One Of Madison’s Historic Carriage Stoops Destroyed


I am not sure if I should be sad, angry, or disheartened. It was only three years ago this summer that I made a strong effort, along with a couple of others in the community to make sure the historic carriage stoops on Spaight Street were not destroyed during the street reconstruction project.  It remains an effort I am most proud of in being able to make a difference.

Now I have discovered that one of the three carriage stoops located on that street has been demolished from heavy machinery running over the curb while constructing a new house.  A house, I might add, that was built following a neighborhood fight to save an old one from destruction on the same site.

It would be impossible to make this story up.

To be honest, I almost wanted to cry when I saw the sight. The total disregard for caring about the past is shocking to witness.  It speaks volumes about a cavalier attitude that is not consistent with the long-term goals of keeping a historic neighborhood something special, thus ensuring that people always will want to visit and be impressed with how Madison once lived.

The stoops were placed for the convenience of ladies as they exited carriages back in the time Victorian homes were first constructed and lived in. From the first time I saw them they became a point of historical pride for me about another aspect to this neighborhood that conjured up all the grandeur of days gone by.  Madison is blessed to have these physical reminders of who we are today, by better knowing where we came from.

Last year there were many who wanted to preserve the second oldest frame house on Orton Park, but a more powerful and influential set of voices wanted to level the house and construct a new one. They got their way.

However, never did I think that in the rush to put a new house on that location would mean Madison would forever lose one of our historic carriage stoops! I was certain that any new owner of a house in a historic neighborhood would be proud to state that in front of his/her property a slab of Prairie du Chien limestone from the 1850’s had been placed, and used by women in fancy dresses after exiting a carriage.

Who would not want a wonderful statement of the past like that in front of their home??!!

Had I known this treasure would have been so thoroughly trashed during home construction, and such a total disregard for the past been put on full display I would have paid to move it to my home.  I may not have lived in Madison all my life but I do feel a deep sense of the past in some parts of this city, and want to preserve it.

I would hope we all might feel the same.

Sadly, with the evidence of the destroyed carriage stoop it is clear all do not.

7 thoughts on “One Of Madison’s Historic Carriage Stoops Destroyed

  1. Connor

    Gregory,

    As the new owner of 1112 Spaight Street, I feel compelled to respond to this post.

    You are surely aware of the months-long permitting process my wife and I went through prior to arriving at the sale of that house so we could build a new one. We had numerous meetings, hearings, and open houses. At those open houses, many of our neighbors came by; some just curious, others interested in saving the house, and those involved in making decisions about the house that wanted to see the property in-person. If I recall, you came by yourself and we spoke in person. On several occasions (though apparently and unfortunately, not with you) we would mention various facts we knew about the house, including the fact there is or maybe was a carriage stone in front. The confusion came from the fact that the seller explained that some years back, out of concern for preserving the stone’s history, someone asked if they could take the stone. The owner, not feeling strongly one way or the other, said “sure.” So, we began with the view that there was a carriage stone at one point, but someone had taken it to preserve it. The prior owner had no idea who, and no one else had any ideas. Upon hearing this, most people met it without a reaction. There was some stone there still, but it was a thin slab. Just a few yards up the road in front of the Curtis-Kittleson House lies what is most definitely a carriage stone. Also, there were several pieces of that same stone, in the same shape and size, along the back left side of the house. Some were serving as steps into a back enclosed porch-like area off the kitchen. Others were somewhat under that back porch’s foundation helping to prop it up as it sagged. So the facts on hand from all the conversations about this led us to believe that what is there now is not a carriage stone: it did not look anything like the one just up the road; it looked no different than a few additional stones laying around the back left side of the house; and, the prior owner claimed the actual carriage stone had been removed.

    Ultimately, we do not and did not really know. If we are wrong, and you know that it was in fact the actual stone, then we are sorry and it is sad to see it go. If anyone had approached us and simply stated it was in fact the carriage stone, we would have preserved it. At the end of the day it was a possibility we readily pointed out and nothing came of it.

