Cultural Timeline of the Area
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This timeline begins in 1834 with the first survey of the area by the United States Government. We are working on developing a separate page on the Native American history of this part of Madison. For a geologic history of this area go to this page: Geologic History of the Olin Turvill Parks Area
Madison population growth 
Madison area is surveyed for the first time by the US Government.
The UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve website has an excellent database for those interested in learning more about the first survey of the Madison area.
First settler builds cabin in Madison.
Madison was incorporated as a village in 1846, with a population of 626.
Henry and Mary Turvill move to Madison with four of their children and live in the village while seeking suitable land to purchase to start a farm.
1854 - 1968
Turville Farm (click this link for detailed history)
Henry and Mary Turvill purchase land on South shore of Lake Monona and move there in 1854.
First railroad comes to Madison
The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad ran along the future John Nolen Drive Corridor and across Lake Monona to a station on West Washington Avenue.
1854 - 1857
Lakeside Water Cure 
Land was purchased from Henry Turvill in 1854
Built as a Hospital/Spa/Hydrotherapy Retreat
$40,000 to build
Opened in August 1855
Fell into financial difficulties and closed in 1857
September 7, 1864
First train runs along newly lain track for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company.
This new railroad track runs along the north shore of Lake Monona and crosses the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad in the middle of Lake Monona. Said to be the only place in the world where two railroads cross in the middle of a lake.
1864 - 1925
This popular boat landing was located on Lake Monona at the end of South Carroll Street.
1866 - 1877
Lakeside House Resort 
The old Lakeside Water Cure property is refurbished as a summer resort hotel.
Opened July 2, 1866 as a summer only resort operation and became Madison's first successful resort hotel.
Guests came from large southern cities such as St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. They came to escape the summer heat and humidity that is so common in the southern part of the Midwest.
In August of 1877 the Lakeside House burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.
The Turvill family regained control of the property in bankruptcy proceedings.
1879 - 1895
Indian name = "Healing Waters"
This popular resort hotel opened July 9, 1879
Was located on the Southeast shore of Lake Monona in what is now the City of Monona
Bankruptcy in 1893
New owner reopened in June 1895
Destroyed by fire on July 31, 1895
1881 - 1911
Monona Lake Assembly 
Started as the Wisconsin Sunday School Assembly
Was a two week event each summer
1881 - Initially rented the old Lakeside House grounds from Henry Turvill
1881 - 3000 seat tent set up for first 10 day session
1882 - The Monona Lake Assembly purchases the property from Henry Turvill on February 13, 1882 for $3000
1882 - 3000 seat outdoor pavilion was built to replace the tent
1895 - 5000 seat, 160 foot dia. circular auditorium replaces earlier pavilion structure.
The auditorium had many large garage door type doors that surrounded most of the perimeter of the structure. These doors were probably mounted with counter weights and opened by lifting them straight up much like an old double hung window. This allowed light and fresh air into the structure when lectures were held but retained the capability to close up the structure in inclement weather and over the winter months. This auditorium was built by J. H. Findorff.
1908 - Declining attendance and financial problems cause Monona Lake Assembly to close
1911 - In the midst of a legal battle between two groups of shareholders of the property, the City of Madison purchases the Monona Lake Assembly property making it the first city park completely purchased with city money.
Program of the Monona Lake Assembly WSJ 07-18-1908 page 4 NewspaperArchive.com Link Newspapers.com Link
Late 1800's - 1937ca
Dividing Ridge / Dead man's Ridge 
This amazing recessional moraine was left between Lake Wingra and Lake Monona by the last retreating glacier. At 80 feet above Lake Monona, it was slightly taller than the Capitol hill. The sides and top of this long narrow ridge were dotted with Native American graves and mounds. The panoramic view from the top was probably one of the best in the entire Madison area. Surely it must have been a very special place for generations of Native Americans who had lived in the area. In 1834 when the Madison area was first surveyed, a well packed Indian road followed a route from beyond what is now the Middleton area past Spring Harbor to the Vilas Zoo area then along the Dividing Ridge through the South Madison area, then crossing the Yahara River near Bridge Road and extending past the McFarland area. There were large Native American communities in the Middleton, Vilas Zoo, and McFarland areas.
