Things to do in Madison
Wisconsin State Capitol
The state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin holds both
houses of the congress and the Supreme Court; as well as the
Office of the Governor and was built in 1917.
This impressive structure is the fifth one to be the
capitol building since the territorial legislature met in 1836,
and is also the third since it became a state in 1848.
The streets around the capitol building are full of
restaurants, boutiques and shops, and they form the Capitol
Square. The first
building was a prefab made of wood and was sent here from
Belmont, Wisconsin; with no water or heating systems.
The legislatures met here for 42 days until they chose
Madison as the new capitol; and would meet in Burlington, Iowa
until the capitol was completed.
This old council house and the lodging facility next to
it still exist and are taken care of by the Wisconsin Historical
Society and it is called the First Capitol Historic Site.
The next one was built in 1837 in the city of Madison and
stone from Maple Bluff was used, as well as locally cut oak.
It was constructed on the site of the present building,
but smaller and more typical of the capitol buildings of other
states. The cost
was $60,000. The
third was built because the second was too small and was also
built on the present site, between 1857 and 1869, and is similar
to the U. S. capitol with dome.
Two wings added to the north and south costing $900,000,
were added in 1882; but in 1903, the state's new commission
started thinking about another structure.
February 26, 1904, a gas jet started a fire in the
recently varnished ceiling of the third building; and although
there was a modern fire system, the nearby university reservoir
was empty. The fire
spread fast and the local firemen couldn't handle the blazing
inferno so more men and equipment was brought in from Milwaukee.
The night was such a cold one that the equipment had
frozen and thus needed to be thawed before any help could be
given and subsequently the only part of the old capitol that
wasn't destroyed was the north wing.
Historical artifacts, books and records were lost, but
the law library books were saved thanks to the students from the
fire happened five weeks after the state legislature had decided
that fire insurance was no longer needed.
The new building was started in 1906 and finished in 1907
and cost $7.25 million. Since
office space was needed immediately, construction took longer
than expected, but one wing at a time was built.
It stands 284 feet and 5 inches from the ground to the
top of the statue that stands on the dome, making it 3 feet
shorter than the U.S. capitol in Washington D. C.
The dome's statue was created by Daniel Chester French of
New York, in 1920, and is called Wisconsin with her left hand
holding a globe with eagle atop it and her right arm pointing
out symbolizing the motto of the state, "forward".
It wears a helmet with the state's animal, a badger, on
top and is made of hollow bronze with gold leaf covering.
The statue is 15 feet, 5 inches tall and is called
Wisconsin, although many have confused her with another statue
on the ground called Forward; and she weights 3 tons.
This magnificent building used 43 different types of
stone that came from 8 states and 6 countries.
The outside is made of Bethel white granite from Vermont,
which make the dome the biggest in the world made of granite;
with other Wisconsin granites used in the public hallways, of
the first, second and ground floors.
The inside is made from marble, especially
in the rotunda area, and the marble comes from France,
Algeria, Italy and Greece, with red granite from Waupaca,
Wisconsin, Norwegian syenite, and Minnesota limestone.
The marvelous structure was named a National Historic
Landmark in 2001 and a law was passed in 1990 stating that no
buildings within a mile could be taller.
Henry Vilas Zoo
This zoo gets over a half a million visitors each year and
doesn't charge parking or admission fees; and is one of the
small amount of zoos that are free and accredited by the
Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The city had a donation of 50 acres in 1904 from the
William and Anna Vilas family under the stipulation that it
would be used for pleasure and public park grounds.
It also said that the park would be named after their son
Henry who died of diabetes complications and free to enter.
An area of 28 acres had been set aside for an animal
exhibit in 1911; which started the zoo; and the Madison
Zoological and Aquarium Society was started in 1914.
It was renamed the Henry Vilas Zoological Society in
1926, and in 1964 became a non-profit corporation.
With the 100th anniversary of the zoo coming soon, the
society started a zoo century campaign to raised $27 million to
refurbish the zoo over the following 10 years.
They want the redo to make sure that the zoo has the best
possible care and exhibits for the next century.
The zoo is divided into 7 separate divisions that
include; insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, amphibians and
primates. In the
primates area they have an orangutan, ring-tailed lemur, colobus
monkey, chimpanzee, white-handed gibbon and cotton topped
tamarin. In the
fish tank are piranhas, knifefish, spotted pimelodus, oscar,
plecostomus, freshwater stingray and convict cichlid.
The mammals contain; subdivisions relating to North and
South America, the Australian outback, the African safari, Asia,
the Arctic, New Children's Zoo exhibit and the North American
prairie exhibit. In
the North America exhibit; the grizzly bear, river otter, and
black bear. From
South America come the; capybara and alpaca.
In the Australian outback area they have a red kangaroo.
Mammals from Africa include; the lion, white rhinoceros,
and reticulated giraffe.
From the North American prairie comes the badger, prairie
dog and buffalo.
From the arctic comes the polar bear, and the harbor seal.
From the new children's zoo is the wallaby, the red
panda, meerkats, goats and porcupine.
The Asian animals are Malayan tapir, tiger, muntjac and
Reptiles include; gila monster, alligator, anaconda, green tree
python, cooks tree boa, and Honduran milksnake.
Amphibians include; marine toad, tree frog and poison
arrow frog. Birds
are flamingos, penguins, rhea, ostrich, emu, black swan,
peacock, wild turkey, macaw and great horned owl.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
This trail is part of the National Park Service National Scenic
Trail System and is the end of the glacial extension of the last
ice age that started receding some 12-15,000 years ago.
The trail winds through the state beginning at Potawatomi
State Park in Door County and goes south into the Kettle
Moraines and on to Janesville, heading north past the western
edge of Madison into Devil's Lake State Park and northward to
After that it heads west through the northern forests to the
Interstate State Park, then onto the St Croix National Scenic
Riverway. Over a
thousand miles of trails are expected to be included when
finished, but now only about 600 miles are done.
Besides hiking and camping on the trail, you can swim,
boat, climb, snowmobile, fish, cross country ski and bird watch
in this magnificent country.
It is open all year long, except for some areas that are
open to deer hunting in November, with lakes, ponds, valleys,
ridges, mountains, falls and other geological phenomena that
will take your breath away.
It is an area that is pristinely genuine and will let you
wander through time, imagining what the first natives felt like
traversing this beautiful land.
The forests are full and incredible, with trails running
through the expansive unchanged areas where you can breath in
clear clean crisp air that you can't find in many states
anymore. You will
thrill to the many sights and sounds that you will come across
on your journey through this wilderness that was once home to
Indians and settlers from centuries ago.
It is rugged terrain that will test your skills of
endurance and persistence.
A place where the solitude and serenity will invade your
mind and let it be cleansed of the many visions of a society
that trashes the land, scraping off all the trees, grasses and
other impediments to development and industrialization.
Enjoy it while you can and while it is still gorgeous.