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Madison is the capitalmarker of the U.S. state of Wisconsinmarker and the county seat of Dane Countymarker. It is also home to the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker.

As of the 2000 census, Madison had a population of 208,054. Its 2008 estimated population was 231,916, making it the second largest city in Wisconsin, after Milwaukeemarker, and the 81st largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Dane County and neighboring Iowamarker and Columbiamarker counties. The Madison MSA had a 2008 estimated population of 561,505, and is one of the fastest-growing in Wisconsin.


View of Madison.
From the Water Cure, South Side of Lake Monona, 1855.

Madison was created in 1836 when former federal judge James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres (4 km²) of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona within the Four Lakes region, with the intention of building a city on the site. The Wisconsin Territory had been created earlier that year and the territorial legislature had convened in Belmont, Wisconsinmarker. One of the legislature's tasks was to choose a permanent location for the territory's capital. Doty lobbied aggressively for the legislature to select Madison as the new capital, offering buffalo robes to the freezing legislators and promising choice Madison lots at discount prices to undecided voters . He had James Slaughter plat two cities in the area, Madison and "The City of Four Lakes," near present-day Middleton. Doty named the city Madison for James Madison, the 4th President of the U.S. who had died on June 28, 1836 and he named the streets for the other signers of the U.S. Constitution. Despite the fact that Madison was still only a city on paper, the territorial legislature voted on November 28 in favor of Madison as its capital, largely because of its location halfway between the new and growing cities around Milwaukeemarker in the east and the long established strategic post of Prairie du Chienmarker in the west, and because of its location between the highly populated lead mining regions in the southwest and Wisconsin's oldest city, Green Baymarker in the northeast. Being named for the much-admired founding father James Madison, who had just died, and having streets named for each of the 39 signers of the Constitution, may have also helped attract votes.

The cornerstone for the Wisconsin capitol was laid in 1837, and the legislature first met there in 1838. Madison was incorporated as a village in 1846, with a population of 626. When Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Madison remained the capital, and the following year it became host to the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker. The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad (a predecessor of what would become known as the Milwaukee Road) connected to Madison in 1854. Madison became a city in 1856, with a population of 6,863, leaving the unincorporated remainder as a separate Town of Madisonmarker. The original capitol was replaced in 1863. The second capitol burned in 1904, and the current capitol was built between 1906 and 1917.

During the American Civil War, Madison served as a center of the Union Army in Wisconsin. The intersection of Milwaukee, East Washington, Winnebago, and North Streets is known as Union Corners, as a tavern located there was the last stop for Union soldiers before heading to fight the Confederates. Camp Randall, on the west side of Madison, was built and used as a training camp, a military hospital, and a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. After the war ended, the Camp Randall site was absorbed into the University of Wisconsin—Camp Randall Stadiummarker was built over the site in 1917. In 2004 the last vestige of active military training on the site was removed when the stadium renovation replaced a firing range used for ROTC training.

The City of Madison continued annexations from the Town almost from the date of the City's incorporation, leaving the latter (by the end of the 20th century) a collection of discontinuous areas subject to annexation. In the wake of continued controversy and an effort in the state legislature to simply abolish the Town, an agreement was reached in 2003 to provide for the incorporation of the remaining portions of the Town into the City of Madison and the City of Fitchburgmarker by October 30, 2022.

Geography and climate

View of Lake Monona from Monona Terrace

Madison is located in the center of Dane County in south-central Wisconsin, west of Milwaukeemarker and northwest of Chicagomarker. The city completely surrounds the smaller Town of Madisonmarker and the City of Mononamarker, as well as the villages of Maple Bluffmarker and Shorewood Hillsmarker. Madison shares borders with its largest suburb, Sun Prairiemarker, and three other communities, Middletonmarker, McFarlandmarker, and Fitchburgmarker. The city's boundaries also approach the villages of Veronamarker, Cottage Grove, DeForest, and Waunakeemarker.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Madison has a total area of 84.7 square miles (219.3 km²), of which, 68.7 square miles (177.9 km²) of it is land and 16.0 square miles (41.5 km²) of it (18.91%) is water.

Wisconsin State Capitol by night

The city is sometimes described as The City of Four Lakes, comprising the four successive lakes of the Yahara River: Lake Mendotamarker ("Fourth Lake"), Lake Mononamarker ("Third Lake"), Lake Waubesamarker ("Second Lake") and Lake Kegonsamarker ("First Lake"), although Waubesa and Kegonsa are not actually in Madison, but rather just south of it. A fifth smaller lake, Lake Wingramarker, is within the city as well, but not on the Yahara River chain. The Yahara flows into the Rock River, which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. Downtown Madison is located on an isthmusmarker between Lakes Mendota and Monona. The city's trademark of "Lake, City, Lake" reflects this geography.

Madison, and all of southern Wisconsin, has a temperate climate, or more specifically, a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), characterized by variable weather patterns and a large seasonal temperature variance—winters see temperatures well below freezing, with moderate to occasionally very heavy snowfall; high temperatures in summer often reach the upper 80s to 90s °F (26 to 32 °C) and very high humidity levels are not uncommon.