Today, the remains of the Dividing Ridge are barely noticeable in South Madison's urban terrain. From the late 1800's on this glacial sand and gravel deposit was slowly hauled away. The readily available sand and gravel was used to fill nearby marshlands, to build roads, and as a major component in the concrete and mortar used to build the growing City of Madison. Though it was still being chewed away at as late as 1937, this unique geological feature and sacred Native American site was virtually gone by then.
1896 - present
Dane County Agricultural Society / Alliant Energy Center
From 1851 to 1896 the Dane County Agricultural Society held a Dane County Fair at various locations in Madison. In 1896, the Society purchased 250 acres at the current Alliant Energy Center site as a permanent location for the agricultural fair. However, a series of tough financial years made it difficult to maintain the annual fair and in 1938 the last fair was held. The Dane County Agricultural Society faded from existence and in 1940 a new organization called the Dane County Fair Association was formed to continue the annual fair which was moved to Stoughton.
1941 - Dane County assumes ownership of the former fair site in Madison by paying off the mortgage on the land.
1951 - The Dane County Fair was moved permanently back to its former site.
1967 - The Coliseum was constructed.
1995 - The Exhibition Hall opens.
1903 - ?
Madison Sanitarium 
Specialized in nervous and digestive disorders, hydrotherapy.
The Wisconsin Historical Society Archives has a series of pamphlets about this specialized disease treatment facility. It was located just west of the former Wisconsin Medical Society property at 330 East Lakeside Street.
1911 - 1923
Monona Park 
1911 - Madison buys Monona Lake Assembly grounds for $40,000
1st city park completely purchased with city money
The former Monona Lake Assembly 5000 seat auditorium serves as a summer convention and meeting center and is also used for Sunday concerts and sermons in the warmer months.
1923 - present
Monona Park name changed to Olin Park in 1923 in honor of John Olin who founded the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association and also played a key role in convincing the city to purchase the property in 1911.
The former Monona Lake Assembly 5000 seat auditorium still serves as a summer convention and meeting center and for Sunday concerts and sermons in the warmer months. From about 1924 to 1933 the building was used as an arena for numerous boxing matches. Boxing was a popular event during this time period. The auditorium could only be used during the warmer months of the year as there was no way to heat it. It was condemned for public use in about 1933 due to deteriorating structural components. The building was then used for equipment storage until it was dismantled in 1943. The wood and metal components of the structure were salvaged for reuse.
1870's - present
"Esther Beach is located along the southeastern shore of Turville Bay in Lake Monona. During the 1870's, Charles Askew and his brother ran a passenger boat business on Lake Monona. They built a dance hall and picnic grounds at Esther Beach in 1901. The park was named after Charles' daughter who died in 1883. The dance hall, called Hollywood-at-the-Beach, continued through 1952."
Quoted from www.MadisonMagazine.com(see hyperlink below)
1966 - 1969
Monona Basin Project
This William Wesley Peters design included the following Olin-Turville Park components:
1000 seat theater
300 seat recital hall
67,000 square foot art center
Restaurant on the shore of Turville Bay
Boat marina in Turville Bay
The Monona Basin Project fails to achieve enough political support and the project dies in 1969. However, in advance preparation for this proposed development, the City of Madison acquires the Turville farm property under the threat of condemnation through the eminent domain process. After months of negotiations with the city, Henry Qualtrough Turville Sr. finally accepts $895,000 for the property on September 1, 1967. The city had already referred the property to the Dane County Condemnation Commission as a final resort to obtain ownership of the property. Henry firmly believed he was forced into the sale with the threat of condemnation looming over him. Henry was the fourth generation descendant of Henry and Mary Turvill who moved to the US from England in 1852 and purchased the property to start a new life. The Turvill family had lived on the farm for 114 years.
All the buildings on the property were torn down shortly after the sale. The former Turville property was mostly neglected by the city for years. This was in part due to a signed agreement between the City of Madison and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation that restricted any development on the Turville property for 20 years.
