The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

Economic Development

Boom Town, Part Two

Madison 1867

Madison 1867

In my last blog, I wrote about big changes happening in Madison over 150 years ago during the “Village Decade”. Among other things, I observed the similarities between those boomtown years and the growth and change we’ve seen in Madison during the past few years. While there are many glorious moments when a city prospers, there are also inevitable growing pains. In part two of this topic, I’ll share some interesting facts and challenges that were part of city life in the 1850s.

To call Madison a village at the beginning of this period of prosperity was likely accurate according to standards at the time. But Madisonians aspired for something more – to be designated as a “city”. Becoming a city meant you were in the league with already great American places like New York and Washington. With a thriving newspaper, a luxury hotel, fancy carriages, cabs, and gas streetlights, Madison certainly had acquired the “things” that made a city in the nineteenth century.

Capital House Hotel

Capital House Hotel

Besides the cache of calling itself the “City of Madison”, there were also practical, if not political, reasons for Madison to become a city. The village of Madison enacted a charter in 1846 but it soon found serious limitations on the ceiling for property tax rates. Even with other revenue sources like liquor licenses, fines, and special assessments, Madison lacked enough money to pay for fire engines, schoolhouses, a new cemetery, roads, and sidewalks. The charter also had jurisdictional issues with the town of Madison as well as unequal representation on the county board. To overcome these challenges, village leaders requested a city charter, eventually granted in 1856, for approval by the legislature. On March 7, 1856, the bill was signed into law and Madison officially became a full-fledged city.

As is true today, running a city also includes its fair share of problems, most of them caused by not enough money. One of the most talked about issues during the village decade was public schools. With Madison’s dramatic growth came too many schoolchildren and not enough schoolhouses and teachers. A twenty-by-forty-foot brick schoolhouse built in 1846 was still the only schoolhouse ten years later. Only a quarter of the school-aged children could squeeze into the little brick schoolhouse, so other students attended school in churches, a part of a carriage factory, and other various places around town. Besides the lack of space, teachers were also in short supply with a teacher-student ratio estimated at 1:125. Sadly, despite efforts to fund schools, very little progress was made during the village decade despite the prosperity that built fine churches, a Court House, and a costly jail.

Other problems during the village decade were streets and sidewalks. Dirt streets were either a rutted, muddy mess during rainy weather or very dusty in dry weather, making it unpleasant to breathe. Residents also used streets for free storage, so there was often an unsightly assortment of boxes, barrels, piles of wood, hay, ashes, and rubbish. Sidewalks at the time were the responsibility of the property owner to build. Very few did so, leading village trustees in 1855 to take responsibility for sidewalk construction.

Public sanitation and disease were a major issue during this period as in other US cities as well. Simply put, people just didn’t take sanitation seriously. Garbage and slops were often dumped in the streets, dead animals were many times allowed to decay wherever they dropped, and offal from the slaughterhouse was sometimes thrown in the lakes. Whether it smelled or looked bad, the only issue that caused the citizens to take action was disease. There were frequent cholera epidemics in the late 1840s and early 1850s, which led to quarantines, purifying streets and yards, and draining polluted standing water. Attempts were made to bring in piped water, which finally became a reality 30 years later.

There were also some more light-hearted challenges as Madison became a city. For one, the village cemetery, located at today’s Orton Park off Williamson Street, was too crowded and overrun with cows. Soon after the city charter was enacted, the common council established a new cemetery at Forest Hill, still there today near West High School.

forest_hill_office_DSC15662One other challenge I found entertaining was described by David Mollenhoff in one word: ruffianism. As Mollenhoff writes, “Madison’s remote location and rapid growth combine to attract a very rough class of people whose drinking, gambling, fighting, brawling, and swearing were notorious.” Newspaper editorials, settlers, and visitors described Madison as a place with “haunts of vice” and where “the best men in the state are sots”. A saloon census in 1853 discovered there was one saloon for every 90 residents. The rowdy behavior and drunkenness tempered somewhat as city leaders made various attempts to dry out Madison and fine anyone who sold liquor.

I hope you enjoyed this venture into a small part of Madison’s history and found it as intriguing as me when you look at our present-day city life. Compared to other places around the globe, Madison has a very short history, but as the introduction to Mr. Mollenhoff’s book states, “we are just beginning to understand the power of local history to enhance our understanding of ourselves, our cities, and our culture. It is, after all, this stratum of history that touches most of our lives most of the time.”  I am grateful that we have this history recorded from over 150 years ago and that Madisonians have worked tirelessly to preserve important buildings and parks as well as public policy and city resources. In the year 2166, 150 years from today, I hope we will look back at present day with the same appreciation for all the triumphs and challenges it takes to make a great city.