Monthly average and record temperatures and precipitation
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Record high °F (°C) 56 (13.3) 64 (17.7) 82 (27.7) 94 (34.4) 93 (33.8) 101 (38.3) 104 (40) 102 (38.8) 99 (37.2) 90 (32.2) 76 (24.4) 64 (17.7)
Average high °F (°C) 25.2 (-3.7) 30.8 (-0.6) 42.8 (6) 56.6 (13.6) 69.4 (20.7) 78.3 (25.7) 82.1 (27.8) 79.4 (26.3) 71.4 (21.8) 59.6 (15.3) 43.3 (6.3) 30.2 (-1)
Average low °F (°C) 9.3 (-12.6) 14.3 (-9.8) 24.6 (-4.1) 35.2 (1.7) 46 (7.7) 55.7 (13.2) 61 (16.1) 58.7 (14.8) 49.9 (9.9) 38.9 (3.8) 27.7 (-2.4) 15.8 (-9)
Record low °F (°C) -37 (-38.3) -29 (-33.8) -29 (-33.8) 0 (-17.7) 19 (-7.2) 31 (-0.5) 36 (2.2) 35 (1.6) 25 (-3.8) 13 (-10.5) -11 (-23.8) -25 (-31.6)
Precipitation in (mm) 1.25 (31.75) 1.28 (32.5) 2.28 (57.9) 3.35 (85.1) 3.25 (82.5) 4.05 (102.9) 3.93 (99.8) 4.33 (110) 3.08 (78.2) 2.18 (55.4) 2.31 (58.7) 1.66 (42.2)
Snowfall in (cm) 10.9 (27.7) 7.9 (20.1) 8.1 (20.6) 2.5 (6.4) 0.1 (0.3) T T T T 0.3 (0.8) 3.6 (9.1) 10.6 (26.9)
Source: Weather By Day


Madison and Wisconsin demographics
Wisconsin Madison Ethnicity
91% 83.96% White
6.48% 5.84% Black
2.21% 5.80% Asian
1.3% 0.36% Native American
0.09% 0.04% Pacific Islander
N/A 4.09% Hispanic
N/A 2.32% Two or more races
N/A 1.67% Other race
Note: Hispanics may be of any race.
As of the census of 2000, there were 208,054 people, 89,019 households, and 42,462 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,029.7 people per square mile (1,169.8/km²). There were 92,394 housing units at an average density of 1,345.4/sq mi (519.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.96% White, 5.84% African American, 0.36% Native American, 5.80% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.67% from other races, and 2.32% from two or more races. 4.09% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 89,019 households out of which 22.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.0% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 52.3% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.9% under the age of 18, 21.4% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 96.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,941, and the median income for a family was $59,840. Males had a median income of $36,718 versus $30,551 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,498. About 5.8% of families and 15.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.

Combined Statistical Area

[[Image:Madison-Baraboo CSA.png|thumb|left|200px|Location of the Madison-Baraboo CSA and its components:]]

Madison is the larger principal city of the Madison-Baraboo CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Madison metropolitan area (Columbia, Dane, and Iowa counties) and the Baraboo micropolitan areamarker (Sauk Countymarker), which had a combined population of 556,999 at the 2000 census.


Madison is associated with "Fighting Bob" La Follette and the Progressive movement. La Follette's Magazine, The Progressive, founded in 1909, is still published in Madison. City voting patterns have supported the Democratic Party in national elections in the last half-century, and a liberal and progressive majority is generally elected to the city council. Detractors refer to Madison as The People's Republic of Madison, the "Left Coast of Wisconsin," or as "78 square miles surrounded by reality," although Wisconsin itself generally trends liberal in elections. This latter phrase was coined by former Wisconsin Republican governor Lee S. Dreyfus while campaigning in 1978, as recounted by campaign aide Bill Kraus.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Madison counterculture was centered in the neighborhood of Mifflin and Bassett streets, referred to as Miffland. The area contained many three-story apartments where students and counterculture youth lived, painted murals, and operated the co-operative grocery store, the Mifflin Street Co-op. The neighborhood often came into conflict with authorities, particularly then Republican mayor Bill Dyke, a one-time personality on WISC-TVmarker who was later to run for vice president with segregationist Lester Maddox. Dyke was viewed by students as a direct antagonist in efforts to protest the Vietnam War, because of his efforts to suppress local protests that had resulted in property damage. The annual Mifflin Street Block Party became a focal point for protest, although by the late 1970s it had become a mainstream community party.

Madison is also home to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which attempts to influence government in matters relating to the separation of church and state. The foundation is known for its lawsuits against religious displays on public property, among other things. In recent years, they have made removal of In God We Trust from American currency a main focus.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, thousands of students and other citizens took part in anti-Vietnam War marches and demonstrations, with more violent incidents drawing national attention to the city and UW campus. These include:
  • the 1967 student protest of Dow Chemical Company, with 74 injured;
  • the 1969 strike to secure greater representation and rights for African American students and faculty, which necessitated the involvement of the Wisconsin Army National Guard;
  • the 1970 fire that caused damage to the Army ROTC headquarters housed in the Old Red Gym, also known as the Armory; and
  • the 1970 late summer predawn ANFO bombing of Sterling Hall which housed the Army Mathematics Research Center, killing a postdoctoral student, Robert Fassnacht. Four bombers in the "New Year's Gang" were linked to the bombing, one of whom remains at large. (see Sterling Hall bombing)

