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Park Hotel

Park Hotel (1899 ca.)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-44064

Shopping the Square 1899

A century ago, a Madison shopper would likely have walked, ridden a horse, or taken a streetcar to the Capitol Square, the mercantile heart of the bustling city of 19,000. Let’s join a typical Madison shopper on an expedition downtown in 1899.

We meet at the corner of State, W. Mifflin, and N. Carroll, and walk up the Carroll Street hill towards W. Washington Avenue. We pass by Haskell’s Furniture and Karsten’s Clothing, then pause in the shade cast by Grace Episcopal Church, already close to half a century old, which stands on the corner. Our companion points out the newly macadamized West Washington Avenue, which stretches off towards the railroad depot and farmland west of town. We glimpse the tall Dividing Ridge between Monona Bay and Lake Wingra, still crowned with sixty or more effigy mounds, Greenbush, and a little to the north the Wingra Park suburb.

Continuing, we pass Joseph Boyd’s Loan Company, Van Duesen’s refrigerator store at 6 S. Carroll, and the Print Shop. We stop to chat with some visitors in front of the ornate Park Hotel at the corner of W. Main, S. Hamilton, and S. Carroll. The scent of tea and coffee wafts from The Ceylon Store in the first block west of the Square on Main Street.

Strolling along West Main towards Monona Avenue, we pass Blied’s Hardware, the W. W. Warner Piano Company, and Thuringer Bros. Clothes. We stop in the Schubert Foto Studios at 19 W. Main to look at the photographs on display. We read the ads in the window of A. R. Ames Real Estate next door - paying $40 per month to rent a house seems a little outrageous. We pass by John Damm’s Tavern and Cigar Store, Smith and Gamm Jewelers, and the New York Store, then cross Monona Avenue.

Hurrying on, we pass the Pioneer Block office, Frey’s Music House, Dedman’s Horse Barns, and the 3-F Laundry.

We stop inside several of the clothing stores clustered in this half block of East Main - Burdick, Pecher & Murray’s; Paul Karvik’s; and Hinrichs and Thompson’s. We buy a suit for $10 at Grinde, Schmedeman & Quammen’s Clothing; the $20 outfit was a bit too rich for us. Since we are both in excellent health, we bypass Dedloff Drugs. Next door is the Wisconsin Telephone Company office; our companion proudly tells us she is one of the 240 subscribers.

We turn along South Pinckney headed towards East Washington Avenue. On our right is the Tenney Building; our companion tells us that Madison architect Ferdinand Kronenberg is making plans to renovate it. We stop at Davidson, Miller & Simpson Tailors & Clothing to pick up a pair of trousers we had altered, then pass by Sommer & Morris Hardware and Turner’s Dry Goods. Our companion goes into the Groves-Barnes Music Company at 3 S. Pinckney to buy some sheet music.

We cross E. Washington and stop in the German-American Bank to make a withdrawal. We stop in the Rocky Mountain Tea Company, then go past Olson & Veerhusen’s Clothing, Keeley, Neckerman & Kessenich’s, Piper’s Store, and Simpson’s Clothing. We are tempted to stop at Walzinger’s Ice Cream and Candy Store, but we have some heavy-duty shopping to do, for The Fair - Retailers of Everything – beckons on the corner.

We leave The Fair and continue on E. Mifflin. We pass the Madison Hotel, Conklin & Son Coal and Ice, Malone’s Pool Room and Saloon, and the Strand Theater. We stop at the Post Office on the corner to check for mail.

Crossing Wisconsin Avenue, we see Mayor Hoven coming out of City Hall. A small group crowds into the Fuller Opera House next door.

We go into Kornhauser’s Dry Goods, then pass the Fischer Brothers Pool Room and the Wirka Saloon. We stop in the Capital Art Studio at 20 W. Mifflin to get our photo taken. At The Hub we each buy a coat for $6. We go into Menges Pharmacy and purchase “The Beauties of Madison,” a six-design set of souvenir mailing cards of Wisconsin’s fair capital, for 10 cents. Outside once more, we reach the end of our Capitol Square loop in front of Kroncke Hardware.

Mark Gajewski