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Madison’s Alternate Parade Of Homes Most Remarkable Event

October 4, 2009

When I was a teenager I recall going with my family during the regular ‘Parade Of Homes’ in central Wisconsin and wondering often what was so special about the various rooms and layouts presented.  Yes they were new homes and….and….   Well after the fact they were new there was not much to differentiate them from each other.  Perhaps it was for that reason that at least 25 years ago I stopped looking at homes in this way.  I never thought anyone could ever get me to go on another showing of homes.

But then I stumbled onto Historic Madison Inc’s  “Alternate Parade of Homes” that featured this year the Third Lake Ridge Historic District in Madison.  Every two years another section of Madison is highlighted with a walk.  It is easy to see why I was  interested this year once one considers that the first house in Madison, “Peck Cabin”, was built in 1837, and one of the homes on the tour was built only twenty years later in 1857, just three years before Abe Lincoln was sworn into office.  Stepping back in time in such authentic settings is right up my alley.    In addition, I have walked by these homes often wondering what they might look like on the inside.   At times at night lights would illiminate enough of these wonderful interiors to make me yearn to be invited to tea.  So when I discovered that some of these homes were on the ‘parade’ it led me to buy tickets for James and myself.

We hooked up with a good and long-time friend and started our journey.  When it was over I commented that it was one of the best Sunday afternoons I have had in Madison.  

One of the first things that made me smile and comment was that several of the homes requested shoes be removed before entering.  Right after my own heart!  On wood floors that have been resurfaced the last thing one needs are small pebbles grinding in.  Given the volume of folks who turned out ( over 1,200 tickets were sold in the last such event in 2007) it is no wonder that homeowners desire to keep things clean.


One of the gems, among many, on the tour was ‘the Curtis house’.  I had worked (and blogged) over perserving the historic carriage stoop in front of this home near the street during the recent road re-construction project.  As I wandered through the rooms I  marveled at a landmark  that was built for $20,000 in 1901, and continues to stand as a statement about craftsmanship and architectural  punch.  When someone comments ‘they do not build them like this anymore’ this is what they are referring to.

In addition to Old Victorians, and Arts & Crafts style homes, there was also  a stage coach hotel built in 1854 converted to a residence.  Standing out for me was one home on Jennifer Street with 9 lovely gardens terraced down to Lake Monona.  Thump…thumpthump..thumpthump went my heart.  We asked the lady who owned the place about trading some plants and hoping to get the chance to admire her gardens when the summer sun is at its height next year.  As with everyone we met today there was plenty of goodwill all around.  Just another sign that the neighborhood is indeed neighborly.

The Sunday afternoon tour was self-guided and limited to three hours.  With ten homes to see, along with friends and neighbors along the way to talk with, it really did not leave lots of time to poke along.  The only suggestion I would have for those undertaking the next ‘parade’ in two years would to be to have a person placed in the homes that might have a better historical perspective about the homes, prior owners, etc. so to place the home in context.  General and brief information is nice, but a bit more beef on the bone would have only added to the experience.  The one exception to this was Dick Wagner who was readily available to expound on the questions that visitors had about his home.  It might be nice to have each of the owners at home to share knowledge about the place they would know so much about.

I was delighted to see these homes, and highly recommend that anyone interested in such events keep Historic Madison Inc in mind.

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