wife Rose had died recently.
John Alden, his roommate, is presented as a fair young man. He was the colony’s scribe or secretary. Priscilla Mullins is a young woman whose parents had also died recently.
Miles thinks that since he and Priscilla are alone in the world, they might make a good pair. Being a man of war, not of words, he asks his friend John to discuss this idea with Priscilla. John agrees but halfway through his talk about Miles’ great qualities, she says “speak for yourself, John.” The poem ends happily with John and Priscilla’s marriage.
Because of the poem’s light-hearted tone, vivid characterizations, and Priscilla’s famous retort, it was a tremendous success.
In the Sunset Hills street layout Standish Court and Alden Drive parallel each other south of Hillcrest Drive. Standish Court dead ends just north of Hillcrest. Alden Drive connects north of Hillcrest with Plymouth Circle which is bisected east to west by Priscilla Lane.
In 1950, the owner Willis E. Gifford said that he chose these names and the street arrangement “because our family includes direct descendants of John and Priscilla Alden.”
Midvale Boulevard, Segoe Road, and Whitney Way
In 1937, the City of Madison hired Ladislas Segoe, a Hungarian-born engineer and city planner who had moved to Cincinnati after WWI, to help prepare plans for Madison’s growth up to 1960. The city population in 1938 was about 70,000, the projection for 1960 was 125,000 (the actual 1960 population was about 127,000).
Segoe and his associates made recommendations about everything from railroad crossings to the locations of elementary schools to the road network. He agreed with earlier suggestions that Madison create a beltline highway from South Madison to Middleton that should have a 120-foot right of way to allow for expansion. He also thought that new streets and arterials should be built on the west side where he foresaw rapid growth. His suggestions influenced the further development of Midvale Boulevard after 1945 and the creation of Segoe Road and Whitney Way in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s Midvale Boulevard was a neighborhood street from University Avenue to Mineral Point Road. In the mid-1940s the City of Madison studied extending Midvale Boulevard all the way to the proposed beltline highway. Midvale would provide a cross city link and divert much traffic from the downtown area. These plans were approved, land was acquired, and the road was completed in the mid-1950s.
John McKenna, Jr., may have suggested the name of Midvale Boulevard; it is an apt choice for the portion between University Avenue and Mineral Point Road because this area is situated at the midpoint of a valley between hills on the east and west.
Whitney Way begins at University Avenue west of the viaduct and runs south to the beltline. It serves both as an arterial and a neighborhood feeder. It was essentially complete by 1960.
Segoe Road, for the planner, dates from about the same period as Whitney Way. It starts at University Avenue east of the viaduct and ends at Odana Road a few blocks from Whitney Way. It is primarily a feeder.
Owen Drive, Owen Parkway, Owen Conservation Park
Edward Thomas Owen, 1850-1931, was born in Connecticut, graduated from Yale College, and became an instructor at the University of Wisconsin in 1878. By the early 1900s he was Professor of French and Linguistics; he retired in 1915.
He was one of the first members of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association and a frequent contributor. In 1909, he and his wife Emilie donated land for a parkway in the Sunset Point area to the City of Madison in memory of their daughters Ethel and Cornelia. This is the origin of Owen Drive and Owen Parkway.
The Owen family (there were two other daughters, Emily and Gladys) maintained a home on State Street in Madison. They also owned about 80 acres of land with a house and several outbuildings south of Old Sauk Road a short distance north of Old Middleton Road, that was the site of their summer house, called “Tor Wald,” Anglo-Saxon for “wooded hill.”
The property remained in the family until about 1974 when it was acquired by the City of Madison and eventually became Owen Conservation Park.
One of the most successful developers in Madison never sold a lot or built a house. This was Oscar Rennebohm, 1889-1968, a Madison druggist, Wisconsin governor, 1947-1951, and University of Wisconsin Regent, 1952-1961.
Rennebohm’s service in converting the University of Wisconsin Hill Farm land from an agricultural station to a major commercial and residential area was said to have been worth at least $25,000,000 to the University.
In 1897 the University purchased 159 acres from H. J. Hill south of Sauk Road (University Avenue) in Section 20 of the Town of Madison. This is where Hilldale shopping center is now located. The University called this the Hill Farm. Over the years the University acquired more land in the area, eventually adding up to about 600 acres. These were called the East Hill Farm, West Hill Farm, North Hill Farm, and so on.
Most or all of these lands were south of University Avenue, west of Midvale Boulevard, north of Mineral Point Road, and extended west beyond Rosa Road.
