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Downtown Madison 1919

Aerial View of Capitol Square (1919 ca.)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-31356

Mayor George Sayle's 1919 Plan for Madison

Recently Mayor Dave has been presenting his vision for future Madison. Some 86 years ago, in his 1919 inaugural address, as reported by the Capital Times, Mayor George C. Sayle described the key elements of his plan for Madison. They were:

Organize a band to give concerts and advertise the city. Form a baseball team. Build a municipal boathouse to do away with the current unsightly boathouses along the shore of Lake Monona. Have the city plant and trim trees along streets. Place ornamental lights on streets off the Square, and those leading from the train stations. Get streetcars off the Square to relieve congestion. Put some public buildings, like the new city hall and auditorium, on the east side, two or three blocks off the Square. Open up West Dayton Street and extend University Avenue to the Square. Citizens should spend their money in the city, and banks should invest in the city. Keep stores and banks open Saturday afternoons and evenings. Make Madison a wholesale distribution point, and build two more hotels. Compel the electric and phone companies to put their wires underground. Run interurbans, operated by reputable individuals, into Madison from surrounding towns. Bring in several good-sized factories. The city should build streets and own the streetcar system. Compel drivers to receive instructions before getting driving permits. Take down the unsightly water tower (on East Washington Avenue) right away. Issue only 35 licenses to “quench thirst dispensers,” and don’t let them have shades or curtains on their windows. Don’t advertise celebrations in Madison if the results will leave a bad impression on outsiders. Encourage a concern to handle second mortgages and thus help finance large buildings. Avoid high taxes by creating a trust to finance streetlights, park maintenance, a life-saving crew on each lake, a municipal bath, and a municipal boathouse, a city band, and a baseball team.

Mark Gajewski