These protests were the subject of the documentary The War at Home Tom Bates also wrote the book Rads on the subject (ISBN 0-06-092428-4). Bates wrote that Dyke's attempt to suppress the annual Mifflin Street block party "would take three days, require hundreds of officers on overtime pay, and engulf the student community from the nearby Southeast Dorms to Langdon Street's fraternity row. Tear gas hung like heavy fog across the Isthmus." In the fracas, student activist Paul Soglin, then a city alderman, was arrested and taken to jail. Soglin was later elected mayor of Madison, serving from 1973 to 1979 and from 1989 to 1997, in his latter term aligning himself as a moderate in the regional Democratic Party. David Maraniss also wrote a book, They Marched into Sunlight, which incorporated the 1967 Dow protests into a larger Vietnam War narrative.

Madison city politics remain dominated by activists of liberal and progressive ideologies. In 1992, a local third party Progressive Dane was founded. Recently enacted city policies supported in the Progressive Dane platform have included an inclusionary zoning ordinance and a city minimum wage. The party holds multiple seats on the Madison City Council and Dane County Board of Supervisors, and is aligned variously with the Democratic and Green parties.

The city's voters are also, as a whole, much more politically liberal than voters in the rest of Wisconsin. For example, 76% of Madison voters voted against a 2006 state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, even though the ban passed statewide with 59% of the vote.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets."


Madison is the episcopal see for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison. Saint Raphael's Cathedralmarker, damaged by arson in 2005 and demolished in 2008, was the mother church of the diocese.

The world's largest congregation of Unitarian Universalists, First Unitarian Society of Madisonmarker, makes its home in the historic Unitarian Meeting House, designed by one of its members, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Madison also has a Buddhist temple, a Hindu mandir, three mosques, and several synagogues.


Wisconsin state government and the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker remain the top two Madison employers. However, Madison's economy today is evolving from a government-based economy to a consumer services and high-tech base, particularly in the health, biotech and advertising sectors. Beginning in the early 1990s, the city experienced a steady economic boom and has been comparatively unaffected by recession. Much of the expansion has occurred on the city's south and west sides, but it has also affected the east side near the Interstate 39-90-94 interchange and along the northern shore of Lake Mendota. Underpinning the boom is the development of high-tech companies, many actively fostered by the UW–Madison working with local businesses and entrepreneurs to transfer the results of academic research into real-world applications, most notably bio-tech applications.

Many businesses are attracted to Madison's skill base, taking advantage of the area's high level of education. According to, 48.2% of Madison's population over the age of 25 holds at least a bachelor's degree. Forbes magazine reported in 2004 that Madison has the highest percentage of individuals holding Ph.D.s in the United States. In 2005, Forbes listed the city as having the lowest unemployment in the nation: 2.5%, less than half the U.S. 2004 average. In 2006, the same magazine listed Madison as number 31 in the top 200 metro areas for "Best Places for Business and Careers." However, Forbes has named Madison in the top ten several times within the past decade.


The largest employer in Madison is the Wisconsin state government, not including the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker (although UW, University System and UW Hospital & Clinics employees are considered state employees).

The University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics is an important regional teaching hospital and regional trauma center, with notable strengths in transplant medicine, oncology, digestive disorders, and endocrinology. Other Madison hospitals include St. Mary's Hospital, Meriter Hospital and the VA Medical Center.

Madison is also home to companies such as the North American division of Spectrum Brands (formerly Rayovac), Alliant Energy, American Family Insurance, the Credit Union National Association, CUNA Mutual Group, University of Wisconsin Credit Union, and FSBO Madison. Technology companies in the area include Netconcepts, Telephone and Data Systems, TomoTherapy, Broadjam, Sonic Foundry, Raven Software, Human Head Studios, Renaissance Learning, Epic Systems Corporation, Berbee Information Networks, and Wisconsin Realtors Association. Many biotech firms exist here as well, including PanVera, now part of Invitrogen, Promega, and the Icelandmarker-based Nimblegen.

Oscar Mayer has been a Madison fixture for decades, and was a family business for many years before being sold to Kraft Foods. The pizza chains Rocky Rococo, Pizza Pit, and the Glass Nickel Pizza Company originated in Madison.


According to Forbes magazine, Madison ranks second in the nation of top places in overall education. It is home to the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker, as well as Edgewood College, Madison Area Technical College (aka Madison College), Globe University, Upper Iowa Universitymarker and Madison Media Institute, giving the city a student population of nearly 50,000. The University of Wisconsin contributes the vast majority of these, with roughly 41,000 students enrolled, of which 30,750 are undergraduates. This makes it one of the largest public universities in the United States. It is consistently rated among the top public post-secondary schools in the country. In a Forbes magazine city ranking from 2003, Madison had the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita, and third highest college graduates per capita, among ranked cities in the United States. Sports make up a large part of the campus experience at the university, both intramural and intercollegiate. The University's athletic teams, nicknamed "The Badgers", are consistently among the best in United States, drawing throngs of students, alumni, and state residents to their contests.