In the early 1950s the University proposed that some of the land in the Hill Farms be sold so that new agricultural research facilities could be created outside the city and where there would be more types of soil. An area near Arlington in Columbia County was suggested.
John McKenna, Jr., had recently stated that the West Side suburbs were growing twice as fast as those on the East Side. It appeared that the Hill Farms land would bring good prices. In 1953 the University offered much of the land for sale or lease. The areas for single-family houses were sold in a series of additions timed to market conditions. The areas for a shopping center to be called Hilldale, commercial and government office buildings, and apartments were to be leased to give the University some control over long-term changes.
Oscar Rennebohm and Wilbur Renk, an agriculturalist from Sun Prairie and a University of Wisconsin Regent, pretty much took command.
Many neighborhoods were created, all with easy access to schools, shops, and public transportation. Hilldale opened in the mid-1960s. Two large state office buildings were constructed. The road network was expanded with such streets as Whitney Way, Segoe Road, and an extension of Regent Street.
Because all of the people of Wisconsin were to benefit from the Hill Farms projects, most of the streets were named for Wisconsin counties. Wisconsin has 72 counties, so there were enough names to go around. An Internet site (search for Wisconsin Counties) gives the origins of the county names.
Coney Weston Place, Milward Drive, Wedgewood Way, Togstad Glenn
Three streets in Midvale Heights have connections to the Milward family.
Coney Weston Place is for the Coney Weston Farm named by the Milward family for the village of Coney Weston in Suffolk, England, from which they had emigrated. “Coney” is an English word for rabbit.
Milward Drive is for the family.
Wedgewood Way was chosen because two of the Milwards loved Wedgwood china.
Togstad Glenn, also in Midvale Heights, is named for Morris Togstad and Victor S. Glenn. Togstad was the last soldier from Madison killed in World War I, Glenn the first in World War II.
The Midvale Heights neighborhood is west of Midvale Boulevard, south of Mineral Point Road, east of Whitney Way and north of the Odana Hills parks and golf courses. The land was settled in the 1850s but most development took place in the 1950s and 1960s. The area is about 600 acres.
Reinhold (Reiny) Meihsner tells of the story of many other Midvale Heights street names in a section of Forests, Farms and Families: A History of the Midvale Heights Neighborhood, ed. Alice Punwar, Madison, 2004.
Faircrest and Parkwood Hills
The 1960s and 1970s Faircrest subdivision begins at the intersection of Regent Street and Rosa Road and occupies much of the land south of the CUNA site on Mineral Point Road and west to Yellowstone Drive in the Parkwood Hills subdivision.
The first road west of Regent is Anchorage Avenue. This is followed by other streets with marine or nautical names in alphabetical order from Beach Street and Cable Avenue to Nautilus Drive and Quarterdeck Drive.
The streets in Parkwood Hills, which is a sister to Faircrest, are named for United States national parks and battlefields. They include Yellowstone Drive, Antietam Lane, and many others.
In 1912 Madison newspapers began to carry ads by the Frank B. Wynne Company for a deluxe countryside subdivision, Highlands, in an area between Old Sauk Road and Old Middleton Road. The project was designed by Ossian Cole Simonds, 1855-1931, a landscape architect who was popular with Madison clients. His work in Madison included such sites as Tenney Park, the Yahara River Parkway, and the Vilas Park lagoons. In 1915, he helped design Nakoma.
Lots in Highlands were originally two to five acres.
From the beginning Highlands attracted doctors and university professors who were able to afford automobiles for the five mile drive to downtown Madison.
One effect of this influx of professionals was the sudden elevation of the Mendota Beach-Highlands School (now Crestwood) to model school status.
In keeping with Simonds’ beliefs all of the public streets have clear and simple names of obvious origin – North and South Highlands Drive, Hillside Avenue, Willow Lane, and Larch Circle.
Cooper Lane, a bike and pedestrian path between Old Sauk Road and South Highlands Avenue, has apparently existed since the 1880s and was probably named for a nineteenth century landowner.
Thorstrand Road (Thorstrand = Thor’s beach) is in a private development west of Spring Harbor that contained the Magnus Swenson estate. Magnus Swenson, 1854-1936, came to America from Norway at age 14. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and became Professor William Arnon Henry’s first research assistant in the new College of Agriculture about 1880.
He then invented dozens of products and methods including better ways to refine sugar, process salt, and bale cotton. He designed the Kilbourn dam at Wisconsin Dells and was a president of the United States Sugar Company plant in Madison as well as a University of Wisconsin regent.
