Madison is a city that has a wealth of history in the form of our beautiful old buildings. Houses, schools, churches, and even a couple of old factories have all stood the test of time and managed to avoid falling victim to the wrecking ball of progress and modernity,among other destructive forces.
All through our beautiful downtown area you’ll find these structures that serve as part of the reason we have received the National Historic District designation.
Unfortunately there are a few ‘sow’s ears’ in amongst our many ‘silk purses’ and that leads to my topic: the run down,falling in,burnt,crumbling and abandoned buildings.
The Elks Lodge is the building that serves as the inspiration for this article. As you probably know the former Elk’s Lodge building was nearly completely consumed by fire back in 2006 and has gone through a series of challenges to it’s existence since then as well.
There’s been a consistent effort over two Mayoral administrations now to have the structure torn down,the stated reasons (mainly concerning public safety) are certainly valid but I have to point out that it is hardly the only structure in downtown Madison that seems (to this humble writer) to be a likely safety hazard.
Here are some the rundown,abandoned,damaged,or just downright dilapidated structures in Madison’s downtown.
#1. The Elk’s Lodge
This building is in the Beaux-Arts Neoclassical style of architecture, a style that became popular especially in more advanced urban centers in the United States, originated in the French art schools known as “l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts” in the late nineteenth century. There are only two two buildings in this style here in Madison’s National Historic Landmark District: the Elks Lodge building and 101 E. Main St. (popularly known as Rogers’ Corner) which is presently home to “Shooter’s”). (per a guest column written by historic preservationist Link Ludington for RoundAbout Madison)
#2. Broadway and Third Street
I don’t know anything about this house’s history,but it is has been empty for quite a while. There has,in the last 6 months or so,been some activity,caution tape has been strung and some backhoe work has been performed (to what end I don’t know) in the back yard.
There’s a work permit in one of the windows but the date of issuance and the building inspector’s signature are absent or long since faded away.
#3. Poplar Lane,south of Main Street.
Obviously one of Madison’s buildings,this house sits uninhabited and unrestored and has been in such a state for many years now. Is this house immune to calls for its destruction due to its location on one of Madison less heavily travelled side streets?
#4. East Fifth and Mulberry Streets.
To the east of King’s Daughter’s Hospital’s campus sits a trio of homes that are off to themselves. They are completely boarded up. Based on the number of mailboxes affixed to their facades it would seem that at one time they served as apartments for multiple tenants at one point in their history. Now they’re only eyesores.
#5. East Street
In Madison’s northeastern section of downtown you’ll find this stone house. Some years ago this home was at the center of controversy. (I can’t seem to track down any official record of the story so please understand that this is my personal recollection of this story and should be considered as such.)
This home was purchased by a local real estate mogul who intended to tear it down and then use the property to build multiple small family dwellings to be used as rental property. As quite often happens is Madison this idea was poorly received by those of a more preservation oriented mindset. The project was challenged and ultimately halted, until more information could be gleaned about the structure.
Upon investigation it was found that the stonework is a facade covering a period seeming log home structure and it was determined that the house was of historic importance enough that it should not be torn down leaving the owner with a property he could not redevelop as he had intended. As also happens here,those that wanted the home saved seem unable to do anything but see to it that it continues slowly falling apart doing no good to anyone,much less the preservationists that fight to save them.
#6. Mulberry Street( directly across from Ruler Foods)
Long before the courthouse fire,and the blaze that destroyed the Elk’s Lodge this house burned. The house has no historic significance that I’m aware of and now more than 5 years since the fire it remains virtually untouched. In the time since it burned the only noticeable attempt at restoring/preserving is the Tyvek paper now covering the facade.
In a community that values preservation and history so much,how is that we can have so many of these run-down properties,and why does it seem that the city is almost exclusively concerned (obsessed?) with the Elks Lodge when there are other properties that have been in terrible shape for longer?
I’ll leave that question for others to answer.