Writer’s travel photos: Madison, Wisconsin

In lieu of readers’ wildlife photos today, I’ll post a few holiday snaps from my trip to Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve already posted food pictures, so here’s the ancillary stuff.

The state capitol building, completed in 1917. It has, Dan Barker told me, the most capacious dome of any capitol building in the world, including the U.S. Capitol. Inside it’s elaborately painted and decorated, with over 40 different kinds of marble on the walls and floors. It stands 284 feet tall, and no building within a mile can be taller than the statue atop the dome:

The statue of “Wisconsin” atop the dome, sculpted by Daniel Chester French (photo from Wikipedia):

The reflection of the dome in a nearby building:

The dome and decorations:

Some of the lovely marble in the floor:

Unlike Hyde Park, where my University is located, Madison is a real college town, full of bookstores, ethnic restaurants, and record shops. It also has a lot of nice Art Deco buildings:


An Art Deco state office building near the waterfront (downtown Madison sits on a peninsula between two lakes):

State Street, the road that runs from the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin:

This appealingly named brewpub was named the best in Wisconsin in 2017, but I was there too early in the day to have a brewski:

The University, which is huge: 43,000 undergrad + graduate students. It’s too big to photograph all at once, so here’s the entrance to the campus, the Ag Building (foundation of the famous Dairy), some students, and the view from the admin building atop its hill down State Street to the Capitol:

Monona Terrace, Frank Lloyd Wright’s civic center on the lakefront, was conceived by Wright in 1937, but didn’t open until sixty years later, when Wright had been dead for 38 years. It’s hard to see the whole building as it’s low and long, but the people at the next-door Hilton allowed me into the “Honors Club” on the 14th floor to photograph it from above:


Some information:

Part of the large interior:

The men’s room with self-portrait:


And, on the way back home, there were either Amish or Mennonites close to me (I also saw them on the way to Madison). I’m not sure whether the faith prohibits them from taking planes, or whether they prefer the cheaper train. The second picture, unfortunately blurry, looks to me just like “Whistler’s Mother”:





  1. Hempenstein
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Never been to Madison but nice to see esp since my uncle got his PhD in Chemistry from there in 1929. Some appealing architecture both in town and on campus!

    And the blur of the last pic adds to the artistic aspect, I think.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Last pic reminds me of Whistler’s Mother.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Notice, even in mid March you don’t see anyone walking around without substantial outerwear. Winters up there are long. Home of some crazy republicans. FFRF has their work cut out for them there.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Funny because I was thinking that it looked nice and warm for March. It’s close to the same latitude as me and I suspect its winters are about what I experience since it’s near the great lakes.

      • GBJames
        Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        Madison’s too far west to benefit much from Lake Michigan’s “moderating” weather affects. Here, in MKE, we’re pretty much always noticeably warmer or cooler, depending on wind direction and season, than Madison is.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          I actually find the same here. I’m away from the lakes where I live and it is a whole zone colder. Where my parents live is closer to the lake so their temperatures are much milder & really close to the lakes is where they grow all the fruit and wine grapes.

          • GBJames
            Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            Here the vineyards, such as they are, tend to be in the center of the state, not far from Madison. One of them, Wollersheim has an interesting history. It was originally started in the 1840s by a Hungarian fellow named Agoston Haraszthy. He decided to move on and founded the wine business out in Sonoma County, CA.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        I make that comment from just a bit further south – Wichita, Kansas as I walk around in shorts. Turning on the watering system in the next day or two.

      • pali
        Posted March 18, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        As one who has lived in Madison for over a decade at present, this hasn’t been that atypical a March (though the rest of the winter was disturbingly mild and light on snow). Temperatures are comfortably chilly, mostly ranging from the 20s to 40s Fahrenheit, though with downtown Madison being located on an isthmus between two lakes windchill regularly knocks the effective temperature down ten or so degrees (especially around Capitol Square, as a number of streets leading to it act as wind tunnels). For many of us the wind is why the heavy winter wear hasn’t yet given way to spring jackets, but lighter clothing is definitely starting to show more often.

        As GBJames notes, Lake Michigan doesn’t impact Madison nearly as much as it does Milwaukee or other cities close to it (particularly as most weather fronts come from the west, while Lake Michigan is a hundred miles to the east), and Madison’s own “big” lakes aren’t quite big enough to have the same moderating effects. We tend to have very comfortable spring and fall seasons, but winter and summer regularly bring bitter cold or sweltering humidity.

    • ploubere
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      It’s my alma mater. There are whole weeks in the winter when the temperature doesn’t get above 0 F. The coldest I recall was -35 F. The lakes freeze solid. Not much snow though, again because it’s west of the lakes.

  3. Richard Portman
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much. These days, all we hear is t***p. It is nice to see my country again.

  4. Frank Bath
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    How rich the USA is in buildings, I’ve hardly heard of Madison. Good pictures, really excellent. I was particularly struck by the reflection of the capitol dome, for one moment I thought it was Gaudi. 🙂

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I loved the photo of the reflected capitol dome. Now that you mention it, I can see why you thought of Gaudi.

  5. Austin Johnson
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I went to Madison for FFRF’s convention back in September, which was in the Monona Terrace; I visited the capitol and the university, too, and it was a great time. Madison is quite an aesthetic city!

  6. GBJames
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    How does one get from Columbus, where Amtrak drops you off, to Madison? Is there bus service or do you need to arrange private transport?

    If we hadn’t elected an idiot as governor here in 2010, you would probably have high speed rail from Chicago to Madison by now.

    • Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      I was picked up by Dan Barker and returned by an attorney; it’s about a 25-minute drive. There was going to be a light rail train from Madison to Chicago via Milwaukee, but the new Republican governor, as you noted, killed it. I’m not sure if there’s public transportation from Columbus to Madison.