There was once a Magnus Swenson Drive near the present Asbury Methodist Church, but it is not shown on recent street maps.
Glen Oak Hills
In 1927 and 1928 two lawyers and their wives, Glenn P. and Jennie M. Turner and Lewis and Gertrude Gettle started the Glen Oak Hills subdivision in an area extending from Old Middleton Road to Regent Street and from Rosa Road to Merrill Crest.
Lewis Gettle was a commissioner with the Wisconsin Railroad Commission. Turner had been the Socialist Assemblyman from Milwaukee’s Tenth District from 1916 to 1918. He was an enthusiast for every technological, linguistic (especially Esperanto), or political innovation that promised to improve international communication and cooperation.
In the 1930s he was a frequent Socialist Party candidate for offices such as Wisconsin Attorney General and State Supreme Court Justice. He never survived the primary in these races but saw the campaigns as a way to teach the people about his concepts of good government.
Jennie, originally from Indiana, had earned a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin and was a supervisor for the State Board of Adult and Vocational Education.
Gettle Avenue is named for Lewis Gettle. Glen Highway is the present name of a street named both for Glenn Turner and a nearby glen. Terre Haute Avenue runs along the crest of the highest hill in the subdivision and also refers to the city of Terre Haute, Indiana, where Jennie taught school before moving to Wisconsin.
Mark Twain Street may have been chosen because Twain (pen name of Samuel Clemens, 1835-1910) was the first author to produce an entire book manuscript on a typewriter and had invested in an elegant automatic typesetting machine.
Marconi Street was named for Gugielmo Marconi, 1874-1937, an Italian who pioneered long distance radio transmission. Belin Street is for Edouard Belin, 1876-1963, a French engineer who developed a method for sending photographic images by radio. Tesla Terrace is for Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, a Serbian-Croatian from the Austrian Empire who became a United States citizen and who also experimented with long distance communications. Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla were close friends.
Park Way passes beside the Glen Oak Hill Park.
Streets in the Village of Shorewood Hills
Thomas D. Brock’s book Shorewood Hills, an Illustrated History (Madison 1999) contains descriptions of past and present streets in the Village of Shorewood Hills and gives information about the origins of many street names.
In the mid-1930s several state workers formed the Wisconsin Cooperative Housing Association and decided to build a residential district on about 75 acres of land previously owned by the Fischnick family bordering Rosa Road on the west and extending from present Regent Street to Old Sauk Road. They named the project “Crestwood.”
In this case cooperative meant that the members acted as their own developer taking responsibility for streets, sewers, the water supply, and so on. Lots and houses were individually owned.
John S. Bordner, a planner with the State of Wisconsin, soon joined the cooperative and became its leader.
About twenty houses had been built by 1940 with plans for many more, most on dead end streets in wooded areas.
Bordner Road is for John S. Bordner. Crestwood Place is from the name of the development. The rest are Arbor Vitae Place, Bittersweet Place, Cedar Place, Dogwood Place, Elder Place, and Forsythia Place in alphabetical order north to south.
In the early 1950s the Mohawk Building Corporation began to build Mohawk Park in an area east of the Kettle Pond Park. Three streets are named for the developers. Brody Drive is for Harry Brody, president, from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Temkin Avenue is for Alex Temkin, vice-president, a Madison native who graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1934 and received a UW law degree in 1937. Pauline Avenue is for Pauline Temkin, secretary-treasurer, Harry’s daughter and Alex’s wife. Alex remained in real estate until his death in 1984 at age 68. He is best remembered as a major supporter of local and international Jewish charities.
The Indian Hills subdivision west of the Blackhawk Country Club and just north of University Avenue opened in 1953. It was designed by the Wisconsin State Planning Board as a model subdivision of single-family homes for middle to upper-middle income families. Lots were staggered so that each house would look over or between its neighbors.
Risser Road and Merrill Springs Road are named for families that had lived in the area for many years.
The others have Indian connections – Tomahawk Trail, Flambeau Road and Minocqua Crescent.
Flambeau refers to the Chippewa Lac du Flambeau band named for their custom of fishing at night from canoes lighted by torches.
Minocqua is a town in Oneida County, Wisconsin, near the Lac du Flambeau reservation.
Blackhawk Park, now Trillium, is a 26-acre rental and condominium community of two-bedroom homes along Craig Avenue south of University Avenue near Spring Harbor Drive.
