For its September 2016 meeting, about 35 members of the East Side History Club visited the Assumption Greek Orthodox church. Ann Waidelich spoke about the history of Bashford Methodist Church, which originally occupied the site at 11 North 7th Street, and Father Mike Vanderhoef shared his personal history with the church, which he attended as a boy and now makes his spiritual home. Then the attendees moved to the church’s sanctuary to view the remarkable iconography painted by local artist* David Giffey over 30+ years.
Here’s what we learned:
Bashford Methodist Church traces its history back to 1919 when the Methodist Union bought two lots on North 7th street from the Girstenbrei family as the site for an East Side Methodist Church, which was its name until 1945. They were somewhat hesitant about the site because it was so far out–almost at the very limits of the city–but they went ahead because there were indications that both an elementary school (Emerson) and a high school (Madison East) would be built in the vicinity, which would attract more residents to the neighborhood.
The Methodists pitched a large tent to serve as their worship hall, but soon afterward a 30′ x 60′ “tarpaper shack” was erected with a cinder-covered dirt floor. Wood boards on packing crates served for pews, a wood burning stove for heat, and a very old grand piano for music.
The building was below the sidewalk grade and was surrounded by water after every rain.
In 1922-23 the building was remodeled, adding stucco to the outside, plasterboard walls on the inside, and a new roof. The structure awas jacked up onto posts to position it above the waterline.
The anticipated schools were built, and the neigbhorhood population grew–and so did the congregation. In 1941 the congregation decided to tear down the old building and build a new church on the site. (They worshiped in Schenk’s Hall, a space above the Schenk-Huegel store in Schenk’s corners for almost nine months while the church was being built). The church adopted the name “Bashford” in 1945, for Methodist Bishop James Bashford. (His brother, Robert Bashford, was mayor of Madison and a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice.)
By 1953 Bashford had grown to 912 members and, again, they needed a bigger space. At first an addition to the 7th Street church was proposed but by April of 1954 the church voted to spend $100,000 on a new church on North Street and sell the old church to Assumption Orthodox Church.
Madison’s Assumption Orthodox Church is a Pan-Orthodox church which means it welcomes not only Greeks but also Russians, Serbians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Lebanese, and people of any nationality who worship in the Orthodox manner.
The early Madison residents who were members of the Orthodox faith had to go to Fond du Lac , Milwaukee or Chicago to attend services. During WW II the military commissioned an Orthodox priest to come to Truax Field once a month to minister to the Orthodox soldiers training there and on the UW campus. Some Madison residents also attended these services, which encouraged the local residents to organize a congregation in 1951. Still, a priest had to come from Milwaukee or Chicago. These services were held in Grace Episcopal Church.
The Orthodox congregation heard that Bashford Methodist Church was going to build a new church on North Street and wanted to sell their old church on 7th Street. T $50,000 was raised to purchase the building. For about a year both congregations used the building on 7th Street until the new Bashford Church was completed.
Then work began to convert the interior of the building into an Orthodox Church, but it wasn’t until 1963 that the first full-time priest was assigned to the Madison parish.
In 1976-77 Madison architect Alex Frunza, a member of the church, offered to design a remodeling of the building. According to the church’s website:
…Alex Frunza, a member and an architect from Romania… brought forth a plan to remodel the existing Church structure to improve the building, and to transform it into a traditional Orthodox Church. Because of his tireless efforts and his own monetary contributions, the Sunday School gained new space, the dome, apse, nave and iconostasis (icon screen) were remodeled and a Bishop’s throne was constructed. His efforts insured that AGOC would have a home and presence for a long time in Madison.
During the remodeling, the congregation held services in the Edgewood College chapel.
In 1980 a converted Irish Catholic named David Giffey, who had studied icon painting in Greece, offered to decorate the church interior. The iconography represents 1500+ years of gradition in which the artwork serves as a visual reminder of the church’s sacred stories. The images placed on the upper walls represent holy characters and scenes, while the icons on the lower walls represent historical figures, “creating a bridge between heaven and earth,” David said. The images are painted on canvas and attached to the walls using successively thinner layers of plaster. David studied icon painting with master iconographers and muralists during two years spent in Greece beginning in 1977.