Boom Town

“No period in Madison’s history produced so much change so quickly.” “A heady, almost uncontrollable prosperity reigned. The number and scope of new developments were dizzying.” “If Madison did not possess the full style and dignity of a city, people thought it was rapidly moving in that direction.”

Whether you’re a resident or occasional visitor to Madison, these quotes might make you think about the last few years in Madison. Our downtown Capitol Square is full of exciting new restaurants and shops. Johnson Street just west of State Street features new high-rise apartments and hotels squeezed into city blocks where little one and two story residences and businesses once stood. Similarly, East Washington is also booming with high-rise apartments and restaurants, displacing abandoned buildings and car lots. Breese Stephens Field is alive again, and University Avenue is full of beautifully designed new buildings supporting all that’s happening at UW-Madison.

Oddly enough, though, these quotes come from the introduction to chapter two of David Mollenhoff’s book Madison: A History of the Formative Years. The chapter is titled “The Village Decade: 1846 to 1856”.  I thoroughly enjoy reading about the village decade because so much happened and it was around the same period when our home was built. But the chapter also fascinates me because I see so many parallels between those ten years and current events, not just in Madison, but in many growing U.S. cities.


Leonard J. Farwell credit: Wisconsin Historical Society, Image ID-2650

Leonard J. Farwell
credit: Wisconsin Historical Society, Image ID-2650

Mr. Mollenhoff begins the chapter describing the Farwell Boom when Leonard James Farwell came to Madison from Milwaukee in 1847 and was a champion for the growth of the area. Like others, he realized the potential of Madison’s location at the center of a large fertile area with no competing towns for miles around as well as its beautiful setting and its designation as the territorial capital. A year later, in 1848, Madison’s future became even brighter with three significant events: Wisconsin became a state, Madison was made its permanent capital, and Madison was made the home to the University of Wisconsin.

Farwell’s vision and leadership touched our city and state in many ways. In 1852, he became Wisconsin’s youngest governor at the age of thirty-three for a two-year term, and his accomplishments during this time were amazing. Among them, he abolished the death penalty, created the state banking system, built Mendota Mental Health Institute, and created the State Commission of Immigration to actively encourage migrating Europeans to settle in Wisconsin, an idea subsequently copied by other states.

View of downtown and the Capitol from Washington Avenue, 1865

View of downtown and the Capitol from Washington Avenue, 1865

Even as governor, Farwell didn’t abandon his dedication to Madison. During the 1852 and 1853 construction seasons, Farwell set a crew to grade East Washington Avenue from Blount Street to the Yahara River (a little over one mile). On top of the grading, the crew built a double plank road, Madison’s first form of paving, and to finish off this grand project, 6,000 maple and cottonwood trees were planted along the sides of the avenue. While governor, he also led investment groups that put up the Capital House, one of the fanciest hotels in the state, and the prestigious commercial building called Bruen’s Block, which included the Wisconsin State Journal among its tenants. At the corner of East Washington and Pinckney Street, Bruen’s Block stood where now is the well-known glass building housing US Bank as well as the popular restaurants L’Etoile and Graze.

If Farwell’s many accomplishments weren’t enough, the village decade also brought another momentous change: the arrival of the first railroad in 1854. As Mollenhoff states, “to have a railroad pass through town was regarded as a prerequisite for urban success.” Canals were limited and roads were unreliable, but a railroad brought goods and people, regardless of weather, catapulting any community into major growth and progress.

To celebrate this historic occasion, Madison does what it does best – it threw a party. Everyone in town was invited and 2,000 people flocked to the depot on May 24, 1854 to see a steam engine – a marvel of modern technology – cross Lake Monona into the village. Following the ceremony to welcome the train, the crowd returned to Main Street where they celebrated with barbequed steers, chickens, and ducks. It was undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable days in Madison’s history.

Following the arrival of the first train, life in Madison changed almost immediately. Just days after the railroad opened, up to thirty-car trains carried Madison wheat to Milwaukee. Travel through town doubled that summer and housing starts dramatically increased. The population exploded from 600 people in 1846 to 9,000 just ten years later – an increase of 1500%! The population growth pushed development into Mansion Hill, Fourth Lake Ridge (our current Tenney-Lapham neighborhood), Third Lake Ridge (today’s Williamson Street area), around the railroad depot (now the Bassett neighborhood), and along State Street.

