Many men, and a few women, have had a major impact on Madison, shaping the city that celebrates its 150th birthday this spring. Excluding governors and university presidents, whose impact depended on statewide political and financial forces, these are the 10 who have mattered most.
James Duane Doty (1800-65)
Madison's founder was a forceful frontier politician and pioneer promoter, creating cities and governments from wilderness. Yet his reputation was such that the city council initially refused to name a street in his honor.
A native of upstate New York, Doty was 23 when he became federal judge of the Western Michigan Territory, which included modern Wisconsin. He canoed the huge area for nine years, working closely with Native Americans and learning about the land he would later develop. (Besides his pivotal role in Madison, Doty laid out downtown Green Bay and created Fond du Lac.)
In 1835, Doty made his first land buy here -- about a hundred acres on either side of the Catfish (Yahara) River. Within a year he had organized the Four Lakes Company and claimed title to 1,361 acres covering most of the isthmus.
When territorial legislators met at Belmont in October 1836 to choose a capital, Doty finessed sectional rivalries, trumpeted his site's central location, and played to patriotic sentiment (he named the town after the recently deceased president and its central streets after signers of the Constitution). He also gave buffalo robes to the shivering solons and helped many of them procure deeds to choice lots.
On Nov. 28, 1836, after rejecting several other sites by one vote, the Legislature picked Madison, which then existed only on paper, with no permanent inhabitants.
Soon after, Doty's fortunes fell sharply. The Panic of 1837 almost ruined him, and he came under fire for his role in two bank failures and his diversion of federal funds. There were even challenges to his title to isthmus lands. Doty's former partner, Michigan Gov. Stevens Mason, called him "liar, a calumniator and a swindler" and warned prospective buyers to stay away.
Still, Doty was elected to Congress (1839-41) and served four stressful years as territorial governor. After Wisconsin became a state, he returned to the Congress (1849-53), where he aggressively promoted public works projects. In 1863, he was named governor of the Utah Territory, earning high marks for his skillful administration.
Shortly after Doty's death, the Madison Common Council rejected a petition to rename a street in his honor. It was not until 1888 that the city commemorated the man who created it.
Leonard J. Farwell (1819-89)
No one did more to develop Madison than Leonard Farwell, a successful hardware merchant who bought vast tracts east of the Capitol directly from Doty in 1847.
Farwell straightened the Yahara River and erected the substantial Madison Mills at its mouth on Lake Mendota, making Madison a choice destination for area farmers. He carved out Williamson Street and Fort Winnebago Road (now Milwaukee Street), drained parts of the Great Central Marsh east of the Capitol, and graded East Washington Avenue, planting 6,000 maple and cottonwood trees in twin rows.
In 1852, Farwell became the state's second and youngest-ever governor; during his two-year term, Wisconsin abolished the death penalty and built the state Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. Farwell also built a magnificent mansion on Lake Monona, a three-story octagonal stone house of nearly 9,000 square feet. Occupying an entire lakefront block between Brearly and Spaight streets, it would later serve as a Civil War hospital, an orphanage and a school before its demolition in 1922.
As a village trustee, Farwell led the successful effort to incorporate Madison in early 1856. Despite this, Farwell was defeated -- by nine votes -- when he ran for the Common Council the following year. It was his last foray into city politics.
That same year, the Panic of 1857 wiped Farwell out. He lost all of his Madison holdings, including his mansion, and moved to a home he had built and put in his wife's name on the north shore of Lake Mendota. In 1897, the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association named its new rustic road in his honor -- the only local remembrance and beyond city limits.
A presidential appointee to the U.S. Patent Office, Farwell was at Ford's Theatre the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. He rushed to warn Vice President Andrew Johnson and offer him protection.
Farwell moved to Chicago in 1870 to open a patent consulting company, which he lost in the Great Fire the following year. He then moved to the tiny town of Grant City, Missouri, where he again helped build a new community, and where he died.
John A. Johnson (1832-1901)
Madison's industrial east side was born in the 1880s, thanks largely to one of the country's most progressive industrialists.
