Cultural Timeline of the Area 

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This timeline begins in 1834 with the first survey of the area by the United States Government.

For the Native American history of this area go to this page: Native American History of this Area

Madison population growth   [1] 

1837 1

1838 62

1840 146

1844 216

1846 626

1850 1,672

1851 2,306

1852 2,973

1854 5,126

1855 8,664

1856 9,161

1870 9,173

1880 10,342

1900 19,164

1910 25,531 



Madison area is surveyed for the first time by the US Government.

The UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve website has an excellent database for those interested in learning more about the first survey of the Madison area.

Interior Field Notes 1834 Sketch Map for T7N R9E

UWDC Digital Collections 1834 Plat Map for T7N R9E (original)

UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve Original Land Survey Page


First settler builds cabin in Madison.


Madison was incorporated as a village in 1846, with a population of 626.


Henry and Mary Turvill move to Madison with four of their children and live in the village while seeking suitable land to purchase to start a farm.

1854 - 1968

Turville Farm  (click this link for detailed history)

Henry and Mary Turvill purchase land on South shore of Lake Monona and move there in 1854.

Turville Point - Historic Madison Inc

Turville Point - Wisconsin Historical Society

Turville Property History WSJ 01-22-1967 page 29

Henry Lane Turville - Class of 1907 Madison Central High School Obituaries Archives

Former Turville Point Resident Dies -

Obituaries - Henry Qualtrough Turville Sr. - 3-1-2005

Turville's Point 1893, WHi-52265

Turville's Point 1896ca, WHi-51804

View of Lake Monona and Isthmus possibly from Turville Point 1894ca, WHi-2123

 Bull at Lake Monona 1896 WHi-60797

Turville Farm Summer Kitchen 1898, WHi-25054

Turville Point, Lake Monona, Aerial View 1930ca, WHi-34724

Turville Farm Aerial Image 1 - 1937ca   [2]

Turville Farm Aerial Image 2 - 1937ca

Turville Farm Aerial Image 3 - 1937ca

Turville Farm Aerial Image 4 - 1937ca

Olin - Turville and Coliseum Areas - 1937 Aerial Photograph


May 1854

First railroad comes to Madison

The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad ran along the future John Nolen Drive Corridor and across Lake Monona to a station on West Washington Avenue.

Railroad Comes to Madison 1854 - Historic Madison Inc


1854 - 1857

Lakeside Water Cure   [3]

Land was purchased from Henry Turvill in 1854

Built as a Hospital/Spa/Hydrotherapy Retreat

$40,000 to build

Opened in August 1855

Fell into financial difficulties and closed in 1857

Lakeside Water Cure 1854 - Historic Madison Inc

Madison From The Resort-Spa Water Cure 1860ca, WHi-27111

View of Madison, Wisconsin from Lake Monona 18--ca, WHi-23381


September 7, 1864

First train runs along newly lain track for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company.

This new railroad track runs along the north shore of Lake Monona and crosses the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad in the middle of Lake Monona. Said to be the only place in the world where two railroads cross in the middle of a lake.


1864 - 1925

Angleworm Station

This popular boat landing was located on Lake Monona at the end of South Carroll Street.

Angle Worm Station - Historic Madison Inc

Askew Brothers - Wisconsin Electronic Reader

Angle Worm Station 1873ca, WHi-11643

Angle Worm Station 1910ca, WHi-31335

1866 - 1877

Lakeside House Resort   [4]

The old Lakeside Water Cure property is refurbished as a summer resort hotel.

Opened July 2, 1866 as a summer only resort operation and became Madison's first successful resort hotel.

Guests came from large southern cities such as St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. They came to escape the summer heat and humidity that is so common in the southern part of the Midwest.

In August of 1877 the Lakeside House burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.

The Turvill family regained control of the property in bankruptcy proceedings.