Additional degree programs are available through satellite campuses of Lakeland College, Upper Iowa Universitymarker the University of Phoenix, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and Cardinal Stritch University for students who maintain full-time employment.

The Madison Metropolitan School District serves the city and surrounding area. With an enrollment of approximately 25,000 students in 46 schools, it is the second largest school district in Wisconsin behind the Milwaukee School District. Madison has more than six times the National Merit Scholar Semifinalists than comparable school districts. The five public high schools are: James Madison Memorial, Madison West, Madison East, Madison LaFollette, and Malcolm Shabazz City High School, an alternative school.Notable public elementary schools include Aldo Leopold Elementary and Randall Elementary, the first school built in Madison over 100 years ago. The most notable of the private schools is Edgewood High Schoolmarker, located on the Edgewood College campus and EAGLE School and Wingra School which encompass students in grades Kindergarten through 8th. St. Ambrose Academymarker is a Catholic school offering grades 6-12 on the west side.

With the State-imposed property tax caps, the Madison School District has found itself struggling as of late. In trying to find new methods of funding and support, the School District has tried to estimate the opinions of the public by holding public sessions on their budget. Madison also has an especially strong non-credit learning community with multiple programs and many private businesses also offering classes. Examples include Wisconsin Union Mini Courses, Madison School Community Recreation, St. Mary's HealthWorks, and the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education program.


Madison is served by the Dane County Regional Airportmarker, which serves more than 100 commercial flights on an average day, and nearly 1.6 million passengers annually. Madison Metro operates bus routes throughout the city and to some surrounding towns. Madison has three taxicab companies, as well as several companies that provide specialized transit for individuals with disabilities. Most major General Aviation operations take place at Morey Fieldmarker in Middletonmarker 15 miles away from the city center.

A commuter light rail system has been proposed, particularly for a corridor passing through the isthmus and alongside the university campus, but has remained on paper for decades. A high-speed rail route from Chicagomarker through Milwaukee and Madison to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesotamarker, has also been proposed as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. The nearest passenger train station is in Columbus, Wisconsinmarker, from which the eastbound Empire Builder provides daily service to Milwaukee and Chicago, while the westbound Empire Builder provides daily service to the west. Regional buses connect Madison to Milwaukeemarker, Janesvillemarker, Beloitmarker, La Crossemarker, and in Illinois, Rockfordmarker, O'Hare Airportmarker, and Chicagomarker. Service is also available to St. Paul, Minnesotamarker.

Railroad freight services are provided in Madison by Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). Wisconsin & Southern has been operating since 1980, having taken over trackage owned since the 19th century by the Chicago and North Western and the Milwaukee Road. Some of the proposed light rail and commuter routes would use existing WSOR rights-of-way, such as the line between the Kohl Centermarker and Middletonmarker. Limited commuter trains were tested along this line in the early 2000s as "football specials". The trains took passengers from the Middleton depot to Camp Randall Stadium to help alleviate parking issues on game days.

A number of bus lines connect Madison to nearby cities. Badger Bus connects Madison to Milwaukee running multiple buses a day. Greyhound Lines, a nationwide bus company, has a local stop and offers routes through most of the country. Van Galder Bus Company, a subsidiary of Coach USA, provides transportation through Rockford to Chicago - Downtown at the Amtrak station, O'Hare Airport and Midway Airport. Jefferson Lines provides transportation to the Twin Cities. First Student offers charter bus rental services to groups in the Madison and Milwaukee area.

I-39, I-90, and I-94 expressways intersect at Madison, connecting the city to Milwaukeemarker; Chicagomarker; Rockford, Illinoismarker; Minneapolis-St. Paulmarker and Wausaumarker. U.S. Routes US-12, US-14, US-18, US-51 and US-151 connect the city with Dubuque, Iowamarker, the Wisconsin cities of La Crossemarker and Janesvillemarker, and Lake Michiganmarker. The Beltline is a six-to-eight lane freeway on the south and west sides of Madison and is the main link from downtown to the southeast and western suburbs. A carsharing service is offered by U-Haul subsidiary U Car Share.


Madison is home to an extensive and varied number of print publications for a city that reflect the city's role as the state capital and diverse political, cultural and academic population. The Wisconsin State Journal (weekday circulation: ~95,000; Sundays: ~155,000) is published in the mornings, while its sister publication, The Capital Times (Thursday supplement to the Journal) is published online daily. Though conjoined in a joint-operating agreement operated under the name Capital Newspapers, the Journal is owned by the national chain Lee Enterprises, while the Times is independently owned. Wisconsin State Journal is the descendant of the Wisconsin Express, a paper founded in the Wisconsin Territory in 1839. The Capital Times was founded in 1917 by William T. Evjue, a business manager for the State Journal who disagreed with that paper's editorial criticisms of Wisconsin Republican Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. for his opposition to U.S. entry into World War I. Through Capital Newspapers, Lee also owns many other papers in southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa.