A Norwegian immigrant, Johnson had already been a successful insurance executive, publisher and politician when he joined his former boss Morris E. Fuller in 1880 to start the Fuller and Johnson Manufacturing Company. The company became Madison's largest private employer, with eventually more than 400 workers in its 40,000-square-foot factory at Dickinson Street and East Washington Avenue.
In 1885, Johnson founded the Gisholt Machine Company to manufacture machine tools; its designs won medals at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago and the 1900 World's Fair in Paris. Johnson also made Gisholt a model workplace -- the factory he built in 1899 on East Washington Avenue included a library and auditorium for employees, and a free kindergarten for their kids.
Many community leaders opposed Johnson's industrial efforts, believing Madison's future was in tourism and public-sector employment. The Common Council rejected his initial efforts to vacate a street for plant expansion.
Persevering, Johnson had a major impact on land use. The east side became the city's industrial base, causing the Marquette and Tenney-Lapham neighborhoods to grow much faster than the city average. Johnson stepped in to provide affordable worker housing.
But Johnson was more than an industrialist. He was part owner of the nation's largest Norwegian newspaper, Americka, often penning pieces on the importance of public schools. He was instrumental in founding Bethel Lutheran. He also created an early scholarship program open to women, and as a state senator in 1872 secured passage of a measure letting married women own property and conduct business.
Johnson died at his Wisconsin Avenue home and is buried at Forest Hills cemetery. Among his honorary pallbearers was Robert M. La Follette.
John Myers Olin (1851-1924)
The founder of the Madison parks system, Olin was arguably the most important private individual in the city's history after James Doty. His accomplishments a century ago improve our lives today and inspire our tomorrows.
A native of Ohio who was lured to Wisconsin with a teaching offer from university president John Bascom, Olin founded the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association in 1882. At that time, the city's sole park was the 3.5-acre former cemetery on Spaight Street named in honor of former Mayor Harlow Orton. When Olin retired as president in 1909, the association had developed 229 acres of parks within city limits.
In 1903, Olin triggered Madison's golden age of parks by his bold bid to widen and landscape the Yahara River.
"It does not require much imagination to see what a revolution such an improvement would work in our city," he said as he raised money for the project and forced the railroads to raise their bridges to accommodate pleasure crafts.
Olin got lumberman-politician William F. Vilas to underwrite a park project along Lake Wingra, and helped turn a festering swamp on Monona Bay into Brittingham Park. He also got the city to issue its first bonds for park development and later designate property tax revenues for parks. And it was Olin who recruited landscape architect John Nolen as the city's parks superintendent in 1908.
Even after his death, Olin had one great act -- the contribution of his home at 130 N. Prospect St. as the official residence for the president of the University of Wisconsin, now the chancellor of the Madison campus.
John Nolen (1869-1937)
In March 1911, this rising young landscape architect published what was, after the charter that created Madison, the most important document in the city's history. Madison: A Model City became the bible of Madison development, a guide to how the city should be built.
If only the city hadn't fired Nolen the month before, the plan might have really had an impact.
Parks impresario John Olin brought the Harvard-based Nolen to Madison as a multi-client consultant in early 1908. Nolen designed the Brittingham boathouse, picked the site for the Henry Vilas Zoo, and drew landscaping plans for the new state Capitol, among other tasks.
Then Olin revealed his real agenda -- to have Nolen draft one of the country's first comprehensive city plans, with an integrated approach to housing, transportation and parkland. But an early draft of the plan, including Nolen's scathing criticisms and visionary recommendations, so incensed anti-planning aldermen that they eliminated Nolen's salary from the city's budget.
Despite this ouster, most of Nolen's 17 primary proposals have been adopted, including creation of a Plan Commission (1920), zoning code (1922) and Parks Commission (1931). The city reclaimed marshland, reduced railroad crossings and expanded highways. Even the state was supportive, through a 1921 law limiting heights of buildings on the Square to protect the Capitol view.
