East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

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August 17 meeting: A Gold Star Mother’s Pilgrimage

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on June 30, 2019

Saturday August 17, 2019
Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa Street (Evjue room)
1-3 pm

Join us Saturday August 17 as we welcome Cindy Clark, McFarland Historical Society Board member. Cindy will lead a discussion focused on Gold Star Mothers, a phrase used to reference mothers with sons and daughters who died serving in the military, as well as wives, whose spouses were killed. Gold Star Mothers began during World War I when families posted gold stars in windows if a family member lost their life in battle. Cindy has worked with the McFarland Society’s collection of photos, diaries, articles and artifacts from two Gold Star mothers and she will recount the story of these two women who traveled by steam ship on a Gold Star Mother’s Pilgrimage to France in 1930 to visit their sons’ graves.

Come share your stories and memories of fallen soldiers, and the commemoration of their service and bravery.

Gold Star Mothers

WWI Gold Star Mother Pilgrimage Medallion Certificate
Source:  https://recollectionwisconsin.org/

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April 2019 meeting: The Circus Comes to Town

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 27, 2019

Elephants parading on Wright Street, 1953 (Dan Seeliger Facebook post)


The Circus Comes to Town!

Join us for a presentation and discussion about Madison’s East Side circus history. Share stories about Eken Park circus grounds, and other East Madison Circus events from 1907–1947.

  • Date:  Saturday April 13
  • Time:  1 – 3 pm
  • Place:  Goodman Community Center, Brassworks Building
  • Guest speaker: Pete Shrake, Archivist, Circus World Museum, Baraboo, WI

Joan Phelan wrote the following essay about Madison circuses for the East Side History Club.


Circus grounds near Eken Park, before WWII, (Harry Hinze – Facebook post)

The Circus on Madison’s East Side

The earliest mention by the Wisconsin State Journal of a circus on Madison’s east side is on July 2 of 1907 when the Barnum & Bailey Circus pitched its tents at the Fair Oaks Circus Grounds for a one day performance.  The circus arrived from Milwaukee over the Watertown division of the St. Paul railroad, unloaded between Baldwin and Dickinson Streets and was described as the “greatest show on earth”.

As early as 1914, there were circus performances in the Union Corners area.  The Wisconsin State Journal reports that in August of 1916 the Ringling Brothers circus was at Nelson’s Corners in the “East End”, located at the intersection of East Washington, (north side), and North Street, (east side).  The circus arrived at the Chicago Northwestern freight siding. A street parade departed from the circus grounds, passing over Winnebago, Williamson, Wilson and King Streets, around the Capitol Square to East Washington Ave and back to Nelson’s Corners.  The corner was called Nelson’s Corners because of a dance hall built by Halvor Nelson, the building being razed in 1924 and replaced by a Standard Oil Station.

In July of 1920, John Robinson’s Circus performed at the show grounds at Rutledge, Helena and Russell Streets and in 1921 Ringling Brothers at Carey Plat on East Washington Avenue.  The Wisconsin State Journal says that improvements have been made to the system of electric lighting, the old- fashioned gasoline torch with its sputtering light, dripping oil and roar are gone.

On August 17, 1923 the Morris and Castle Shows, appeared at the circus grounds at Second and third streets, between Washington and Mifflin. On August 13thof that year the first circus at Eken Field was held. The Morris and Castle Shows appeared and ran all week.  The event was at the end of the North Street Car Line (behind Coolidge Street – Myrtle Street didn’t exist at this time).  Eken Field, was then a farm owned by the Eken family in Burke Township.

Madison’s east side looked very different in the early 1900s with the Stang farm on North Street and the Huemmer farm at the end of Moland Street.  In the early 1930s there were still cows on the north side of Commercial Avenue (Bea Laufenberg Rauls).  In 1919, street car tracks were laid on North Street for the workers of Oscar Mayer.  There were few houses and a few taverns and stores in what is now known as Eken Park.  Those living in Eken Park, north of Commercial Ave, had outdoor toilets and a pump for water (John Imhoff).  In 1927 residents of the area petitioned to become part of the City of Madison and the Board of Health told of serious unsanitary conditions with shallow wells due to low, marshy and level land.  And in 1927 the Eken Park was welcomed into the City of Madison.