Undoubtedly, the Great Farwell Boom and the village decade of 1846-56 laid the foundation for what Madison has become today, its impact still notable in many ways throughout the city. It makes me appreciate what I see around me when driving and walking through our downtown area.

As many of us know, though, growth comes with its share of problems and sometimes quirks unique to a city. In my next blog, I’ll share some of these as well as Madison’s notable rise to officially becoming a city.

Pinckney Street, ca. 1859.

Pinckney Street, ca. 1859. Bruen’s Block is the large building on the right.

The Farm-to-Table Economy

In our last blog, we celebrated the many successful farmers’ markets around Madison and their foundation to the growth of organic and sustainable farming. Now that farmers’ markets are the norm for the daily and weekly needs of a household, we are starting to see other industries develop and succeed as part of the farm-to-table movement. In Madison, restaurants have really hit their stride in this area, and recently at The Livingston Inn, we have also found a new grocery delivery service that is doing an incredible job at bringing local products to our doorstep.

There are many fantastic restaurants in Madison that support local, organic producers and farmers. Many of them shop directly at the farmers’ markets mentioned in last week’s post, reducing trucks bringing in product and keeping “food miles” to a minimum. It would require a very long list to describe all of them, so we’ll feature just a few that are near our B&B and frequent spots for our guests.

Heritage Tavern3Heritage Tavern. Opened in 2013 by Chef Dan Fox, Heritage Tavern has quickly become a favorite spot among locals and visitors. The essence of this restaurant starts with Dan’s involvement in raising heritage pigs at his Fox Heritage Farms, becoming part of a growing movement away from factory pig farms. With his colleagues, he also orchestrates the annual Slo-Pig festival, an event that celebrates a better and closer relationship to the food we eat. Dan’s commitment to heritage pigs has led to many local restaurants purchasing pork from him such as Hamilton’s on the Square and The Madison Club. But his restaurant is more than just about the meat. Many of his dishes also feature the local produce at our farmers’ markets. Recently, Peggy and I went there for dinner and ate incredibly tasty beets and tomatoes, fresh and full of flavor since they came from Dane County and not halfway around the world. We have never had a guest disappointed with Heritage Tavern and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent farm-to-table dining experience.

ForequarterForequarter. Amid the growing little business community around The Livingston Inn, Forequarter opened in 2012. Only one block away at 708 ¼ Johnson Street, the restaurant has also been a guest favorite for the phenomenal food, with the enjoyable walk to get there as an added bonus. Like Heritage Tavern, Forequarter’s roots are in its commitment to local produce and meats. The restaurant is one piece of the Underground Food Collective where the organization processes its own meats, sells its product in a butcher shop, and operates a catering service. A recent Madison Magazine article noted the Underground Food Collective business model has returned $1.5 million to local producers each year. The creativity of the menu at Forequarter and the intimate setting create a very special dining experience, and we are very happy to have them in the neighborhood.

Madison ClubThe Madison Club. Farm-to-table and support of organic products isn’t just for the new and up-and-coming in our city. The Madison Club, an inviting private club on Lake Monona, has been in existence since 1909, and Chef Andrew Wilson has beautifully incorporated local organic produce into the menu over the past couple of years. Besides purchasing from Fox Heritage Farms, The Madison Club regularly shops at the downtown farmers’ market just steps from its front door, creating fresh menu items incorporating the bounty of the seasons. The Madison Club also dedicates a page on their website to their Food Philosophy – fresh, local, incredible – and provides a list of all the local farms from which they purchase ingredients and products. We are always very impressed by how The Madison Club respectfully embraces giving back to the community, and its support of organic farming does so wonderfully while also creating an outstanding dining experience.

Square HarvestBeyond our excellent farm-to-table dining scene, we’d also like to mention a new business that has grown out of the local food movement. A few months ago, one of our fellow innkeepers mentioned a company she had been working with called Square Harvest. Square Harvest is a grocery delivery service with a focus on bringing local products to your house. We gave it a try, and with our first order, it has been an instant hit for us. While we have been able to purchase organic items such as dairy and eggs from the supermarket, we now have the ability, through Square Harvest, to get them delivered from local producers, reducing the food miles for our business and household. We’ve enjoyed quality and affordable products such as eggs, milk, half and half, cheese, vegetables, and fruit – all critical menu items for a B&B. We’ve also bought bread, tortillas, meat, pasta, and veggies burgers for our family’s lunches and dinners. It’s easy to order online with Square Harvest and their deliveries are always timely (even getting through Saturday Badger games around here). And every week it seems they have new items added to their selection. We are thrilled to include them as part of our operations at The Livingston Inn and hope they enjoy many successful years supporting our local farmers and businesses.

