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 XI - The Origins of Some Madison, Wisconsin, Street Names: Streets from Randall Avenue to the Yahara River
The City of Madison began as one of several towns planned by James Duane Doty (1799-1865). About 1836 Doty and his associates drew up plats for a town in the Four Lakes area of south-central Wisconsin that he named Madison for James Madison (1751-1836), the father of the U. S. Constitution and U. S. President from 1809-1817. Doty named most of the streets in his proposed town for men who signed the U. S. Constitution. In 1836, Doty persuaded the territorial legislature to choose Madison as the new capital. It became the state capital in 1848.
The 1837-1840 population of Madison was less than 200 but had grown about 1600 when the Village of Madison was incorporated on March 10, 1851. The City of Madison was incorporated on March 4, 1856.
Madison grew rapidly from 1850 to 1900, so new streets were built. Suburban expansion beyond the original city limits began about 1900 both east of the Yahara River and west of Camp Randall when the population was about 19,000.
Many of the streets in the area between Camp Randall and the Yahara River belong to five categories. There are streets named for:
- Signers of the U. S. Constitution
- Madison mayors, Wisconsin governors, and national politicians other than the signers
- Businessmen, civic leaders, and local residents
- Places and things
- Madison businesses
Streets Named for Signers of the U. S. Constitution
Baldwin Street – Abraham Baldwin, Georgia
Bassett Street – Richard Bassett, Delaware
Bedford Street – Gunning Bedford, Jr., Delaware
Blair Street – John Blair, Virginia
Blount Street – William Blount, North Carolina
Brearly Street – David Brearley, New Jersey
Broom Street – Jacob Broom, Delaware
Butler Street – Pierce Butler, South Carolina
Carroll Street – Daniel Carroll, Maryland
Clymer Place – George Clymer, Pennsylvania
Dayton Street – Jonathan Dayton, New Jersey
Dickinson Street – John Dickinson, Delaware
Few Street – William Few, Georgia
Franklin Street – Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania
Gilman Street – Nicholas Gilman, New Hampshire
Gorham Street – Nathanial Gorham, Massachusetts
Hamilton Street – Alexander Hamilton, New York
Henry Street – James McHenry, Maryland
Ingersoll Street – Jared Ingersoll, Pennsylvania
Jenifer Street – Daniel Jenifer of St. Thomas, Maryland
King Street – Rufus King, Massachusetts
Langdon Street – John Langdon, Massachusetts
Livingston Street – William Livingston, New Jersey
Mifflin Street – Thomas Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Paterson Street – William Paterson, New Jersey
Pinckney Street – Charles Pinckney and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney,
both South Carolina
Rutledge Court – John Rutledge, South Carolina
Sherman Avenue – Roger Sherman, Connecticut
Spaight Street – Richard Dobbs Spaight, North Carolina
Washington Avenue – George Washington, Virginia
Williamson Street – Hugh Williamson, South Carolina
Wilson Street – James Wilson, Pennsylvania
Streets Named for Madison mayors, Wisconsin governors, and national politicians other than the signers
Bowen Court – James Barton Bowen (1818-1881), Madison mayor 1871-
Conklin Street – James Conklin (about 1831-1899, mayor of Madison
1881-1883 and 1887. He owned Conklin & sons, dealers in ice, wood, coal, and building supplies. His firm had a large ice house where James Madison Park is located.
Curtis Court – William Dexter Curtis (1857-1935), Madison mayor
Dewey Court – possibly for Nelson Dewey (1813-1889), first governor of
the State of Wisconsin 1848-1852
Doty Street – James Duane Doty (1799-1865), founder of Madison,
Wisconsin territorial governor 1841-1844, federal judge, speculator, Congressman, governor of the Utah Territory
Fairchild Street – for three members of the Fairchild family. Jairus Fairchild (1801-1862) was the first mayor of the City of Madison, a merchant, and the father of Cassius and Lucius Fairchild. Cassius (1829-1868) died of civil war wounds in 1868. Lucius (1831-1896) was a lawyer, California gold miner, civil war officer with the Iron Brigade, Wisconsin governor 1866-1872, and U. S. diplomat in England, Spain, and France.