From 1926 through 1946 the circus grounds were located at end of North Street next to Madison’s first airport, formed in 1926, in the 2500 block of Coolidge Street.  The circus wagons would unload at the roundhouse on Commercial Avenue, proceed to North Street and head for the circus grounds.  At the time North Street ended at south side of Coolidge Street.

In 1924 Walter Bullock, a WWI aviator, arrived for a week’s stay planning to give passenger flights. He planned to place his machine on view near the circus grounds and after the circus’s departure will use the field as his base of operations.

Although there were other circus events, (Morris Castle, Hagenbeck-Wallace, Russell Brothers, Seils-Sterling, Tom Mix and Cole Brothers), it was most often the Ringling Brothers Circus that performed at the circus grounds.  The circus was a big event with many people lining up to watch the circus roll into town. In July 1926 the Wisconsin State Journal gave free tickets to every boy and girl who brought one new subscriber to the paper.  In July 1938, there was a circus boycott.  The Madison CIO voted for the boycott and the Ringling Brothers Circus ran into difficulties with labor pickets at Janesville.  The labor battle grew out of a move by the Ringling-Barnum show to cut wages by 25 percent.  In August part of the Ringling Brothers Circus combined with the Al G Barnes Circus.

There were a few other locations on the east side: the Hartmeyer and Reynolds show grounds (probably on Commercial Avenue near Hartmeyer Ice Arena) and the Commercial Avenue show grounds but the main location, year after year, was at the end of North Street.

Memories of the circus at Eken Field

*Lena Imhoff set up a stand at the corner of North and Coolidge Streets and sold hot dogs.

*Margaret Olson Cass, who has lived in the Eken Park area most of her life and now lives on Coolidge Street, remembers parking cars in the vacant lot next door and sneaking under the bottom of the tent to see what was going on.  She also remembers seeing the “tall man”.

Kids in the neighborhood worked to set up the circus.

*Paul Lamoreux, who lived on Moland Street, was about nine of ten when he remembers carrying logs. In return he was given a ticket to the show.  Others carried pails of water.

*Fred Liedel , who helped out at Madison Airport in the 1930’s spoke at a meeting of the History Club in 2011. He told of giving airplane rides to circus goers (these were small propeller planes).  Madison Airport shouldn’t be confused with the airport at Truax Field during WWII or today’s Madison Airport.

*Joan Lamoreux Phelan remembers getting up early to set on the curb at Eken Park and see the beautiful circus wagons roll down North Street.

By 1946, Myrtle Street was added and homes were being built, crowding out the airport and circus. In 1947 the circus was held on East Washington Avenue, possibly at the junction of Hwy 51 and 151.  In recent years, the Shrine Circus has been held at the Dane County Coliseum.

In 1963, the Shrine Circus was held at the Dane County Arena, now the Coliseum which hadn’t yet been built.  During the performance on Feb 14than aerialist performer fell to her death. The Phelan children, Jim, Tom and Diane, were sitting very close to the event.

A timeline of Madison circuses appeared on this blog in 2011; click here to read that post.

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On Atwood Avenue, Businesses Served Businesses

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on January 26, 2019

Have you noticed a change in the “ghost signs” along Atwood Avenue? The old has given way to reveal the even older at 2716-20 Atwood Ave. Here’s the story:

The building was built in 1919 and became Thorson’s Store Fixture Co. in 1935. Fred Thorson owned the business for 55 years until about 1970. The company sold fixtures for grocery stores (Market), retail stores (Store) and Restaurants.


Photo by Rick Bernstein

Millvander’s Remodeling used the building as a salvage warehouse from 1972-1989. Then it became the Food Equipment Leasing Co. (Below is the sign that was removed to reveal the sign above.)

bank 1

Photo by Ann Waidelich

In 2014 the building was sold to Atwood Studios (Jeffrey Waldman) and has been undergoing an upgrade ever since. 

Photos and research by Ann Waidelich

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The Garver Story and East Side History Club Celebration

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on July 24, 2018

The East Side History Club will meet on Saturday September 22 from 1 – 3 pm in the new Brassworks Building, Goodman Community Center, 214 Waubesa Street.   