It is named for Black Hawk, the Sauk war chief who in 1832 retreated with his forces through this area on their way to the Mississippi River. The Blackhawk Country Club is nearby. The builder was Floyd J. Voight, a Madison businessman. The 24 x 32 foot homes are on concrete slabs because the high water table ruled out basements. When Blackhawk Park opened in 1951, all featured gas heat and hot water, a water softener, a kitchen with Youngstown steel cabinets and asphalt tile floors. They rented for $95.00 a month.
The homes are laid out along Craig Avenue which is named for Voight’s 5-year-old son, Craig. There are sidewalks but no driveways. Eight six-stall garages are discretely placed away from the homes. The houses were rented to young families in general as well as to employees at the new Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Shorewood.
Brody Street is the only other road; it connects to Mohawk Park to the west. Floyd Voight was instrumental in the construction of the pedestrian underpass across University Avenue. There is also a pedestrian passageway through a large culvert under the railroad tracks that provides access to Old Middleton Road. Generations of children have probably given the walkways secret names.
A student of early 1950s suburban housing would observe that Mohawk Park, Indian Hills, and Blackhawk Park, each designed for a particular share of the post-war market, are clustered within a half-mile radius.
Blackhawk Park, probably more than any similar project in Madison, retains much of its 1950s appearance.
Dale, Merrill, Heim, Risser, Warner
The names of several families in northern areas west of Shorewood Hills appear in local street and place names.
Frederic Cassidy reported that Dale Heights, a 1909 plat between Old Middleton Road and University Avenue, was chosen for the maiden name of Ernest N. Warner’s mother-in-law.
Ernest Noble Warner, 1868-1930, developed several plats in the Spring Harbor area. His daughter Elizabeth, 1900-1977, married Frederic Emanuel Risser. Risser, 1900-1971, was a prominent lawyer and state politician. The Rissers lived at 5010 Risser Road. Their son Fred Risser has been state senator from the 26th district since the 1960s.
A local farmer, Alfred Merrill, 1824-1906, platted Merrill Park in 1891 and Merrill Crest in 1910. He owned the Merrill Spring.
Heim Avenue is located on land that was once the Heim family farm and orchard extending from Old Middleton Road to Lake Mendota.
For this article Spring Harbor refers only to an area north of University Avenue west of Indian Hills and northwest along the Lake Mendota shore to just beyond Camelot Drive.
Spring Harbor takes its name from an inlet located near Spring Court. The Spring Harbor Middle School, Spring Harbor Park, several swimming beaches, and a boat launching ramp are neighborhood features. A few farm houses remain from the nineteenth century, as do many winterized cottages built by Madison area residents and by “vacationists.”
Much of the other housing is from the early postwar period through the 1960s. The houses along Camelot Drive, named to suggest a charmed and magical location, date from the early 1970s. The lakeshore houses and estates are from the cottage period to the present.
Most of the street names are obvious, but several are especially interesting.
For example, Taychopera Road, which is a Winnebago term for the “land of the 4-lakes,” was Beulah Street until 1949. Laurel Crest replaced the name Clewley Place in the same year because residents did not like the old name. Camus Lane (pronounced “Kam-as”) is said to be “sumac” spelled backward. Baker Avenue is for Ernest N. Warner’s wife’s maiden name – Lillian Dale Baker.
Several of the paths that run from Lake Mendota Drive to the lake shore such as Upham Court and Clifford Court were named for nineteenth century landowners when the volunteer fire department created lanes so that fire hoses could be placed in the lake.
Varsity Hills is south of Regent Street and the intersection of Regent and Rosa Road. It was a Parade of Homes site in 1962. All three streets – Varsity Hill, Stadium Drive, and Carillon Drive – are from locations at the University of Wisconsin.
Personal observations, articles and advertisements in The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal, plat maps, real estate atlases, city directories, Wisconsin State Blue Books and phone directories were major sources for this article. The information about Coney Weston was provided by Charlotte Larsen, a Milward descendant. Special thanks go to neighborhood historians Tom Martinelli and Ann Sowaske.
The front cover illustration is a composite of two maps in a 1911 Dane County Plat Book. On the left side of the image sections 12, 13, 24, 25, and 36 are in the Town of Middleton. All the other sections are in the Town of Madison.
The maps showing streets labeled “About 1920” and “About 1930” are portions of the official City of Madison maps from 1920 and 1930.
The aerial photos are from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Web Soil Survey. The topographic maps are details from the U. S. Geological Survey 1983 Madison West map in 1:24,000 scale. The illustrations labeled “Merrill Spring” are from Ann Waidelich’s postcard collection.
Madison’s Highlands by Norman K. Risjord (Madison, 1988) deals with both early and present developments in Highlands.