The city is also home to the free weekly alternative newspaper Isthmus (weekly circulation: ~65,000), which was founded in 1976. The Onion, a satirical weekly, was also founded in Madison in 1988. Two student newspapers are published during the academic year, The Daily Cardinal (Mon-Fri circulation: ~10,000) and The Badger Herald (Mon-Fri circulation: ~16,000). The Herald began during the tumultuous Vietnam War era as a conservative alternative to the liberal Cardinal. Madison is also home to numerous other specialty print publications focusing on local music, politics, and sports, including The Madison Times, Wisconsin Sports Weekly The Mendota Beacon, The Madison Observer, Madison Magazine and The Simpson Street Free Press. There is also a strong community of local blogs including Althouse, Dane101, and, The Critical Badger.

Madison is also home to The Progressive, a left-wing periodical that may be best known for the attempt of the US government in 1979 to suppress one of the Progressive's articles before publication. However, the magazine eventually prevailed in the landmark First Amendment case, United States v. The Progressive, Inc. During the 1970s, there were two "radical" weeklies published in Madison, known as TakeOver and Free for All.

Madison hosts a vibrant local radio community, with two volunteer-operated and community-oriented radio stations, WORT and WSUM.

WORT Community Radio was founded by progressive Madisonians in 1975 and is one of the oldest volunteer-powered radio stations in the United States. WORT 89.9 FM is a listener-sponsored community radio station, broadcasting from 118 S. Bedford Street in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.WORT offers a host of diverse music and talk programming made possible by donors and volunteers.

WORT broadcasts a mix of music and talk programming. All of WORT's music programs are locally produced by local DJs. WORT airs 34 hours of news and public affairs programming, 23 of which are locally produced. All of the programmers at the station are volunteers from the community, including DJs, hosts, producers, reporters, and engineers.

WSUM 91.7 FM is a student radio station whose programming and operation are carried out almost entirely by students.

Madison's Wisconsin Public Radio station, WHA, was one of the very first radio stations in the nation to begin broadcasting, and remains the longest continuously broadcasting station in the country.

Widely heard public radio programs that originate in Madison include Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?' To the Best of Our Knowledge, and Calling All Pets.

WXJ-87 is Madison's weather station.

Madison is the setting for the comic strip: Bear With Me.

See also:

Air America's Madison affiliate The Mic 92.1 FM, WXXM announced on November 10, 2006 it would switch to all sports programming by the end of the year; a spokesperson for Clear Channel in Madison later announced that the station would remain an Air America affiliate after a massive public outcry against the proposed change in format. The public protest included thousands sending petitions, emails, and letters, and a public protest of 500 people along with elected officials Madison's Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. Promising improved support and advertising sales, a local investment group plans to make Air America and The Mic more successful. Valerie Walasek, an organizer of the protests stated, "It's evidence that as people stand up and demand what they want and demand they are going to take back the airwaves, somebody will listen." The station features the Air America lineup and local programs with Matthew Rothchild's Progressive Radio and Free Thought Radio from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.


In 1996 Money magazine identified Madison as the best place to live in the United States. It has consistently ranked near the top of the best-places list in subsequent years, with the city's low unemployment rate a major contributor.

The main downtown thoroughfare is State Streetmarker, which links the University of Wisconsin campus with the State Capitol Square, and is lined with restaurants, espresso cafes, and shops. Only pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles and bikes are allowed on State Street.

Continuing on the other side of Capitol Square is King Street, which is now developing along the lines that State Street has, but with less of a student character, and more appeal to the growing young white-collar high-tech population in Madison. Thus, King Street has more upper-end restaurants and cafes than are found on the more student-budget State Street.

In the summer, on Saturday mornings, the Dane County Farmers' Market is held around the Capitol Square, while on Wednesday evenings, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs free concerts on the Capitol's lawn. The Great Taste of the Midwest craft beer festival, established in 1987 and the second longest running such event in North America, is the second Saturday in August and the highly coveted tickets sell out within an hour of going on sale in May.

Madison is host to Rhythm and Booms, a massive fireworks celebration (coordinated to music) that begins with a fly-over by several F-16s from the local Wisconsin Air National Guard. This celebration is the largest fireworks display in the Midwest in terms of the length of the show, number of shells fired and the size of its annual budget.

the winter months, sports enthusiasts enjoy ice-boating, ice-skating, ice fishing, cross country skiing, playing ice hockey and snowkiting. During the rest of the year, recreation includes sailing on the local lakes, bicycling, and hiking.

In 2004 Madison was named the healthiest city in America by Men's Journal magazine. Many major streets in Madison have designated bike lanes and the city has one of the most extensive bike trail systems in the nation. Due to this, Madison has a very active cyclist culture and it is commonplace to see groups of friends bicycling together throughout the city on nice days. Bicycle tourism is an $800 million industry in Wisconsin, which has 20 percent of the nation's bicycling industry manufacturing capacity.

There are quite a few cooperative organizations in the Madison area, ranging from grocery stores (such as the Willy Street Cooperative) to housing co-ops (such as Madison Community Cooperative and Nottingham Housing Cooperative) to engineering firms and cab companies. In addition, there are a number of credit unions.

In 2005, Madison was included in Gregory A. Kompes' book, 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live. The Madison Metro area is also credited as the most liberal in the state, and has a higher percentage of gay couples than any other city in the area outside of Chicago and Minneapolis. The city was also named the number one college sports town by Sports Illustrated in 2003.