In summer 2016 the church completed another remodeling which enhanced its Orthodox look, enlarged its footprint, and made it even more appealing to a growing congregation of Pan-Orthodox worshipers, not only the descendants of the original parishioners but also Orthodox people who come to Madison from all over the world to study at the University and work at EPIC !!
Father Mike Vanderhoef can claim an unlikely connection to the original Methodist church. Growing up attending the Greek Orthodox services, he heard only acapella music, as that was part of their tradition. When it was time to attend college, he felt compelled to major in organ, and holds a BA in that instrument from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He recently learned that his great great aunt, Ida Vanderhoef, played the organ for the Methodists. “I never knew where that seed in me came from until now,” he said. It amuses him to think that “Where she sat when she played the organ back then is just a few feet behind where I stand when I preach today.”
This report was compiled by Ann Waidelich and reported by Sarah White.
*David Giffey is also a widely respected journalist and oral historian.
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on September 27, 2016
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on August 22, 2016
Know Your Neighbor:
the Greek Orthodox Church
Saturday September 17
Assumption Greek Orthodox Church,
11 North 7th Street.
$2 suggested donation
We’ll meet at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 11 North 7th Street, for a brief history and tour of the beautiful iconography in the sanctuary.
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on April 21, 2016
Ann Waidelich spoke first about Boy Scouts, then continued with Girl Scout history, during our April meeting.
A BoyScout Trek Wagon was one of the items that spurred discussion of hikes and camp-outs among attendees. The Club is hoping to find a better photo of this one, shown in a newspaper clipping. The wagon was loaded with emergency equipment, camp kitchen, and foodstuffs.
It may have been made by the scouts, or purchased from a firm like the Buffalo Sled Company, which advertised in “Boys Life,” the magazine of boy scouting, in 1912-1915.
Either way, it must have been a chore for six boys to pull its 2,000 pounds when fully loaded!
Ken DePrey shared this: “One special memory I had was when our troop (32, East Side Business Men’s Association) would hike up to Little Green Lake each year. We would haul all of our supplies and camping equipment by wagon and hike the entire distance (70 miles) by foot.”
Lots of scout memorabilia was on display at the meeting, including an impressive patch jacket (modeled here by Joe Rossmeisl, leader of Boy Scout Troop 34) represents 40 years of scouting by Gene Eagan.
Homemade Girl Scout cookies baked from the recipe used by the Strand Bakery back when the cookies were made locally (ca. 1929-1951) were enjoyed by the several dozen attendees. Near the meeting’s close, Girl Scouts from a local troop showed up with today’s very delicious varieties for sale.
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on April 4, 2016
Ann Waidelich will lead a discussion about Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops in the Atwood area, past and present, with special guests from local troops. Scouting memorabilia will be on display. Were you a scout? Bring your memories and memorabilia to share, too!
Saturday April 16
1-3 pm in Bolz A
Goodman Center, 149 Waubesa St.
$2 suggested donation
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on March 29, 2016
Once upon a time, summer in Madison was a fairytale setting for children. Summer programs in many city parks employed older youth to organize sports, art projects, and theatrics for the younger children. Hawthorne Park (between Division St. and Rusk St.) was one such location. Recently Jackie (Jaclyn Gerth) Shivers shared this photo of a rehearsal for a production of “Cinderella” to take place in Hawthorne Park with the East Side History Club.
Jackie told us that Elsa Splett (daughter of Zion Lutheran church’s Reverend Splett) was the recreation director at the Hawthorne Park playground in the 1940s and would organize the children to “make a play” every summer. This performance of Cinderella featured Jerry Waller (left) playing the ‘Fairy Godfather’ and Jackie as the princess (right). Elsa created the set. “She was in the park five days a week in the summer,” Jackie recalled. The photo was taken next to the Splett’s house, which was adjacent to the church on Linden Avenue. Other children in that production were Paul Ives (as Prince Charming), Blanche Genske, Judy Borquist, and Mary Jane Sachs.