Bird's Eye View of Madison, Wisconsin 1867, WHi-11430

Lakeside House 1868ca, WHi-38335

Lakeside House 1870 ca, WHi-25114

Steamboat on Lake Monona 19--ca, WHi-33745

Formal Group on Steamboat 1875ca, WHi-27189


1879 - 1895

Tonyawatha Resort

Indian name = "Healing Waters"

This popular resort hotel opened July 9, 1879

Was located on the Southeast shore of Lake Monona in what is now the City of Monona

Bankruptcy in 1893

New owner reopened in June 1895

Destroyed by fire on July 31, 1895

Tonyawatha Springs Hotel 1883, WHi-3603

Tonyawatha House from across the Lake 1885, WHi-11250

Tonyawatha House 1885, WHi-11248

Tonyawatha Springs Hotel - Blooming Grove Historical Society

Tonyawatha Springs Hotel Fire - 1895

Tonyawatha's Healing Waters - YouTube Video


1881 - 1911

Monona Lake Assembly   [5]  

Started as the Wisconsin Sunday School Assembly

Was a two week event each summer

1881 - Initially rented the old Lakeside House grounds from Henry Turvill

1881 - 3000 seat tent set up for first 10 day session

1882 - The Monona Lake Assembly purchases the property from Henry Turvill on February 13, 1882 for $3000

1882 - 3000 seat outdoor pavilion was built to replace the tent

1895 - 5000 seat, 160 foot dia. circular auditorium replaces earlier pavilion structure.

The auditorium had many large garage door type doors that surrounded most of the perimeter of the structure. These doors were probably mounted with counter weights and opened by lifting them straight up much like an old double hung window. This allowed light and fresh air into the structure when lectures were held but retained the capability to close up the structure in inclement weather and over the winter months. This auditorium was built by J. H. Findorff.

1908 - Declining attendance and financial problems cause Monona Lake Assembly to close

1911 - In the midst of a legal battle between two groups of shareholders of the property, the City of Madison purchases the Monona Lake Assembly property making it the first city park completely purchased with city money.

Monona Lake Assembly - Wisconsin Electronic Reader

Monona Lake Assembly - Historic Madison Inc

Monona Lake Assembly - Google Books

Program of the Monona Lake Assembly WSJ 07-18-1908 page 4 Link Link

Group of Campers in Woods possibly Monona Lake Assembly 1900ca, WHi-46993

Group of People on Lake, possibly Turville Bay 1900ca, WHi-46847

Lakeside Station near Monona Lake Assembly 1890ca, WHi-38644

Madison View from Across Lake Monona 1905ca, WHi-51891

The Casino, Monona Lake Assembly 1896, WHi-11225

Monona Lake Assembly 1886, WHi-87623

A Procession Led By Children 1886, WHi-87618

Monona Lake Assembly Meeting Pavilion 1886, WHi-11247

Monona Lake Assembly Meeting Pavilion 1886, WHi-87596

Tabernacle at Monona Lake Assembly 1895ca, WHi-62990   (6]

Monona Lake Assembly Auditorium 1910ca, WHi-87595

Monona Lake Assembly Auditorium 1910ca, WHi-87594

Interior of Auditorium, WHi-75613   [7]


Late 1800's - 1937ca

Dividing Ridge / Dead man's Ridge   [8]

This amazing recessional moraine was left between Lake Wingra and Lake Monona by the last retreating glacier. At 80 feet above Lake Monona, it was slightly taller than the Capitol hill. The sides and top of this long narrow ridge were dotted with Native American graves and mounds. The panoramic view from the top was probably one of the best in the entire Madison area. Surely it must have been a very special place for generations of Native Americans who had lived in the area. In 1834 when the Madison area was first surveyed, a well packed Indian road followed a route from beyond what is now the Middleton area past Spring Harbor to the Vilas Zoo area then along the Dividing Ridge through the South Madison area, then crossing the Yahara River near Bridge Road and extending past the McFarland area. There were large Native American communities in the Middleton, Vilas Zoo, and McFarland areas.

Today, the remains of the Dividing Ridge are barely noticeable in South Madison's urban terrain. From the late 1800's on this glacial sand and gravel deposit was slowly hauled away. The readily available sand and gravel was used to fill nearby marshlands, to build roads, and as a major component in the concrete and mortar used to build the growing City of Madison. Though it was still being chewed away at as late as 1937, this unique geological feature and sacred Native American site was virtually gone by then.