Gerry Court – Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), signed Declaration of Independence for Massachusetts, U. S. Vice-President 1813-1814
Hoven Court – Mathias J. Hoven (1850-1901), Madison mayor 1897 and 1899-1900
Leitch Court – William T. Leitch (1808-1897), Madison mayor 1862-1865
Lincoln Drive – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), U. S. President 1861-1865
Mills Street – Simeon Mills (1810-1895) arrived in Madison 1837 and soon became a leading merchant and citizen. Madison Village President 1851-1852.
Proudfit Street – Andrew Proudfit (1820-1883), Madison mayor 1869-1870
Randall Avenue – Alexander Williams Randall (1819-1872), Wisconsin governor 1858-1862, for whom Camp Randall was named during the Civil War
Rodney Court – Caesar Rodney (1728-1784), a lawyer, brigadier general of the Delaware Militia, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a Revolutionary War army officer.
He is best known for a 90-mile horseback ride from Dover, Delaware, to Philadelphia on the night of July 1, 1776, so that he could cast a vote to ensure Delaware’s support for the Declaration of Independence.
Taylor Place – William Robert Taylor (1820-1909), Wisconsin governor 1874-1876
Vilas Avenue – William F. Vilas (1840-1908), a lumberman, U. S. Senator, Postmaster General, Secretary of the Interior, and friend of President Grover Cleveland. Best remembered in Madison for founding the Henry Vilas Park and Zoo in memory of his son.
Washburn Place – Cadwallader Golden Washburn (1818-1882), lumberman, civil war general, Congressman, Wisconsin governor 1872-1874, University of Wisconsin Regen and president of the Wisconsin Historical Society
Webster Street – Daniel Webster (1782-1852), lawyer, Congressman, Secretary of State, U. S. Senator 1827-1841 and 1845-1850, and renowned orator
Streets Named for businessmen, civic leaders, local residents, and others
Bernard Court – ?
Braxton Place – Gay Braxton (1877-1962), a social worker who came to Madison in 1921. She was director of the Neighborhood House social center from 1921 to 1949.
Brittingham Place – Thomas Evans Brittingham (1860-1924), owner of many lumber yards and other businesses. Brittingham Park is named in his honor. His estate in the Highlands is now the official residence of the University of Wisconsin president.
Brooks Street – for the maiden name of Manley Silas Rowley’s wife, Julia. Julia was the daughter of Abiel Brooks, an early Madison resident who struck it rich on the California gold fields. Rowley was a real estate developer.
Cantwell Court – the Cantwell family owned a printing and publishing Company
Chandler Street – Chandler Chapman (1844-1897), civil war officer, important postwar army leader
Clark Court – possibly for Abraham Clark (1726-1794) who signed the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey or for Darwin Clark who came to Madison in 1837. Darwin Clark ((about 1812-1899) was a merchant and historian.
Coyne Street – a local family?
Dow Court – a local family?
Drake Street – a local family?
Eberhardt Court – a local family?
Elizabeth Street – ?
Fahrenbrook Court – a local family?
Feeney Court – a local family?
Fitch Court – for the Fitch family, early Madison residents and undertakers
Florence Court – the first or last name of a local resident?
Frances Street – for Frances E. Lathrop, wife of John Hiram Lathrop (1799-1866), the first chancellor of the University of Wisconsin from 1849-1859. Her maiden name was also Lathrop.
Harvey Terrace – located at the site of the 1860’s Harvey army hospital and the later Wisconsin Soldiers Orphans Home, both organized by Cordelia A. P. Harvey (1824-1895), widow of Wisconsin governor Louis P. Harvey (1820-1862), who drowned in 1862 while inspecting Wisconsin units in Tennessee. She was the “Wisconsin angel” among sick and wounded soldiers.
Hawthorne Court – probably for a local family, possibly also for the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
Haywood Drive – a local family?
Howard Place – ?
Jean Street – first name of a local resident?
John Nolen Drive – John Nolen (1869-1937), a well-known landscape gardener and city planner often hired by Madison clients including the City of Madison. His book Madison, a Model City was published in 1911.
King Street – King Street was named for Rufus King who signed the Constitution for Massachusetts. The name is also linked to another Rufus King (1814-1876) who was editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel and a University of Wisconsin regent. He is best known as a brigadier general with the Iron Brigade from 1861 to 1863.
