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The topic was Madison; the speeches were glowing. Then Brown spoke. “I must strike a jarring note in the discussion of the evening,” he began, “but what I will say needs to be said and must be acted on by the businessmen of the city... Madison has experienced poor government.”

Charles Newton Brown

The Hamilton apartment building at the corner of North Hamilton and East Johnson streets is 100 years old this year. It was erected in the summer of 1906 for Charles Newton Brown (1855-1925). Brown was a local attorney, organizer and vice president of the Commercial National Bank, treasurer of the UW Alumni Association, and a founder of the University Co-op. He was also a charter member of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, serving continuously for 31 years as either secretary or vice president, and as its official photographer. He was also largely responsible for financing the organization.

In 1892 Brown, John Olin, Edward Owen, Breese Stevens, and four others bought the  present site of Shorewood Hills, including Black Hawk Country Club, and planted 5,000 trees and shrubs on the land. They later sold it for home sites.

In 1901, 150 civic leaders assembled for the monthly meeting of the Six O’Clock Club, a forum to discuss current issues. The topic was Madison; the speeches were glowing. Then Brown spoke. “I must strike a jarring note in the discussion of the evening,” he began, “but what I will say needs to be said and must be acted on by the businessmen of the city... Madison has experienced poor government.” At the time city hall was controlled by a group of Democratic aldermen known as “The Bunch,” who made a habit of accepting private contracts with the city and then voting on them as public servants. Brown spoke for reformers convinced that taxpayer money was being wasted by inept politicians who tolerated saloons and gambling. His remarks were the opening shot in a long, involved battle to end corruption in city government.

Charles’ wife Nellie (1856-1951) was honored during the UW’s centennial celebration in 1948 as the oldest living alumna, having graduated from the university in 1876. She lived in the Hamilton.

Mark Gajewski