Conical Mound on the crest of the Dividing Ridge, WHi-39008

Linear Mound on the Dividing Ridge, WHi-38942

The Dividing Ridge - Historic Madison Inc

The Dividing Ridge - Wisconsin Archeologist, Volume 14, No. 3, Page 83

The Dividing Ridge - 1901 Topographic Map Superimposed on 2015 Google Map Image

The Dividing Ridge - 1859 Plat Sketch Superimposed on 2015 Google Map Image

The Dividing Ridge - View from Capitol Dome 1898


1896 - present

Dane County Agricultural Society / Alliant Energy Center

From 1851 to 1896 the Dane County Agricultural Society held a Dane County Fair at various locations in Madison. In 1896, the Society purchased 250 acres at the current Alliant Energy Center site as a permanent location for the agricultural fair. However, a series of tough financial years made it difficult to maintain the annual fair and in 1938 the last fair was held. The Dane County Agricultural Society faded from existence and in 1940 a new organization called the Dane County Fair Association was formed to continue the annual fair which was moved to Stoughton.

1941 - Dane County assumes ownership of the former fair site in Madison by paying off the mortgage on the land.

1951 - The Dane County Fair was moved permanently back to its former site.

1967 - The Coliseum was constructed.

1995 - The Exhibition Hall opens.

Dane County Fair - History

Dane County Fair Grounds 1930ca, WHi-34726

Alliant Energy Center - History 

1903 - ?

Madison Sanitarium   [9]

Specialized in nervous and digestive disorders, hydrotherapy.

The Wisconsin Historical Society Archives has a series of pamphlets about this specialized disease treatment facility. It was located just west of the former Wisconsin Medical Society property at 330 East Lakeside Street.

Madison Sanitarium 1907ca, WHi-39433

Madison Sanitarium, WHi-39440

Madison Sanitarium postcard, Madison, Wisconsin


1911 - 1923

Monona Park   [10]

1911 - Madison buys Monona Lake Assembly grounds for $40,000

1st city park completely purchased with city money

The former Monona Lake Assembly 5000 seat auditorium serves as a summer convention and meeting center and is also used for Sunday concerts and sermons in the warmer months.

Chautauqua Grounds on Lake Monona 1915ca, WHi-32115

Madison Sky Line 1920ca, WHi-27960

View of the Madison from Lake Monona 19--ca, WHi-51883

Monona Lake Assembly Auditorium 1910ca, WHi-87595

Monona Lake Assembly Auditorium 1910ca, WHi-87594


1923 - present

Olin Park

Monona Park name changed to Olin Park in 1923 in honor of John Olin who founded the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association and also played a key role in convincing the city to purchase the property in 1911.

The former Monona Lake Assembly 5000 seat auditorium still serves as a summer convention and meeting center and for Sunday concerts and sermons in the warmer months. From about 1924 to 1933 the building was used as an arena for numerous boxing matches. Boxing was a popular event during this time period. The auditorium could only be used during the warmer months of the year as there was no way to heat it. It was condemned for public use in about 1933 due to deteriorating structural components. The building was then used for equipment storage until it was dismantled in 1943. The wood and metal components of the structure were salvaged for reuse.

South Side Community Picnic in Olin Park - June 23, 1929

Monona Lake Assembly Auditorium 1910ca, WHi-87595

Monona Lake Assembly Auditorium 1910ca, WHi-87594

Interior of Auditorium, WHi-75613   [11]

