Capitol Square has long been the heart of the city

© Photographed October 3, 2015
Erected 2006 by Madison Community Foundation,
American Family Insurance and M&J Bank
Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin
43° 4.529′ N, 89° 22.968′ W

 Capitol Square
has long been the
heart of the city
Even before Madison was founded, people met to exchange money and merchandise not far from this spot. Five hundred Ho-Chunk camped near the square in 1832 to swap furs for trader Oliver Armel’s goods.

People began building businesses on Capitol Square in 1837. The first settlers lived on King Street, and downtown centered on the intersection of King, Main and Pinckney streets. The earliest hotels appeared on Pinckney Street, to host visiting legislators and government officials, and James Richardson opened Madison’s first bank on the corner of Pinckney Street and East Washington Avenue.

Madison’s first trains arrived in 1854, and growth on the square continued as businesses sought to attract rail-riding customers from nearby depots. The square’s status as Madison’s first business hub helped make it the city’s favorite place for political speeches, parades, holiday events, protests, outdoor markets and victory celebrations.
The marker is located on eastbound East Washington Avenue, at its intersection with South Pinckney Street, at or near 136 East Washington Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53703.


Standing here and looking down Pinckney Street toward Lake Monona in 1885, you would have observed a vital thoroughfare, part of Madison’s original downtown. At that time, the square as a whole boasted 124 stores. Capitol Square remained Madison’s liveliest shopping district until well into the 20th century. At that time, the green space around the capitol was also the city’s largest park. No wonder the square was Madison’s undisputed center—and remains a popular staging ground for public events.
 South Pinckney Street, ca. 1885

 South Pickney Street, 1944

Looking east along East Washington Avenue.
The marker is located in Madison, Wisconsin.

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