Nolen's centerpiece was a mile-long, 600-foot-wide Great Esplanade and a six-block Grand Mall of public buildings and open space on Lake Monona. The council endorsed his "civic center" on Monona Avenue in 1927, but produced only a pale echo of the highly landscaped Grand Esplanade in Law Park.
A Model City continues to influence land-use discussions, particularly downtown. When Mayor Paul Soglin pushed through the State Street Mall in 1977, he was implementing a modern version of a Nolen recommendation. And generations of opponents to Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace proposals rightly cited Nolen's far-different treatment of the Lake Monona frontage.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1870-1959)
Called "the world's greatest architect," Frank Lloyd Wright grew up on Livingston Street and defined Madison's most important development debate of the 20th century. His talents and personality were both larger than life, giving him influence long after his death.
From Olin Terrace in 1938 through the several iterations of Monona Terrace two decades later, Wright applied himself personally and professionally to building a multi-use complex on Madison's most important site: the Lake Monona frontage to the Capitol.
Supporters of John Nolen's Grand Esplanade, including some of Madison's most powerful men, opposed the idea. Wright's designs were also controversial for their huge scale and scope. And the architect's personality, business practices, politics and lifestyle caused him still more grief; no man in Madison's history has had fiercer foes than Wright, and no fight was longer or more important.
It took 40 years, and many attempts, but Wright's vision prevailed. After an adaptation by Taliesin Design, Monona Terrace was finally completed in 1997.
But there remains a too-long list of unique Wright designs that were never built, including an eye-catching public boathouse for Lake Monona below King Street (designed in 1894); a Native American teepee and wigwam for the Nakoma County Club (1924), and a Mayan temple of cinderblocks for Phi Gamma Delta (1924).
Thankfully, though, other Wright designs now grace the local landscape, including the world-famous Unitarian Meeting House. But that's in Shorewood Hills.
Col. Joseph W. "Bud" Jackson (1878-1969)
Our greatest economic development activist since Farwell, and a devout devotee of Nolen, Bud Jackson is responsible for more of modern Madison than any other individual.
Masterfully mixing many levels of influence and money, Jackson was the driving force behind the Arboretum, the Veteran's Administration hospital, the Beltline, the Credit Union National Association headquarters, James Madison Park and much more.
He was also the reason for the six-decade delay in the construction of Monona Terrace.
Jackson's forebears came to Madison before it was a city. His grandfather was hired as a professor of surgery by the UW's first chancellor, John Lathrop; his father was a medic in the Civil War. Jackson left Madison to become a rancher politician in Montana, then served as a cavalry officer in World War I. He returned to run the Jackson Clinic for his father and four physician brothers.
After reading Nolen's A Model City, Jackson dedicated himself to its implementation. In 1937, he founded the Madison and Wisconsin Foundation, a unique private sector planning and development agency. As its executive director until 1952, Jackson was a one-man plan department and community development authority; he identified opportunities, assembled financing, orchestrated publicity and secured necessary state and local legislation.
Because Jackson opposed anything that threatened Nolen's Grand Esplanade and loathed Wright for personal, political and business reasons, he fought plans for Monona Terrace from its first iteration in 1938 to his death. It was Jackson's rabid opposition, including litigation, legislation and character assassination, that stopped the city from building the facility during the 1950s.
Thus the man responsible for Madison's greatest growth also caused its worst developmental failure.
William T. Evjue (1882-1970)
Madison's most important journalist, Bill Evjue was a testy second-generation Norwegian American from a lumberjack town in Lincoln County who overcame great odds to found The Capital Times during the war hysteria of 1917. Enduring boycotts, a federal investigation and personal vilification (including being burned in effigy), Evjue saw his aggressively progressive paper become the city's strongest, helping define Madison liberalism.
The Capital Times didn't invent progressive muckraking journalism in Madison; that was the accomplishment of the Wisconsin State Journal, where Evjue worked as business manager and city editor. But when State Journal editor Richard Lloyd Jones vilified Robert M. La Follette, his former idol and financial benefactor, over the senator's opposition to war, Evjue started his own paper.