Madison has also gotten publicity in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker and its consistent ranking as one of the top "party schools." Among the city's various neighborhood fairs and celebrations are two large student-driven gatherings, the Mifflin Street Block Party and the State Street Halloween Party. Rioting and vandalism at the State Street gathering in 2004 and 2005 led the city to institute a cover charge for the 2006 celebration. [9198] In an attempt to give the event more structure (and to eliminate opportunity for vandalism), the city and student organizations worked together to schedule performances by bands, and to organize activities. The event has been named "Freakfest On State Street." Events such as these have helped contribute to the city's nickname of "Madtown."

Madison has a thriving population of insects and, in a study completed in 2008, was discovered to have the highest density of arachnids in the entire US.

In 2009, the Madison Common Council voted to name the plastic pink flamingo as the official city bird.


Madison's vibrant music scene covers a wide spectrum of living musical culture.

Several venues offer live music every night of the week, spreading from the historic Barrymore Theatre on the eastside to the Annex on the west side. Several small coffee houses and wine bars offer live music every night in all formats. Closer to downtown, the High Noon Saloon is developing a national reputation for developing and breaking indie rock and local acts. The biggest headliners generally perform at the 1,800 capacity Orpheum Theatre or at the UW Theatre on campus.

The city's live music scene received a considerable bump with the purchase and renovation of the historic Majestic Theatre, located off Capitol Square on King Street. The theatre, built in 1906, thus making it the oldest in Madison had previous incarnations as a movie theatre and burlesque house. Until its reopening, it was being run as a hip hop dance club until violence forced the city to revoke its liquor license. The Majestic reopened on September 29, 2007 and in its first six months has hosted various acts such as Against Me!, Cowboy Junkies, Galactic, Editors, Leon Russell, and the Bill Frisell Trio. The venue also shows movies in its Brew n' View series.

The Madison Opera presents a full season of offerings providing at least two full productions and the incredibly popular Opera in the Park (which reached over 10,000 music lovers in the summer of 2005). In addition, the nationally recognized company produces recitals and its late series Opera Up Close.

The Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps has provided youth aged 16–22 opportunities to perform across North America every summer since 1938. The corps is hailed worldwide for its energetic and entertaining shows. Further, the UW–Madisonmarker Marching Band is one of the most popular marching bands in the nation, with an extensive and eclectic repertoire.

Popular bands and musicians

Garbage is the city's most recognized contemporary contribution to popular music. The multi-million album selling alternative-rock band has been based out of Madison since formation in 1994 by producer-musician Butch Vig of Viroquamarker. Vig is well-known for producing albums for such highly regarded bands as Bongzilla, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Fall Out Boy.

Madison has a lively independent rock scene, and local independent record labels include Crustacean Records, and Art Paul Schlosser Inc which is the label for Art Paul Schlosser who has been on the WGN-TVmarker news in Chicagomarker and has had his songs played on the Dr Demento radio show. Another Dr. Demento and weekly live karaoke favorite is The Gomers, who have a Madison Mayoral Proclamation named after them and have performed with fellow Wisconsinmarker residents Les Paul and Steve Miller

Madison is also home to Clyde Stubblefield of Funky Drummer fame, and musicians Roscoe Mitchell, Richard Davis, Ben Sidran, Reptile Palace Orchestra, Killdozer, metalcore band Misery Signals and Harmonious Wail.

In 2008, The Go-Go's rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin moved to the Madison suburb of Maple Bluff to live with Travis Kasperbauer. She has been performing in several local bands since moving to the area.

Music festivals

The summer months reveal the city's many excellent music festivals, most notably Forward Music Festival, the Waterfront Festival, the Willy St. Fair, Atwood Summerfest, Madison Area Music Awards Show, Isthmus Jazz Festival, The Orton Park Festival, 94.1 WJJO's Band Camp, Greekfest, Madison Pop Festival, the WORT Block Party and the Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival, with more being added all the time. One of the latest additions is the Fête de Marquette, taking place near or on Bastille Day (7/14), at Central Park. This new festival celebrates French music, with a focus on Cajun influences. Madison also hosts an annual electronic music festival, Reverence and Folkball, a world music and Folk dance festival held annually in January.

After years of debate over Madison being able to sustain a city-wide music festival the Forward Music Festival was launched over the weekend of September 18 and 19, 2008. It was founded by Jesse Russell, Kyle Pfister, Wyndham Manning, Jamie Hanson, and Bessie Cherry. The inaugural year hosted 78 bands at eight venues and included such artists as Neko Case, Dan Deacon, Monotonix, and Killdozer. The festival is expanding to 108 bands in 2009 with Andrew Bird scheduled as headliner.


Museums include the UW–Madisonmarker's Chazen Museum of Artmarker (formerly the Elvehjem Museum), the Wisconsin Historical Museum (run by the Wisconsin Historical Society), the Wisconsin Veterans Museummarker, the Madison Children's Museum, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Madison is also the home of many independent art studios and galleries. It hosts the annual Art Fair on the Square, a juried exhibition, and the complementary Art Fair Off the Square.

