Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association
Between 1892 and 1931, the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association raised private funds to develop and maintain scenic carriage drives and parks in and around Madison. For nearly three decades it served as the city’s unofficial parks department. Much of our parkland today is the legacy of this group of citizens.
In 1892 individuals constructed Lake Mendota Drive between Willow Drive and Spring Harbor. That same year UW professor Edward T. Owen built Owen Drive to connect Mineral Point Road, Sunset Point, and Regent Street.
In 1894 the MPPDA incorporated, selecting John Olin as president. Until his resignation in 1909, he served as the driving force of the organization. A reformer, he believed all citizens should be able to partake of the benefits of nature, and he did much to shape Madison’s urban landscape.
In 1897 the MPPDA constructed Farwell Drive through Maple Bluff to Governor’s Island and Farwell Point.
In 1899, using a $4,000 gift from Daniel K. Tenney, the MPPDA began developing Tenney Park on a 14-acre marsh using a design by eminent landscape architect O. C. Simonds.
In 1900 the Wingra Park suburb gave the MPPDA Vilas Circle in order to protect the effigy mounds located there.
In 1903 the MPPDA began working on the Yahara River Parkway, and attorney Burr Jones and Judge J. H. Carpenter donated money for two neighborhood playgrounds.
In 1904 former U. S. Senator William F. Vilas and his wife Annie gave $18,000 to create Henry Vilas Park, named in honor of their son. The MPPDA also constructed Edgewood Drive.
In 1905 Thomas Brittingham contributed $16,000 to dredge Monona Bay and create Brittingham Park. He later paid for a boathouse (now a historic landmark) and a boathouse (razed in the 1960s).
In 1906 Halle Steensland contributed $10,000 to build a bridge over the Yahara at East Washington Avenue.
In 1908 the MPPDA hired eminent landscape architect and urban planner John Nolen as a consultant. Two years later he produced his famous plan for city improvement (envisioning such things as the Arboretum). That same year South Madison residents constructed West and South Shore drives, then turned them over to the MPPDA to administer.
In 1909 George Burrows bequeathed 12 acres on the shore of Lake Mendota, which was first a plant nursery for the Association and later Burrows Park.
In 1910 the Vilas Park Zoo was established with the gift of five deer from Thomas Richmond.
In 1911 Madison acquired the Monona Lake Assembly Grounds. Later renamed Olin Park, it was the first park acquired entirely with public funds.
In 1922 a new organization, the Madison Parks Foundation, secured Olbrich Park and other lakeshore property for the city, and a later acquisition formed the nucleus of the Arboretum.
In 1931 Madison established a park commission, and MPPDA transferred to it the property which it had held in trust for the public. In 1938, the transfer complete, the MPPDA dissolved.