  7. Christopher
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Everything I know about Madison I learned by listening to Whad’ya Know every weekend. It looks lovely. With all the Art Deco, it looks like what Kansas City could have looked like if it hadn’t gone to hell.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Funny that you mention Kansas City as it really is not a University town like Madison. There are many other cities that fit the gone to hell mode as well.

      • Christopher
        Posted March 18, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but Kc does have a lot of Art Deco buildings downtown, but I’m sure they’ll continue to tear things down for yet another crap glass building or parking garage, or, at the very least, let them continue to crumble. Kc does at least have UMKC, but no, it’s not a university town. Lawrence, Ks, not terribly far away, is one and is frankly a whole different kind of hell. To be honest, being surrounded by drunk, loud, a-hole university students is not my cuppa. It does have a rather delightful brew pub in the Free State brewery and well worth the visit.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      I used to love “Whad’Ya Know?” Man, that show’s been on forever. I remember listening to it in the early 90s.

  8. Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Your photo of the “entrance” to the University shows the old (1900) State Historical Society building on the right, with a view past it up the hill to Bascom Hall, the main university building. As a student in Madison more than half a century ago, I heard an interesting story about the State Historical Society building. Apparently, the architect designed it to face up the hill and be part of that quadrangle of buildings.

    He turned in the plans and went off traveling in Europe. When he returned he found that they had built it facing the wrong way. Supposedly the architect was so shocked that he never built another building.

    Only later, in the 1960s was a plaza built in front of the building, with the main university library building facing the State Historical Society building across it.

    Reading a bit on Wikipedia, I find that the 1900 building was designed by a firm that designed many other buildings, so the story is probably apocryphal.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      The Building-Built-Backwards**, Architect-Commits-Suicide [or Never-Builds-Again] trope is extremely common. I can think of three UK examples inc. the neo-Grec, St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. I’ve never found an example of this legend known to be true.

      What often happens is the architect puts the most splendid facade of the building looking out at the best view [say a park, river or lake] & doesn’t do much with the entrance side of the structure, the entrance side being encumbered by being part of a street, thus the architect’s ‘genius’ can’t be admired on that face.

      ** constructed with the plan rotated in error, usually by 180 degrees

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Madison really seemed to like the Romans with its oratory like statue on top of its Pantheon-esque dome.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Not just Madison – the State Capitol Building was the dying breath of the ‘American Renaissance’ which was ‘the thing’ at the time [1880s to 1918ish]. America was creating a self-image as the new worldwide torch bearer of Athenian democracy & Roman law [myths encapsulated later in almost any Jimmy Stewart movie] while burying the bloody birth as deeply as possible. Adolph had the same idea, but with the jackboots in plain view. 🙂

      Atlas Shrugged is accidentally great on the war between ice frosting architecture & the modernism that followed. The movie version is hilariously bad, but kinda true too.

      BTW the Golden Lady on the dome has a huge badger* on top of her head!

      * State animal or something. I’d have demanded a cheese wheel on her bonce or replace her entirely with a huge milk churn.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        The American Founding Fathers were most likely all Classically educated, as was the ways of education in their day, among the wealthy. There are a lot of similarities, including the use of the Eagle.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Good thing their country wasn’t all about the fur trade like Canada, or she’d have a beaver on her head.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          *splutter* 🙂

  10. Karen E Bartelt
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Fond memories, despite the constant Vietnam protests and the bombing of the Math Research Center in 1970. UW, BS Chemistry, 1971

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I used to have a customer in Madison back at the turn of the century. We went downtown for lunch one day, and parked near the Capitol in a garage. At a time when parking by my office near the Merchandise Mart in Chicago cost $13 a day, parking in Madison was 75¢ for all day.

  12. Gabrielle
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    As a native of southeastern Pennsylvania –
    My bet is that the couple on the train are Amish. They are both wearing dark clothes, the man has a beard but no hair on his upper lip, his hair is in the ‘bowl’ style, and most of all, he doesn’t have buttons on his jacket or shirt. If you take a close look, it appears that his clothes are held together with some type of clasp or hook-and-eye closure.

    Amish don’t use buttons on their clothes because they are pacifists. Back 250 years ago, military uniforms had lots of buttons down the front (think George Washington, etc.), so the Amish chose to forgo buttons for this reason.

    Most Mennonite women wear clothing similar to the dress the woman on the train is wearing, but in lighter colors.

    I suspect that the couple are traveling to visit relatives. I used to see the Amish semi-frequently on Amtrak trains when I lived in Philadelphia.

    • GBJames
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. I would wager that they boarded at the Amtrak stop in Tomah. There is a sizable Amish community in the Driftless Region just southwest of Tomah.

  13. MarkMyWords
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Just a gentle chiding – and if I am in error about this, I am more than happy to be corrected.

    Here in Ohio we have numerous areas where Amish live. It is my understanding that many of them strongly dislike having their photo taken. They feel that it cheapens their lifestyle, and makes it come off as “costumes in a tourist attraction”.

    So I just was a bit uneasy to see your photos of these Amish folks taken while they were asleep on the train. I don not know if you had their express permission or not, so I could be raising this issue unnecessarily. I guess it’s just a matter of being culturally sensitive.

    • Gabrielle
      Posted March 18, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      I had the same thought.

  14. Posted March 19, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Some of the brass and stone remind me of the buildings in downtown Pittsburgh.

    I wonder if it is the time frame of creation or the FLW influence or …

    What are the paintings in the dome? I’m reminded of the “lawgivers” in its counterpart in Washington.

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