Performing arts

The Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Repertory Theatre, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Ballet, and the Children's Theater of Madison are some the professional resident companies of the Overture Center for the Artsmarker. The city is also home to a number of smaller performing arts organizations, including a group of theater companies that present in the Bartell Theatre, a former movie palace that was renovated into live theater spaces, and Opera for the Young, an opera company that performs for elementary school students across the Midwest. The Wisconsin Union Theater (a 1300 seat theater) is home to many seasonal attractions and is the main stage for Four Seasons Theatre, a professional theater company specializing in musical theater. Madison is also home to the Young Shakespeare Players, a theater group for young people that performs uncut Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw plays.

Community-based theater groups abound in many neighborhoods of Madison including the Broom Street Theater which is not on Broom Street as one might expect. Past productions have included comic-style riffs on regional and local news stories such as Audrey Seiler, a University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker student who faked her own kidnapping, causing a county-wide search that gained national attention for several weeks.

Madison offers one comedy club, the Comedy Club on State, and has other options for more alternative humor. Featuring several improv groups, such as The Prom Committee, Spin Cycle Improv, Atlas Improv, The Monkey Business Institute,the now defunct ARC Improv and Comedy Sportz, as well as sketch comedy groups The Public Drunkards and The Rabid Badger Theatre Company, the city's comedy scene is in revival. A spearheading organization called the WiSUC Project has led the way in recent years for this revival and annually hosts the "Funniest Comic in Madison" contest at the High Noon Saloon.

Several films have been at least partially made in Madison. One of the most noted was the documentary The War at Home, which chronicled the anti-Vietnam War movement in Madison. Another film that made extensive use of the city as a backdrop was the 1986 comedy Back to School, starring Rodney Dangerfield. The University's Bascom Hill was used extensively, as was the University Bookstore. The film also showed many campus dormitories, and various outdoor locales, including the Union terracemarker and Library Mall. More recently, the 2006 film The Last Kiss used Madison and the university as a back-drop. One early scene in the film was also shot on the Union terrace. In 2008, scenes were shot at the state capitol and surrounding area for use in the 2009 film Public Enemies featuring Christian Bale and Johnny Depp.

Madison is also home to one of the largest film archives in the nation at the Wisconsin Historical Society.


Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin State Capitolmarker dome, closely based on the dome of the U.S.marker Capitolmarker, is the jewel of the Madison skyline, and is visible throughout the Madison area due to its position on the ridgeline of the isthmus (and a state law that limits building heights within one mile (1.6 km) of the structure). Because of its location in the urban core, Capitol Square is well integrated with everyday pedestrian traffic and commerce, and the spoke streets—especially State Street and E. Washington—offer dramatic views of the Capitol.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent much of his childhood in Madison and studied briefly at the University, and is responsible for several Madison buildings. Monona Terracemarker, a meeting and convention center overlooking Lake Monona, designed by Taliesin Architect Anthony Puttnam, was based loosely on a 1938 Wright design. Wright did design the seminal Usonian House, which is located here. (Another key Wright building, the Unitarian Meeting Housemarker, is in the adjacent suburb of Shorewood Hills.)The Harold C. Bradley House, designed collaboratively by Louis H. Sullivan and George Grant Elmslie in 1908-1910 now serves as the Sigma Phi Fraternity in the University Heights neighborhood, along with many well-maintained early 20th-century residences.

Harold C.
Bradley House

The Overture Center for the Artsmarker, designed by Argentinamarker-born architect César Pelli, also stands on State Street near the Capitol. Since opening in 2004, the center has already presented shows and concerts in its Overture Hall, Capitol Theater and The Playhouse (home of the Madison Repertory Theatre). The center, also including smaller performance spaces, also houses the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The style, unlike Pelli's Petronas Towersmarker, leans toward sleek modernism, with simple expanses of glass framed by stone that are intended to complement the historic building facades preserved as part of the building's State Street exposure.

Many of the over 175 Madison buildings designed by the architectural firm of Claude and Starck are still standing, including Breese Stevens Fieldmarker, Doty School (now converted to condominiums), and many private residences.

The UW–Madison campus includes many buildings designed or supervised by architects J.T.W. Jennings (the Dairy Barn, Agricultural Hall) and Arthur Peabody (the Memorial Union and the Carillon Tower). The UW administration building Bascom Hall sits atop a high hill overlooking Lake Mendota, and has been the site of many demonstrations and events. The density of the campus has grown to include 8 to 10 story high-rises including dormitories, research facilities, and classrooms. Several campus buildings erected in the 1960s exhibit brutalist architecture, which is now unpopular. In 2005 the University of Wisconsin embarked on a major redevelopment initiative that will transform the east end of its campus. The plan calls for the razing of a nearly a dozen 1950s to 1970s vintage buildings and the construction of new dormitories, administration, and classroom buildings, as well as the development of a new pedestrian mall extending to Lake Mendota.

The downtown and near east side is currently experiencing a building boom, with dozens of new condominium and apartment buildings being constructed.


Over the years, Madison has acquired a number of nicknames and slogans, including:
  • Mad City
  • Mad Town or MadTown (not to be confused with the small nearby Town of Madisonmarker)
  • The Berkeleymarker of the Midwest
  • 78 square miles surrounded by reality
  • The Athens of the Midwest
  • The People's Republic of Madison
  • The left coast of Wisconsin
  • Four Lakes City

In popular culture

Films shot in Madison

Violent crime

Madison is known as a safe city. Between 2004 and 2007, 17 murders were reported. In 1996, Madison was rated #3 in "Safest of Nation's 100 Largest Cities" by Morgan Quinto Press and #9 in "America's Safest Cities" by Money.In 2008, Men's Health magazine ranked Madison as the "Least Armed and Dangerous" city in an article about "Where Men Are Targets" throughout the US.