Lathrop Street – John Hiram Lathrop (1799-1866), the first chancellor of the University of Wisconsin from 1849-1859
Main Street – Until 1856 Main Street was Morris Street, named for two delegates from Pennsylvania who signed the U. S. Constitution, Robert Morris (1734-1806) and Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816). At its first meeting the Madison common council changed the name to Main Street perhaps to indicate its importance. The Main family were well-known local residents, so their family was also associated with the street.
Marston Avenue – for the landowner
Morrison Street – for James Morrison (1799-1860), who came to Madison in 1838 to build the territorial capitol. He owned the American House Hotel on King Street and was territorial treasurer from 1841-1843.
Schley Pass – a local resident or family? It was originally Schley Street about 1900.
Sidney Street – a local resident or family?
Thornton Avenue – for the land owner
Streets Named for Places and Things
Capitol Court – for the state capitol
Castle Place – for the subdivision
Charter Street – named by Abiel Brooks for a street in New Orleans
College Court – for the University of Wisconsin
Emerald Street – for Ireland, the emerald isle
Erin Street – a Gaelic name for Ireland
Iota Court – for the Greek letter because many fraternities and
sororities are in the area. Also because the street is very short.
Lake Street – near Lake Mendota
Linden Drive – for the linden or basswood tree
Mendota Court – for Lake Mendota
Milton Street – possibly for the City of Milton, Wisconsin
Mound Street – It is near a large Indian mound and the street itself is
on a mound-shaped hill.
Norris Court – for the Norris Court Apartments, built about 1928 and
the Norris Court Garage that opened in 1931
North Shore Drive – on the north shore of Lake Monona in the
Park Street – for an early park in the Lake Street and Park Street area
Orchard Street – for its former use?
Prospect Place – for the subdivision and to emphasize a fine view
Regent Street – for the Regents of the University of Wisconsin
St. James Court – for the nearby St. James Catholic Church
Short Street – one of the shortest streets in Madison
Spring Street – for a nearby spring?
State Street – for the State of Wisconsin
University Avenue – for the University of Wisconsin
West Shore Drive – on the west shore of Monona Bay
Wingra Drive – for Lake Wingra and Wingra Creek
Wisconsin Avenue – for the state
Streets Named for Businesses
Findorff Court – J. H. Findorff & Son, Inc., a major regional construction company, was founded in 1900 by John Findorff, a Madison carpenter who built a yard and office at the intersection of South Bedford Street and West Wilson Street, where the company is still located.
Lorillard Court – The Lorillard Tobacco Company was established in 1760. It built large tobacco warehouses near the railroad stations on West Washington Avenue. The warehouses are now apartments.
Northern Court – is located a few hundred feet north of the former Northern Electrical Manufacturing Company in an area that was promoted as ideal for workingman’s homes. Northern Electrical was founded in 1895 by a Madison businessman, Arthur O’Neill Fox. It built electric motors, generators, and other machinery and eventually became part of General Electric. The shops are now used by the State of Wisconsin.
Railroad Street – Railroad Street is not named for a particular company, but for the industry that allowed Madison to grow from a hamlet to a major Midwestern city and that helped create several large industrial firms along the railroad tracks east of downtown.
The most popular book on Madison history is David V. Mollenhoff’s Madison, A History of the Formative Years, Second Edition (Madison, 2004) that covers many aspects of the city’s growth from the territorial period to 1920.
Madison, The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, volume 1, 1856-1931 (Madison, 2006) by Stuart D. Levitan is also useful.
Historic Madison, Inc., has published biographical guides to the City of Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery and the neighboring Roman Catholic Resurrection Cemetery. These are Forest Hill Cemetery (Madison, 2002) and Bishops to Bootleggers (Madison, 1999). Both present much information on local residents.
The Madison Public Library’s Local Materials Collection contains plat books, city maps, real estate atlases, city directories, and phone books, and many books on all aspects of Madison and Wisconsin history.
The Frank A. Custer collection in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives is very useful, as are many materials in the society’s pamphlet collections.
Frederic G. Cassidy’s Dane County Place-Names (1947, expanded edition 1968, most recent printing Madison, 2009) was indispensable.
The front cover illustration is a detail from the 1959 U. S. Geological Survey 1:60,000 scale map of Madison, Wisconsin.
The maps of Madison about 1910 are from Atlas of Dane County (Madison, 1904). This is available on the Internet through the University of Wisconsin’s State of Wisconsin collection.
The illustration of the Northern Electrical Manufacturing Company is from Madison, Past and Present (Madison, 1902).