We hope you enjoyed our recognition of all that is organic and sustainable in Madison over the past thirty years. It is quite an accomplishment when you see how far we’ve come. It seems just a few years ago that organic food was something found in the far corner of the grocery store, but we are happy to see it has taken center stage among the many markets and restaurants in the community.


Farm-to-Table Abundance

farmersmarket2As we head toward next month where we celebrate harvest and are thankful for all that we have in our lives, we want to step back and recognize how far our communities have come with organic and sustainable farming. Without a doubt, the farm-to-table movement has grown tremendously nationwide, but we’re particularly proud of Madison’s accomplishments over the past decades.

To start, we must commend our iconic Dane County Farmers’ Market. Started in 1972, DCFM or “the Market” has undertaken ongoing positive steps to support local and organic farmers and producers, and today the Market is stronger than ever. Its flagship market day, Saturdays on the Capitol Square, continues to attract throngs of community members and visitors. It’s always the top attraction among our guests at The Livingston Inn, something they hear about whether coming from a neighboring state or halfway around the world. After an impressive forty years, you’ll find anything at the Market from the regulars at 6am zipping quickly to their normal vendors for items like honey and fresh produce to the leisurely mid-morning strollers sampling cheese bread while people watching on the counter-clockwise circuit.

561598817e394.imageThe phenomenon of the Market has led to its expansion as well as the growth of other farmers’ markets. DCFM successfully added a Wednesday market from 8:30am to 2:00pm a few years ago, attracting downtown workers on their lunch hours. Realizing a farmer’s market is more than fresh produce, the Market has also expanded into indoor winter markets at the Monona Terrace and the Madison Senior Center. Those markets can still feature the sought-after cheeses, breads, and tasty treats but then offer preserves and jarred products that extend the life of seasonal market products.

Beyond the Market, farmers and other vendors have enjoyed the opening of other markets stretching to all points of the compass across the isthmus and beyond. This list alone on the City of Madison’s website points to the incredible growth: In addition, many of Madison’s local restaurants now purchase their ingredients and menu items from the many markets throughout town.

To add to our bounty of markets, we learned more exciting news this fall about our enthusiastic support of local farming. Starting up just a few weeks ago, Madison’s downtown will now also offer a Sunday Farmers’ Market. This market is open from 6am to 2pm on Pinckney and Mifflin Streets. The focus of the market is to provide healthy food to consumers from all income levels and to educate about food sources, nutrition, and preparation.

556e2116b1d6a.imageWhat’s wonderful and amazing about these markets is almost all of them are busy. The Hilldale market, on the west side, always draws a big crowd and continues to grow as well. Beyond that, no matter if it’s the Northside markets or those in Madison Southside neighborhoods, the stalls have a regular stream of patrons looking for fresh, local produce and other products for their weekly menu planning. In fact, some of those markets operate in food deserts – generally lower-income neighborhoods without a nearby grocery store – thereby offering a healthy and community-based source of food for the local residents. (Also notable is that DCFM accepts federal food assistance dollars and is the largest market in Wisconsin accepting them.)

The growth of farmers’ markets and their support of organic and sustainable farming has resulted in some positive “secondary” markets. In our next blog, we’ll feature the restaurants and a food delivery service that have helped local businesses succeed in their commitment to the farm-to-table movement.


Turn On Johnson: Artisans Abound

Believe it or not, the Johnson Street re-construction in our neighborhood is nearly complete. The anticipated end date is mid-November. For those of us living in the area, it will be very welcome and somewhat hard to believe. We are excited about how the project will restore and improve one of our most important neighborhood streets.

I’ve written previously about the Turn on Johnson campaign – a community effort dedicated to the businesses affected by this major construction project. As we near the end of this undertaking, I’d like to write one more post about our neighborhood businesses.

A theme occurred to me a few weeks ago about some of our local businesses. They particularly excel at a certain skill. Call them craftspeople, masters of their trade, artisans. Our family has been fortunate to benefit from these individuals opening a shop in our neighborhood, and I’d like to feature some of them.

