In August 1905 a reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal reported on the electric illumination of the Capitol Square, designed to lure shoppers downtown after dark. His article provides not only a reminder of a time when downtown was Madison’s central shopping district, but also an inventory of businesses that, with a handful of exceptions, have all disappeared.
The well-lit store windows on East Main are in the front rank. M. S. Klauber, Schmedemann & Baille, Jones-Smith Music Company, and J. Weaver’s drug store are all a mass of brilliance. From the Pinckney corner down East Main electric signs are more than ordinarily striking. Nelson the Jeweler has his name inscribed on the face of a watch encircled by a lyre outlined with lights. Charles W. Heyl’s cigar store is lit by a row of lights across the front of the building. The Tivoli sign projects out over the sidewalk. The gas office is a maze of lights. The way to Flom’s is indicated by a large box sign in front of the theater.
Pinckney Street is well lit. Schoelkopf’s auto garage is advertised by a box sign, with the owner’s name surrounded by lights. The Austin sign in front of the shoe store was one of the first installed in Madison.
Continuing around the Square are the Hollister pharmacy with a big arc over the door, the Outlet Store, and Ott Pharmacy. There is a famous sign above The Fair, with each letter alternately lit in both red and white. Waltzinger’s window is profuse with incandescents. In Keeley, Neckerman and Kessenich’s are the popular Nernst lamps.
Mifflin is becoming a fairyland of light. Beginning with Palace Clothing and the long sign of the Hotel Morrison, a row of electric signs and lighted windows stretches two blocks. The Nichols store in its new location has a profusion of lights, and the window display is set off with four strong Nernsts. The Buckmaster Jeweler sign reaches nearly to the curb. The latest sign, and the most novel and expensive, is that of Karsten’s and Schmitz. On top of an iron post at the curb is a hub, with a body of red glass with silver trimmings and a border, the whole set off with electric lights. The Menges sign is surrounded with rows of lights. The Kroncke block is outlined in lights visible in all directions from the corner.
On West Main are the signs of W. J. Gamm, Fenner’s cigar store, and the One Minute coffee house. A large hand indicates the way to the Turkish Bath, Bender & Daggett’s Saloon, and the new St. Nicholas Restaurant.
Passing by the Park Hotel, always as light as day, are Farley’s cigar and billiard sign and the handsome large and accompanying effects of the Wisconsin Music Company. Parson’s Printery has a bright window.