Special guests include Garver Feed Mill site Project Manager Bryant Moroder and Tom Sylke. Tom is the great-grandson of Hans Struck who built the ORIGINAL Garver building and went on to found the Struck and Irwin Fence Company.  

Bryant Moroder will share a Garver project update, and describe how the eco-lodges will work, talk about the history of Garver and how this next generation food production facility will expand Madison’s profile as a Midwestern hub of high quality, hand crafted food and drink.     http://www.garverfeedmill.com/

We will also take some special time to celebrate and honor Ann Waidelich and Sarah White’s years of service, leadership and contributions made to the East Side History Club community.  Cake and refreshments will be served!


An East Side Album:  A Community Remembers, 2nd edition will be on sale and available for purchase.  Ann and Sarah will be happy to sign your copy – bring it along.


All are welcome.

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Help the Barrymore Theatre Replace Its Chairs! Donate Now

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on April 14, 2018

From the Barrymore Theatre website:

“The historic Barrymore Theatre, an 88-year-old Madison entertainment institution and architectural landmark, is in need of capital improvements. We are beginning with your bottom and will be working our way to the top of the Dome over the next 12 years, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the building. The first project will be to replace the Theatre’s worn-out seating. The Barrymore needs to raise $200,000 to purchase and install approximately 750 new seats for the comfort and enjoyment of its patrons…

“The current seating at The Barrymore Theatre has been in place since 1967. For 50 years, thousands of people have made good use of those seats. Now they are in need of replacement. We anticipate that the new seats and the work involved in installation will cost $200,000 and we are looking to raise that money through ­our Chair-ity Appeal.”

Find out more at https://barrymorelive.com/donate/

The Eastwood Theater, 1933. Photo by Jan Foss.

p.s. Kind of looks like they used this photo from the East Side Album when they designed the Chair-ity Appeal logo, doesn’t it?

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February 2018 Meeting Examined Jenifer, Division, and Helena Street Businesses

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on February 20, 2018

At the East Side History Club’s February meeting, Ann Waidelich led a conversation about businesses and homes in the area around Jenifer, Division, and Helena Streets. Ann offers the following notes on what she covered.

2018_2 meeting photo

The photo above shows the property at 351 Russell Street built in 1927 for the Badeau Plumbing Co., which  was there until 1942 when they moved to Atwood Ave. Then the Russell Street building became the Vogue Dry Cleaners, owned by Lars & Norma Hanson until they retired in 1978. In 1987 Ken Koeppler bought the building and used it as his home for 17 years.  An article in the Capital Times on Dec. 7, 2016 told how the State DNR tested the property for a dry cleaning chemical which has led to a long and difficult effort to remediate the property.

Chase and Sanborn fire map-sm

The photo above shows the 1942 Sanborn Fire Insurance map I used to help identify the properties on Division, Helena and Jenifer Streets.

On Helen Street we talked about:

  • 2096: the motor freight building that became an extension of Capital Plating/Capital Water Sofeners;
  • 2084-70: the Coan Vending Machine Co. now called U-Select-It which is still in business in Clive Iowa;
  • 2069: Richard Neesvig’s Capital City Awning and Tent making company;
  • 2066: William & Helen Dewey’s Visual Education Consultants, an educational current-events filmstrip company which is now New Currents, available on line or on DVD and located in Middleton.

 On Division Street we talked about:  

  • 418: Capital Plating & Machine and Capital Soft Water; 502 – Arthur Fosdick Automotive Electric Co;
  • 514: Schoep’s Ice Cream; 518 – Community Laundry and then Red Dot Potato Chips for a short time; 526 – Teamsters Union Hall until they moved to N. Stoughton Road;
  • 530:  Floyd Leveneck’s Grocery before he moved to Atwood Ave. and then Norman Foulke Rubber Products Co. which is now run by his granddaughter, Ava Foulke, out of Sun Prairie.

At the corner of Division and Jenifer there was a small gas station set at an angle, run by Leo Copus until it closed in 1950.

On Jenifer Street, where the Jenifer Street Market has operated since 1979, there first  was Robert Girard’s Hi-Lo Super Market, which became Len Roosmalen’s Super Valu grocery store.