Inside the Kohl Center during a men's ice hockey game
Madison is known as a sports city primarily because of the University of Wisconsin. In 2004 Sports Illustrated on Campus named Madison the #1 college sports town in the nation. This sentiment was echoed by Scott Van Pelt in July 2007 on Dan Patrick's ESPN radio show when he proclaimed Madison the best college sports town in America.

The UW–Madisonmarker teams play their home-field sporting events in venues in and around Madison. The football team plays at Camp Randall Stadiummarker. In 2005 a renovation was completed that added 72 luxury suites and increased the stadium's total capacity to 80,321, although crowds of as many as 83,000 have attended games. The basketball and hockey teams play at the Kohl Centermarker. Construction on the $76 million arena was completed in 1997. In 2006, both the men's and women's Badger hockey teams won NCAA Division I championships, and the women repeated with a second consecutive national championship in 2007. Some events are played at the county-owned Alliant Energy Centermarker (formerly Dane County Memorial Coliseum) and the University-owned Wisconsin Field Housemarker.

Despite Madison's strong support for college sports, it has proven to be an inhospitable home for professional baseball. The Madison Muskies, a Class A, Midwest League affiliate of the Oakland A's, left town in 1993 after 11 seasons. The Madison Hatters, another Class A, Midwest League team, played in Madison for only the 1994 season. The Madison Black Wolf, an independent Northern League franchise lasted five seasons, (1996-2000,) before decamping for Lincoln, Nebraskamarker. Madison is currently home to the Madison Mallards, a college wood-bat summer baseball league team in the Northwoods League (not to be confused with the Minor League Baseball). They play in Warner Parkmarker on the city's North side from June to August.

The now defunct Indoor Football League's Madison Mad Dogs were once located in the city. In 2009 indoor football returned to Madison in the form of the Continental Indoor Football League's Wisconsin Wolfpack, who call the Alliant Energy Center home.

Madison is now home to a new football team called the Madison Mustangs, a semi-pro football team that is part of the Ironman Football League that originated in Milwaukee in the late 1990s. Games are typically played on Saturday during the summer months, with the home field being Middleton High School.

The Wisconsin Wolves is a women's semi-pro football team based in Madison that plays in the IWFL Independent Women's Football League. The Wolves home field is located at Middleton High School.

The Princeton 56ers is a Madison amateur soccer team in the National Premier Soccer League. They play in Breese Stevens Fieldmarker on East Washington Avenue.

Madison is home to the Wisconsin Rugby Club, the 1998 USA Rugby Division II National Champions, and the Wisconsin Women's Rugby Football Club, the state's only Division I women's rugby team. The city also has men's and women's rugby clubs at UW–Madison, in addition to four high school boy's teams and one high school girl's team. The most recent addition to the Madison rugby community, Madison Minotaurs Rugby Club, is composed largely of gay players and is Wisconsin's first and only IGRAB team, but is open to any player with any experience level. All ten teams play within the Wisconsin Rugby Football Union, the Midwest Rugby Union and USA Rugby.

Nearly 100 women participate in the adult women's ice hockey teams that are based in Madison (Thunder, Lightning, Freeze, UW–B and C teams), all of which play in the Women's Central Hockey League. The active and popular Madison Gay Hockey Association is also in Madison. Starting in fall 2009, a professional minor league ice hockey team, the Madison Ice Muskies of the All American Hockey League will hit the ice, playing at the Hartmeyer Ice Arena.

Madison is also one of the growing number of cities in the country with a hurling team organized as The Hurling Club of Madison.

The All-Girl Roller Derby League, Mad Rollin' Dolls, was formed in Madison in 2004. Mad Rollin' Dolls LLC, is a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

Madison is home to a number of endurance sports racing events, such as the Crazylegs Classic, Paddle and Portage, the Mad City Marathon, and Ironman Wisconsin.

Madison was part of Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid. If the Chicago 2016 bid had been successful, 80,000-seat Camp Randall Stadium would have served as one of Chicago's stadiums during the Games.

Current professional teams

Club Sport Founded League Venue
Madison Ice Muskies Ice hockey 2009 All American Hockey League Hartmeyer Ice Arena
Wisconsin Wolfpack American Football 2009 Continental Indoor Football League Alliant Energy Centermarker

Points of interest

The Memorial Union
The Thai pavilion at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Shaarei Shamayim

Sister cities

Notable Madisonians

See also




  • Bates, Tom, Rads: The 1970 Bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Its Aftermath (1993) ISBN 0-06-092428-4
  • Maraniss, David, They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967 (2003) ISBN 0-7432-1780-2 ISBN 0-7432-6104-6 (about the Dow Chemical protest, and a battle in Vietnam that occurred on the previous day)
  • Mollenhoff, David V., Madison : A History of the Formative Years (1982, revised 2003) ISBN 0-8403-2728-5 ISBN 0-299-19980-0

External links

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