Do you have photographs of activities in Madison’s East Side parks? The History Club would love to hear from you! Email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on March 7, 2016
Sarah White shares history “finds” discovered while collecting material for the second edition of our local history book, An East Side Album.
Now is the time to bring your photos, mementos and stories! Let’s hear your memories of the area bounded by the Yahara River, Lake Monona, US 30, and Packers Ave.
Saturday March 19
1-3 pm in Evjue
Goodman Center, 149 Waubesa St.
$2 suggested donation
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 29, 2016
About 80 people turned out to hear Ann Waidelich describe the businesses along Atwood Ave. from Ohio Street to Fair Oaks Ave.
The intersection of Atwood and Fair Oaks was originally called Hess’ Corners for Louis Hess and his general store/ice cream parlor at 2901 Atwood, but today we know it as the Birrenkott’s – Lowell School intersection.
Some of the businesses that Ann talked about were:
Appliance Service Center/Next Door Brewing
Melvill (Bud) Johnston started in the small appliance repair business when he got out of the Army after World War II. He was in business at this address from 1956 – 1980. Then his longtime employee Dan Belanger took over. A 1974 Wisconsin State Journal article reported that he had 13 employees each specializing in a particular appliance and together they repaired between 50 and 75 appliances each day. The appliance business was renamed ASC1, now specializing in commercial food service equipment repair, and has moved to Femrite Drive. Next Door Brewing remodeled the building and opened in 2013.
Grocery Store / Victory Cafe
Built in 1911, this building has been a grocery store since at least 1923. First it was run by John Ludwig, then Art Elsby until he moved across the street, then Henry Struckmeyer, then Aline Kurth, then Ignatius Schey, then Bob Cunningham. Finally Mel Amborn bought out Bob Cunningham in 1963. Kids from St. Bernard’s school were frequent “shoppers”. The grocery closed when Mel died in 1991. In 2007 the storefront housed the St. John the Baptist Gallery & Bookstore and the painting studio of Drazen Dupor, who specialized in painting Byzantine religious icons. Since 2010 it has been the Victory Café coffee Shop.
Barber Shop / Cecil’s Sandals
Opened as a barbershop in 1910 owned by Bernard Funsett for 50 years until 1960. Then the barbershop was owned by LeRoy Flansburgh until he moved to the Buckeye Barber Shop. Cecil Burke started making sandals in Madison in 1952 at 536 University Ave. The shop was thought to be the third oldest custom maker of sandals in the U.S. at the time. Cecil opened his repair-only shop on Atwood Ave. ca. 1969 and operated until 2000. He worked there along with his mother, Isabelle, his sister Judy Pellett, and Vincent Castagna, who began repairing shoes in Italy in 1920. The repair business continued as Jim Maierhofer’s Atwood Shoe Repair from 2001-2004. Various businesses occupied the little shop until the building was torn down in about 2013.
Indian Mound ? Service Station/Community Care Vet Clinic
Vincent Esser recalled that “the lot at the corner of Atwood and Miller Avenues was maybe five or six feet higher than the sidewalk and there were large trees. As we went back and forth to Lowell school we would run up onto the top and along the length and then down at the other end. There was a path on top made by all the footsteps going by.” Was this a linear Indian Effigy Mound?
A Shell gas station was built on the location in 1949. From 1968 – 73 it was Tom Brinker’s Auto Upholstery ,which moved to E. Washington Ave. The Brownberry Oven Thrift Store operated here from 1976-1992, then a video repair service, followed by Bongo Video Rental, then Spiritual Vibes 2008-2010 . (They now call themselves Cosmic Delights and are located at 2334 Atwood Ave.) After a major remodeling the building reopened in February 2015 and is now Dr. Deb Schroeder’s Community Care Veterinary Clinic.