Wilke Chiropractic and Wellness, at 824 East Johnson, opened its door around the time construction on the street began. My wife and I met owner Steve Wilke soon after at a Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association function. When you meet Steve, he has the type of personality you’d like to see in a chiropractor – a calm and pleasant demeanor yet knowledgeable in his practice. About a month after I met Steve, I developed pain in my shoulder and neck that made it difficult to do many things. I called Steve and set up an appointment. Steve’s chiropractic method has no “popping” or “cracking” and instead focuses on neural pathways. It’s a very light touch method, and I was greatly impressed how it cured me of my issues. I highly recommend Steve to anyone, whether local or visiting, seeking chiropractic services.

Studio924Some other artisans in our neighborhood also serve mention based on our personal experience. Our local hair salon, Studio 924, has a friendly and talented team of stylists practicing their craft at 925 East Johnson. Our daughter recently made the big decision to cut her long hair to a shoulder-length style. As a 16-year old, she agonized over the decision, of course, but we made an appointment at Studio 924, re-assuring her they would do a great job. When she came back home, she walked in the door so excited and happy. The haircut was beautifully done, and we have one happy teenager as a result.

JohnsonPublicHouseIf there can be a beautifully done cup of coffee, the “artisans” at Johnson Public House do so on a daily basis. Certainly, baristas should be thought of as individuals skilled in a craft or trade, but the workers at Johnson Public House take it to another level. Each cup of coffee or espresso drink at JPH is brewed to order. The aromas and flavor are amazing, and we highly recommend stopping in whenever you are seeking a local coffee shop in our area (Cargo Coffee is an equally top notch place. See my 2/9/14 post.)

OldTownCyclesI’ll end with two more amazing local shops. Old Town Cycles at 920 East Johnson, provides outstanding bike service and repair. With the many people who commute and run errands by bicycle in Madison, bike shops are a very welcome service, and Old Town Cycles does so with a low-key and honest style. And if you want to see craftsmanship at its finest, you must stop in Spruce Tree Music at 851 East Johnson. The shop might not look like much from the outside, but from the second you step inside, you enter a hum of knowledgeable workers interacting with customers from all over Madison regarding the sales and service of all types of stringed instruments. It’s worth a stop just to peruse the beautifully crafted harps, mandolins, guitars, dulcimers, and much more.SpruceTreeMusic

It has been a pleasure for me to learn and write about our local businesses during the Turn on Johnson campaign. It has given me an even better appreciation of the unique character of the neighborhood around The Livingston Inn. Both now and when the Johnson Street construction ends, please visit these impressive artisans as well as the shops, restaurants, and other services in our area. I guarantee you will you find something special about the experience and re-discover what a small local business community is all about.

Turn On Johnson

east-johnson-street-2We promised to follow up our winter blog post on new developments along the East Washington corridor with an article on neighborhood businesses a couple blocks closer to home on East Johnson Street.

For years, East Johnson has been one of those smaller business districts, just a few blocks long, that may go unnoticed among all the great Madison neighborhoods. But since we moved to our home and opened The Livingston Inn over three years ago we have discovered the East Johnson business district is quite a gem. There are just enough of the right things to make it convenient yet quirky without a feeling of being “too hip”. Neighbors and visitors can find locally unique places for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and coffee as well as a tavern with some of the friendliest bartenders in town. Shopping can range from clothing or a special gift to a great selection of beer and wine or groceries to stock your shelves. To top it off, East Johnson offers services like yoga, hairstyling, bike and instrument repair, and dog training.

If you’ve been down East Johnson Street lately, you’ll see what is often an unpleasant site during the summer: an extensive construction zone. East Johnson was scheduled for street and infrastructure repair this summer, and it is well underway. But thankfully the City of Madison and our Tenney Lapham Neighborhood Association have teamed up to make sure the construction doesn’t unfairly hurt the local businesses.

photo-1The promotion, called Turn on Johnson, features a website, Facebook page, and yard signs. Both the website and Facebook page have helpful construction updates and great photos and suggestions about patronizing local businesses. The concept is to tell residents and visitors that the few minutes extra effort to navigate the construction or find parking are worthwhile to support a truly great community. We hope you will do so now and in the coming weeks this summer and fall.

east-johnson-streetIn the meantime, here is a list to help you plan your visit to the best little business district in Madison:

Pinkus McBride
Caribou Tavern
Fontaine Interior Designs
Good Style Shop
Jewel In The Lotus
Dog Haus University
Wilke Chiropractic
The Spot
Sophia’s Bakery
Spruce Tree Music Repair
Cork ‘N Bottle
U-Frame It
Madison Food Mart
Burnies Rock Shop
Johnson Public House
Madtown Pizza
Old Town Cycles
Studio 924
Newport Wooden Furnishings
Affiliated Laundries


900 block of East Johnson now occupied by bike shop and hair salon



It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I believe I’ve always been a person open to change.  There’s a certain excitement to change and its combination of unpredictability and desire for improvement.