Olin Park Tourist Camp 1925, WHi-40447

Wisconsin State Capitol from Olin Park 1930, WHi-6524

Boy Scout Camporee at Olin Park 1944, WHi-39696

Olin Park Trailer Camp 1949, WHi-56933

Murphy's Creek Entrance to Lake Monona 1949, WHi-56934

View from Lake Road in Olin Park 1949ca, WHi-51900

Boxing at Olin Auditorium WSJ 09-17-1930 page 19

Boxing at Olin Auditorium WSJ 09-21-1931 page 13

Famous Structure may be Razed Soon CT 08-30-1931 page 1

Bids to Demolish Olin Hall Sought WSJ 10-12-1943 page 3


1870's - present

Esther Beach

"Esther Beach is located along the southeastern shore of Turville Bay in Lake Monona. During the 1870's, Charles Askew and his brother ran a passenger boat business on Lake Monona. They built a dance hall and picnic grounds at Esther Beach in 1901. The park was named after Charles' daughter who died in 1883. The dance hall, called Hollywood-at-the-Beach, continued through 1952."

Quoted from hyperlink below)

Esther Beach and Hollywood on the Beach

View of Madison From Turville's Woods 1896ca, WHi-51892   [12]

Hollywood in Madison - Historic Madison Inc


1966 - 1969

Monona Basin Project

This William Wesley Peters design included the following Olin-Turville Park components:

1000 seat theater

300 seat recital hall

67,000 square foot art center

Outdoor amphitheater

Restaurant on the shore of Turville Bay

Boat marina in Turville Bay

The Monona Basin Project fails to achieve enough political support and the project dies in 1969. However, in advance preparation for this proposed development, the City of Madison acquires the Turville farm property under the threat of condemnation through the eminent domain process. After months of negotiations with the city, Henry Qualtrough Turville Sr. finally accepts $895,000 for the property on September 1, 1967. The city had already referred the property to the Dane County Condemnation Commission as a final resort to obtain ownership of the property. Henry firmly believed he was forced into the sale with the threat of condemnation looming over him. Henry was the fourth generation descendant of Henry and Mary Turvill who moved to the US from England in 1852 and purchased the property to start a new life. The Turvill family had lived on the farm for 114 years.

All the buildings on the property were torn down shortly after the sale.  The former Turville property was mostly neglected by the city for years. This was in part due to a signed agreement between the City of Madison and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation that restricted any development on the Turville property for 20 years.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace ... - Google Books

Turville Property Negotiations CT 03-23-1966 page 15

Turville Point's Purchase Sought WSJ 03-23-1966 page 17

City Council OK's Condemnation of Turville Property WSJ 01-04-1967 page 21

Turville Land Purchase Completed CT 09-01-1967 page 23

Former Turville Point Resident Dies -


1954 to 2019

Wisconsin Medical Society property at 330 East Lakeside Street

East wing of building was constructed in 1954.

West Wing was dedicated on Nov. 17, 1962.

Note: The above data from Famous Footwear Corporate Headquarters Relocation Informational Materials 1994



In 1979, Mayor Joel Scornicka proposed that the new campus for Madison Area Technical College be built in Turville Park. To provide enough room for future expansion, college officials said that they would also like to include Olin Park as part of the proposed new campus. The proposal quickly dies due to lack of political and public support. Some say that the proposal was a political maneuver aimed at getting past a political stalemate over where to site the new MATC campus. The proposal did succeed, however, in raising enough public outcry at the possible destruction of this unique natural area that wheels were set in motion to create a master plan for the Olin Park and Turville Park areas that limits development at the two parks and designates Turville Park as a conservation park.

Mayor - Put MATC at Turville - CT 08-16-1979 page 1

Area residents Oppose Turville MATC - WSJ 08-24-1979 page 1

Neighbors oppose Turville MATC plan - CT 08-24-1979 page 23

MATC Turville Site Dropped - WSJ 08-29-1979 page 1


1988 - 1993

City of Madison proposes to build city's first swimming pool complex at Turville Park. This pool proposal was not popular among area nature lovers. After a prolonged political struggle the pool proposal was defeated by the popular vote of Madison residents that created a charter ordinance that would require a referendum vote whenever a major development is proposed for public property adjoining a lakeshore. Madison eventually built its first city pool across John Nolen Drive from Turville Park In what is now Goodman Park in 2006 after it was approved by popular vote due to this very charter ordinance.