    I hope you do realize that prior to the demolition that house was picked apart and the carriage stone could have happily joined the lot. There would be no need for you to pay to move it; I would have grabbed a friend to help me carry it down the street to your place.

    Habitat for Humanity took the kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors for reuse. Other members of our community took parts for reuse in other historic buildings including interior doors, hardware, trim work, porch columns and spindle work, window sashes, and even the wooden lathwork in some of the walls. Some windows were taken for restoration and use in an exhibit about historic windows. Before any of this the house was also documented by a group of UW grad students to record the exact layout of the house for architectural and historic purposes. By the time everyone was done with it, there was not much left besides exposed framework, floor joists and the asbestos siding we had to have a special environmental company come in and remediate.

    I suppose the point of me telling you all this is that I object to many of the unfounded characterizations of your comment, which you saw fit to post to both our neighborhood list serv and your blog without bothering to so much as talk to us. Despite your apparent beliefs, we do have at heart the long-term goals of this neighborhood, it is something special, and it is the very reason we wanted to stay in the neighborhood. I have been a homeowner in this neighborhood the past seven years and I hope to continue as one for the next seventy. I do not expect to convince you the house should have been demolished, but we felt we had a unique opportunity to revitalize a sad corner of Orton Park. It may not be the way you wish to have seen it revitalized, but we nonetheless believe the end results will be positive.

    We do not have a “total disregard for caring about the past,” nor do we carry “a cavalier attitude.” Most important, I do not know what sort of “powerful and influential” voices you are referring to. The only reason we ‘got our way’ was through determination and effort. We pounded the pavement on all sides of Orton Park, the adjoining properties on Jenifer, went to meetings, and openly engaged anyone who was willing to listen or wanted to talk whether for or against. We made our case, asked everyone for their support, and then engaged quite openly in the democratic process set up so that members of this community can ask permission to do extraordinary things with their property. The only power and influence wielded came from ourselves, and is no more powerful or influential than the capabilities of anyone else, yourself included. On the very first page of the original Third Lake Ridge Historic District Plan is an August 25, 1887 excerpt from a Wisconsin State Journal article quoting a gentleman in Orton Park: “The push of these sixth warders is not equaled by the people of any other part of the city. It is barely possible that if they set their minds upon it it would not rest until they had the capitol out here too.” We like to think we exemplified that very spirit as we traveled through the months-long process. If only it were to an end you found more aligned with your own views.

    To a more practical point, if there is anything still around that is of significance and needs preserving please let us know. We cannot preserve what we are unaware of, so if you hold some unique knowledge please stand up and speak out. Just a few minutes talking with us directly will prove far more fruitful in accomplishing your goals than a public airing of your grievances after-the-fact.

    You are welcome to stop in if you are walking by and see us at the place, as we tend to be from time to time. In addition to the many neighbors we met and came to know through last year’s process, several more have now begun to stop and say hi. In fact, just the other day we met a gentleman who I believe is your next-door neighbor. While you may never agree, many in the neighborhood have been quite thrilled to see the change. It has been a wonderful experience getting to know so many new people, which simply reaffirms our very desire to live in this neighborhood.

    I hope you can realize our shared interests for this neighborhood vastly outnumber our differences.

    Thanks for your time,

    Connor

  2. Conner,

    I do appreciate your comment. At the end of the day, as I told you when meeting you months back, I am always glad to see new faces that move into the neighborhood and own a home. Thanks for adding information about the historic carriage stoop.

    Have a nice evening.

  3. Connor

    Thank you for your very enlightening post, and may I publicly withdraw my original “Sad indeed…” comment, in light of the facts that you have provided that refute the original post. Yours is a very interesting, informational and thought provoking post indeed, which makes it pretty clear to me that the original posts comments were unfounded. I hope you spend many happy years in your new home at 1112 Spaight Street!. I shall drive by for a look the next time I am in Madison.

    Smokey3

  4. Bev

    Marv and I drove by the old home at 1112 Spaight Street prior to it being removed. It was a lovely house indeed, but one could see that a lot of care would have been needed to restore it. I’m glad to hear that as much as could be retained for other purposes was and am glad to hear from the homeowner with his perspective on this matter.

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