We’ve seen several changes in our Tenney-Lapham neighborhood over the past year, namely several new businesses that will be a very nice enhancement to what we already offer.


The Constellation building on East Washington Avenue

In August, a long-planned apartment complex called The Constellation opened on the East Washington corridor. The building is part of several planned for the area that seek to replace some abandoned and vacant lots and buildings.  The Constellation is a beautiful building and is quite dramatic together with the Capitol as you head up East Washington to the square.

The Constellation features a decent amount of retail space and we are very excited to note some of the following tenants who have opened or will soon do so:


Star Bar in the Constellation building

The Star Bar – a cocktail and craft beer bar that seats about 50 people with another 40

people on the patio during warmer weather.  The bar aims to be casual and welcoming, the opposite of pretentious, featuring a soft look using barn wood, maple and other types of wood.

The James Beard award-winning chef, Tory Miller, will be opening a yet unnamed casual Asian restaurant also in the Constellation building.  Chef Miller has earned a deservedly excellent reputation for his restaurants L’Etoile and Graze on the Capitol Square with his commitment to farm-to-table menus.  Planned for a June opening, the new restaurant will serve lunch and dinner as well as a late-night noodle bar.

Cargo Coffee – Local coffee shop owner, Lindsey Lee, has recently opened his third location in the Constellation building.  The location features coffee, bakery items, sandwiches as well as beer and wine and is open until 10pm Monday to Saturday and until 9pm on Sunday.

Potential plans for 800 East Washington

Potential plans for 800 East Washington

On the 800 block next to the Constellation, the next phase of re-development on East Washington is about to begin.  Recently, the neighborhood learned Festival Foods will open a grocery store on this site, which hopes to break ground this spring.  The location will be Festival Foods’ 19th store in Wisconsin and its first in an urban-style setting.  Many residents sought a grocery store as part of the East Washington re-development and are looking forward to the convenience of a place to shop for food in the neighborhood. Festival Foods will be part of the 800-block building that will also feature other stores, restaurants, and a mix of housing.

Our entire family has been very happy to hear these announcements over the past couple of months about new places within walking distance of The Livingston Inn.  In our opinion, the change will be very welcome.

But the re-development of East Washington Avenue is not the only exciting development in our neighborhood.  The closer, and more intimate, East Johnson business district has also seen some new arrivals alongside already excellent, long-established proprietors.  In my next blog, I’ll feature what I think is among the best little three-block stretch of businesses in the Madison area.

The Livingston Inn resides in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood in Madison.

The Livingston Inn resides in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood in Madison.

Photos from,, and

Thank You, Madison!

Before too much time passes, my wife and I want to take a moment to thank all of the people at the City of Madison for helping us to open The Livingston Inn.  Contrary to the government employee stereotype, everyone we encountered at the city was engaging, knowledgeable, and patient.  All this during a period when municipal staff are squeezed by budget cuts and overshadowed by an interesting year of statewide politics.

Some examples of our positive encounters with Madison staff:

  • The woman from Zoning who was very patient in walking us through the approval process, despite piles of applications around her and a new computer system.
  • The assistant from Economic Development who was very cheerful even on a day when I visited her third floor office in an old municipal building with no A/C on a hot, humid day.
  • The fire inspection chief who was so complimentary of our house and who shared thoughts about owning a bed and breakfast.  He also indulged the awe of my son who marvelled at his height and asked how tall he was (6′ 10″!).
  • The friendly guy in the Clerk’s office who hadn’t issued a B&B license in awhile but figured it out quickly and wished us well.
  • The police officer we met as we moved in and made our family feel at home in our new neighborhood.
  • All of the folks at the Landmarks Commission who made us feel we were doing something good for the community.
  • And the many other people in Inspection, Public Health, Engineering, Treasurer’s office, Streets & Recycling, and other departments who were helpful and friendly with each phone call and visit.

I’ll end this post with a special acknowledgment to Percy Brown and his staff and committee at Economic Development.  Percy was simply a delight to get to know.  A conversation didn’t go by when he didn’t make us smile or laugh.  Together with his committee, who visited the house, Percy built a relationship with us that made us feel very welcome as a new business in Madison.

In the end, I guess you can say we’ve walked city hall in Madison and we liked what we saw.