1994 - 1996

Famous Footwear Corporate Headquarters proposes relocation to Lake Monona shoreline on a portion of the Wisconsin Medical Society property.

Effort fails to attain enough political and community support and fails.

City of Madison purchases the property in 1996 from the Wisconsin Medical Society for $3,528,000 to preserve the property as public lakeshore.



On June 2, 1998, Turville Park was designated a conservation park by the city and was officially named Turville Point Conservation Park.


1995 - present

Turville Point Conservation Park Restoration Efforts

Since about 1995 the Madison Parks Department has been conducting spring controlled burns in Turville Conservation park. These fires help to control invasive species in the park. Buckthorn and honeysuckle are very susceptible to fire and will be killed down to the ground by a hot fire. Oak trees are resistant to fire and will normally survive. Volunteers often go through the park before the burn to clear any major debris away from the oak trees to insure they are not damaged by prolonged fire due to debris accumulated near the trunk. In some years volunteers also hand cut buckthorn and honeysuckle that survived the fire in areas that did not burn hot enough. Much of the Olin Park and Turville Conservation Park land area was formerly an open oak savanna during the period that Native Americans were living here. Fire was often used Native Americans to help maintain the open grown oak savanna habitat. 

In the winter of 2009 the Madison Parks Department received a $10,000 grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service Private Lands Division This grant was used to fund intensive removal of buckthorn, honeysuckle and undesirable trees in 2010 and 2011. The brush and undesirable trees were mechanically removed in many areas of the park and the stumps were treated to prevent resprouting or mechanically grubbed out. While some areas of the park now look like they have  been logged out and are much more open than before, this will allow sunlight through to the ground surface which helps acorns to sprout and young oak trees to get established. The increased light in the woods will also help native perennial woodland plants to get established. Some areas will be open enough to allow a gradual transition of that area to more of an open grown oak savanna where grasses grow beneath and between the oak trees. Many native woodland and prairie plant seeds have been spread in areas throughout the park and some are beginning to get established. 

The former tilled acreage in Turville Point Conservation Park has evolved into a restored prairie. Many types of tall prairie grasses and other prairie plants have become established in this area. The prairie area is burned each spring when weather conditions permit. The prairie plants have now become numerous enough that seeds are now collected by volunteers to sow in other areas of the park where openings in the woods have been created from the removal of undesirable tree species and invasive shrubs. 


Note: Historical data for this document was obtained from the internet and from the following sources:

         "Reuben Gold Thwaites Papers, 1843 - 1960" located in the Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

         "Madison  A History of the Formative Years" by David V. Mollenhoff

         "Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1" by Stuart D. Levitan 


Footnote Page References in above timeline:

MAHOTFY = "Madison  A History of the Formative Years" by David V. Mollenhoff

MTISHV1 = "Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1" by Stuart D. Levitan 


This historical timeline was written by Ron Shutvet, Madison WI 

[1] From: "Madison The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1" by Stuart D. Levitan

[2] Note: The background of this image shows the center portion of the State Office Building on Wilson Street under construction. Since this portion of the building was completed in 1938, it is believed that the original photograph was taken in early 1937.

[3] MAHOTFY - page 126: MTISHV1 - page 30

[4] MAHOTFY - page 126,131,136; MTISHV1 - page 81

[5] MAHOTFY - page 174; MTISHV1 - page 105

[6] The structure partially seen on left side of hyperlinked image is the meeting pavilion built in 1882.

[7] This image of an identical auditorium in Monteagle, Tennessee shows how the interior of the Monona Lake Assembly auditorium may have looked.

[8] MAHOTFY - page 396: MTISHV1 - page 155

[9] MAHOTFY page 405

[10] MAHOTFY - page 175: MTISHV1 - page 105

[11] Though this hyperlink takes you to an image of the interior of an auditorium that was located in Monteagle, Tennessee, this auditorium was almost identical in design as the one in Olin Park and gives you an idea of how the interior of the Olin Park structure may have looked.

[12] The relative distance of the buildings in this picture and their relationship on the skyline relative to each other suggests this photograph was probably taken in the vicinity of Esther Beach.