At 2034 Jenifer Street, the Appliance Products Co. was started by John Kaiser and his son David.  They are still in business in Sun Prairie.

We ended with this wonderful picture of a tiled toilet room in the basement of 2013 Jenifer St. where Carl Dojeva had his East Madison Tile Co. He didn’t make the tile; just installed it in homes and businesses all over Madison from 1928-1945.


  • By Ann Waidelich

The Club continues to look for co-leaders and new group partners to carry the club forward. Please share your ideas or suggestions through comments on this blog.

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February 17, 2018: History Club Examines Jenifer Street Businesses

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 31, 2017

The East Side History Club will meet to discuss the Jenifer-Division streets commercial district.

Do you remember these businesses?

  • Hi-Lo Market (now Jenifer Street Market)
  • Community Laundry
  • U-Select-It vending machines (made by the Coan Manufacturing Co.)
  • Capital Plating and Machine / Water softener Company (now the site of a new apartment building?)

Ann Waidelich and Don Ross will lead a conversation about these and other businesses and homes in the area.

The East Side History Club meets Saturday, February 17, 1-3 p.m., Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa Street. The Club continues to look for co-leaders and new group partners to carry the club forward. Please join us at the February meeting and share your ideas or suggestions.



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Give the gift of history!

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 20, 2017

The East Side’s most coveted local history book, full of memories of the Schenk’s-Atwood, Union Corners, and Eken Park neighborhoods, is the perfect holiday giftPurchases of An East Side Album support the Goodman Community Center, so your gift gives even more joy.

An East Side Album may be purchased in-person at the Goodman Community Center front desk for $20. ($15 if you contributed to the book, the front desk has a list.) Copies are also available to purchase at Stone Fence (2322 Atwood Avenue) and the Olbrich Gardens Gift Shop for $24.95. 

Mail order copies are available for $20 + $5 to ship the first copy, $6 to ship 25 books (ordered at the same time.) Send check (made out to the Goodman Community Center) to 149 Waubesa Street, Madison, WI 53704.

Thanks for your continued support of An East Side Album. Happy holidays!

Is the book perfect? Not quite–every local history is a work in progress, because new information is always coming to light. Click here for the corrections list–you can download a copy or ask that it be included in your purchase of An East Side Album.

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“An East Side Album”–always a work in progress

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on December 10, 2017

After we published the first edition of An East Side Album in 2007, we heard many compliments and a few corrections and omissions, too. In fact, we learned we’d overlooked a whole neighborhood that felt part of the old East Side–Eken Park, which has its own rich architectural and social history. A new chapter fills that gap in the revised East Side Album, 2nd Edition, now available at the Goodman Community Center, Olbrich Gardens gift shop, and Stone Fence shop on Atwood Avenue.

And of course, after publication of the second edition, we’ve heard about a few corrections. When you purchase a copy at one of the outlets mentioned, it should include a half-sheet like this one.

If you already have your copy of the book, feel free to print this out and tuck it inside! And if you notice any additional corrections, please call Ann Waidelich at 249-7920 or email annwaid@charter.net.

We’re all grateful to the Goodman Community Center for publishing our “community family album”!

  • Sarah White and Ann Waidelich

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October meeting: We Learned about Ho-Chunk History

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on November 20, 2017

Thank you to all who attended the October 21 meeting to learn more about Ho-Chunk history in Wisconsin.

The group enjoyed watching the Wisconsin Public Television film “Ho-Chunk History,” part of their Tribal Histories programming, and spent time browsing selected books and articles. (You can stream that film from the WPT website.)

We were joined by special guest Kimberly Crowley, Ho-Chunk artist and master basket maker. Kimberly shared examples of her black ash baskets and spoke to the group about basket making. Learn more about Kimberly on the Wisconsin Dells Events website.


We are so glad Kimberly could join us, with her lovely baskets and informational display. Thanks to Catherine Stephens and Brad Kuse, SASY volunteers, for organizing the October 2017 meeting.

Stay tuned for news about future meetings — to be announced. The club welcomes new co-leaders to step forward to carry this history club into the future!

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