In his role as editor and as a pro-labor, anti-alcohol state representative (1916-18), Evjue exposed war profiteers and denounced venal industrialists, as his paper does to this day. He helped launch WIBA radio in 1925, and kept progressive fires burning through four wars, a great depression and the darkest days of repression and fear.
Evjue failed, however, to anticipate critical shifts in newspaper reading habits. At the formation of Madison Newspapers Inc. in 1948, it was Evjue who insisted that the State Journal become the morning paper; to soften the blow, he let his competitor have the Sunday franchise as well.
At least Evjue had the foresight to craft a joint ownership pact that has kept The Capital Times alive, even as its circulation dwindles. And the self-described "fighting editor" lives on through the Evjue Foundation, which since 1970 has given more than $25 million to various community groups and causes.
Paul R. Soglin (1946- )
Our youngest, longest-serving and most important mayor, Soglin transformed both the city's physical face and the face of city government.
A native of Chicago, Soglin parlayed his late-1960s prominence as an anti-war protester into a six-year stint representing Miffland on the Common Council, then scored a stunning upset in 1973 after a series of gaffes by the incumbent mayor, Bill Dyke. He served until 1979, then again from 1989 to 1997, but lost his bid for a threepeat to Dave Cieslewicz in 2003.
Initially profiled in national publications as the "Red Mayor," but more pragmatic than ideological, Soglin built the State Street Mall and Capitol Concourse, turned the 50-year-old Capitol Theatre into the Madison Civic Center, and converted the post office into the Madison Municipal Building.
He remade the struggling bus system into the successful Madison Metro, and created the country's first municipally funded day care. He pioneered programs to support and ordinances to protect women, minorities and tenants. And he got the city a money-saving AAA bond rating, impressing even his conservative enemies.
Perhaps Soglin's greatest feat was reviving the shattered dream of Monona Terrace in 1989 and skillfully leading the long fight for its construction. Typically, at the dedication, he lambasted state officials for inadequate shared revenue.
An imperfect politician, Soglin failed to municipalize Madison Gas & Electric, annex the town of Madison, adopt strong gun control or build a municipal swimming pool.
Called a communist at the outset and a conservative at the end, Soglin governed so well that Money magazine rated Madison the nation's #1 livable city in 1997, his last full year in office. And a few months after his perplexing resignation during an ill-fated congressional campaign, Good Housekeeping magazine proclaimed Madison the best community for women in America.
Paul always was a ladies' man.
Jerome Frautschi (1934- )
A fourth-generation Madisonian, Jerry Frautschi committed a gratuitous act of philanthropy that rebuilt an entire city block and transformed the downtown, in ways as yet unknowable.
The soft-spoken head of Webcrafters, a printing company, Frautschi stunned everyone with a $100 million gift to create the Overture Foundation in 1998. Before he was done, his largesse hit $205 million -- more than double the annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Frautschi's priorities may have been debatable, but his eye for talent was not: Architect Cesar Pelli designed a world-class facility, which Foundation president George Austin skillfully saw to completion.
Philanthropy comes naturally to this modern-day de Medici; the Frautschi family has a long record of civic and social leadership. Walter Frautschi, Jerry's father, was president of the university class of 1924 and a leader of such disparate entities as the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the State Historical Society and the Civic Center campaign. Lowell Frautschi, Jerry's uncle, was Student Union president and a major fund-raiser for the Memorial Union. Their father, Emil, served on the vocational-technical school board and on several charities. And Jerry himself was one of Soglin's go-to guys in the successful effort to build Monona Terrace.
Although his family's business success dates to great-grandfather Christian Frautschi, a cabinetmaker in the mid-1880s, Frautschi made his real money as an early investor in the Pleasant Company, a doll and book business that his wife, Pleasant Rowland, sold to Mattel for $700 million in 1998.
An unassuming man -- he insisted the performing arts palace not bear his name -- Frautschi has forever altered the economics of the performing arts and downtown development. By our city's bicentennial, in 2056, the true nature of that change should be clear.
Stuart Levitan's book, Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Vol. 1 (1856-1931), will be published this fall by University of Wisconsin Press.