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on January 25, 2016
Ann Waidelich will present a slide show on the businesses at the east end of Atwood Ave. from St. Bernards Church to Olbrich Gardens, and Fair Oaks Avenue to Starkweather Creek. Featured will be the businesses that have occupied the Fair Oaks Hotel site, now Birrenkott’s Appliance store. Bring your memories/memorabilia to share.
Saturday February 20,
2:30–4pm in the Evjue Room
Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa St.
$2 suggested donation
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 24, 2015
For 60 years, The U.S. Military has used radar to follow Santa’s flight around the world on Christmas Eve. You can check his progress here.
According to a New York Times article, “the practice began in 1955, when an advertisement in Colorado encouraging children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number, instead giving the number for an air defense command operations center. The director had members of his staff give updates on Santa’s location to children who called.”
But there’s a story behind this story! That director who had his staff tell callers Santa’s progress? He was Col. Harry W. Shoup, and before becoming chief of the combat operations center near the height of the Cold War, he had been commander of Truax Field on Madison’s East Side.
Decommissioned after World War II ended, the base was reactivated in 1951 to guard the skies over parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Col. Shoup became based commander in February 1953. In February 1954 moved to Colorado to serve as chief of the combat operations center of the Continental Air Defense Command, or Conad, where he unwittingly started the Christmas tradition.
Per the New York Times article, “The photogenic 38-year-old had already been trotted out for major news media to help give America’s defense establishment a more human face. As commander of Truax Field in Madison, Wis., Colonel Shoup had done interviews with Time magazine and with Edward R. Murrow on his CBS program ‘See It Now,’ describing his success in building warmer relations with the local community.”
At the time U.S. citizens were becoming increasingly nervous about military bases located in or near their cities. During the height of the Cold War, Truax had 150 Air Force jet pilots stationed here, flying F89C Scorpion jets. Jet crashes were frequent enough to cause alarm, as this article from the Wisconsin State Journal dated Nov. 25, 1953 attests.
The first headline is “Two More Truax Fliers Lost” after their jet crashed in Lake Superior just five hours subsequent to another F-89C crash which killed two Truax officers here. “… The exact cause of the crash on the Lake Wingra shore probably will not be determined because salvage crews are not able to retrieve parts of the plane that were blasted deep into the lake bed and marsh by the plane’s explosion.”
The second headline is “Pilots Here Avoid Public Risks, Chief Says.” …”Pilots here conscientiously maneuver their planes away from Madison and suburbs to avoid endangering the lives of residents.”
An article in the Racine Journal dated February 3, 1956 sheds more light on the New York Time’s article’s mention of Col. Shoup’s work in “building warmer relations with the local community.” A movie narrated by Jack Webb titled “24-Hour Alert” was based on material supplied by Col. Harry Shoup about his experience as base commander at Truax Field.The article said, “Shoup won over the people of Madison in 1951 to the necessity of the air base.
The man who knew how to soothe a city’s fears about its local air base recognized a PR opportunity in the mistaken call of a little girl to a civil defense base, but he was also a family man who didn’t want to disappoint a child.
As the recent New York Times article relates, “The good-hearted Colonel Shoup had three daughters and an infant son. As he later told the tale, he quickly realized that the newspaper’s misprint meant that Conad would soon be deluged by many other such calls. …the colonel ordered Conad’s telephone operators to share Santa’s location with ‘every child who phoned in that night.'”
That first impromptu effort to trace Santa Claus’s journey to the United States has evolved into a much followed annual ritual that might never have come about without Col. Shoup’s PR experience at Madison’s Truax Field.
Happy Holidays from the East Side History Club! — Ann Waidelich and Sarah White
Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 28, 2015
In the “good old summertime,” East Siders could enjoy roller skating under the Big Top where Burr Jones Park is today at East Washington Avenue and the Yahara. Admission was 35 cents at 7pm, and only 25 cents after 9pm, until closing.
Patti Jacobsen found a blurry snapshot of skating girls taken by her father Orwin Jacobsen in his family photo album.
Were you one of the boys and girls who enjoyed this summer activity? Do you have memories or photographs? To share them with the East Side History Club, call Sarah White at 608-347-7329 or email email@example.com.