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Capitol 1907

Third Wisconsin State Capitol Demolition and Present Capitol Construction (1907 ca.)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-10449

Capitol Park Extension

In March 1857 the citizens of Madison voted to approve $50,000 in city bonds to enlarge the Capitol. There were justifiable fears that without such an investment another city in Wisconsin would be named the capital and Madison would be relegated to a second-class town.

Almost half a century later, in 1904, that Capitol burned, and three years later construction of a new Capitol began. On January 11, 1907, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that the walls of the Capitol would begin to rise in three days. There were snow shanties on the grounds to keep the crew of 15 workers, soon to be 45, warm. The men have been leveling the remains of the old Capitol and digging trenches for the new wall. In the process they have encountered trenches used to built the territorial capitol, and a 50-foot well from territorial days filled with ashes and stone. Cement is being supplied by C. F. Cooley, sand is coming from the South Madison pits, and crushed stone is arriving from Waukesha. 15 teams of horses are being used to haul sand.

A month later, on February 26, word leaked that Senator Stout of the Capitol Commission had been developing a plan to extend Capitol Park from its current site all the way to the shore of Lake Monona. Over $1 million worth of existing buildings would have to be leveled on blocks 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, and 89 to create the enlarged park, bounded by Main Street on the north, Carroll Street on the west, and Pinckney Street on the east. Options had been obtained from 50% of the affected landowners for $1.6 million, many of whom had held the land for generations.

A drawing of the proposed Capitol Park extension showed a T-bird shaped Capitol with a big circle on the north end from which a number of streets radiated. A treasury building and state office building were on the on east side of the park, and a judiciary law library and educational building were on the west. The area south of Wilson Street was parkĀ  land.
On February 27 Representative Perry of Oshkosh introduced a joint resolution in the legislature to move the capital from Madison to Oshkosh. He cited the plan to extend Capitol Park as proof the current Capitol site was too small, terming the new park plan a gross extravagance.

The same day rumors began to swirl that real estate men had secured options on the land that would front on the new park land and that the whole plan was a scheme for them to get rich.

Daniel K. Tenney pointed out that the extended park would cut the city in two and force all east-west traffic onto Mifflin Street. For this reason he opposed the plan.

Mark Gajewski