1954 to 2019
Wisconsin Medical Society property at 330 East Lakeside Street
East wing of building was constructed in 1954.
West Wing was dedicated on Nov. 17, 1962.
Note: The above data from Famous Footwear Corporate Headquarters Relocation Informational Materials 1994
In 1979, Mayor Joel Scornicka proposed that the new campus for Madison Area Technical College be built in Turville Park. To provide enough room for future expansion, college officials said that they would also like to include Olin Park as part of the proposed new campus. The proposal quickly dies due to lack of political and public support. Some say that the proposal was a political maneuver aimed at getting past a political stalemate over where to site the new MATC campus. The proposal did succeed, however, in raising enough public outcry at the possible destruction of this unique natural area that wheels were set in motion to create a master plan for the Olin Park and Turville Park areas that limits development at the two parks and designates Turville Park as a conservation park.
1988 - 1993
City of Madison proposes to build city's first swimming pool complex at Turville Park. This pool proposal was not popular among area nature lovers. After a prolonged political struggle the pool proposal was defeated by the popular vote of Madison residents that created a charter ordinance that would require a referendum vote whenever a major development is proposed for public property adjoining a lakeshore. Madison eventually built its first city pool across John Nolen Drive from Turville Park In what is now Goodman Park in 2006 after it was approved by popular vote due to this very charter ordinance.
1994 - 1996
Famous Footwear Corporate Headquarters proposes relocation to Lake Monona shoreline on a portion of the Wisconsin Medical Society property.
Effort fails to attain enough political and community support and fails.
City of Madison purchases the property in 1996 from the Wisconsin Medical Society for $3,528,000 to preserve the property as public lakeshore.
On June 2, 1998, Turville Park was designated a conservation park by the city and was officially named Turville Point Conservation Park.
1995 - present
Turville Point Conservation Park Restoration Efforts
Since about 1995 the Madison Parks Department has been conducting spring controlled burns in Turville Conservation park. These fires help to control invasive species in the park. Buckthorn and honeysuckle are very susceptible to fire and will be killed down to the ground by a hot fire. Oak trees are resistant to fire and will normally survive. Volunteers often go through the park before the burn to clear any major debris away from the oak trees to insure they are not damaged by prolonged fire due to debris accumulated near the trunk. In some years volunteers also hand cut buckthorn and honeysuckle that survived the fire in areas that did not burn hot enough. Much of the Olin Park and Turville Conservation Park land area was formerly an open oak savanna during the period that Native Americans were living here. Fire was often used Native Americans to help maintain the open grown oak savanna habitat.
In the winter of 2009 the Madison Parks Department received a $10,000 grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service Private Lands Division This grant was used to fund intensive removal of buckthorn, honeysuckle and undesirable trees in 2010 and 2011. The brush and undesirable trees were mechanically removed in many areas of the park and the stumps were treated to prevent resprouting or mechanically grubbed out. While some areas of the park now look like they have been logged out and are much more open than before, this will allow sunlight through to the ground surface which helps acorns to sprout and young oak trees to get established. The increased light in the woods will also help native perennial woodland plants to get established. Some areas will be open enough to allow a gradual transition of that area to more of an open grown oak savanna where grasses grow beneath and between the oak trees. Many native woodland and prairie plant seeds have been spread in areas throughout the park and some are beginning to get established.
The former tilled acreage in Turville Point Conservation Park has evolved into a restored prairie. Many types of tall prairie grasses and other prairie plants have become established in this area. The prairie area is burned each spring when weather conditions permit. The prairie plants have now become numerous enough that seeds are now collected by volunteers to sow in other areas of the park where openings in the woods have been created from the removal of undesirable tree species and invasive shrubs.
Note: Historical data for this document was obtained from the internet and from the following sources:
"Reuben Gold Thwaites Papers, 1843 - 1960" located in the Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
"Madison A History of the Formative Years" by David V. Mollenhoff
"Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1" by Stuart D. Levitan
Footnote Page References in above timeline:
MAHOTFY = "Madison A History of the Formative Years" by David V. Mollenhoff
MTISHV1 = "Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1" by Stuart D. Levitan
This historical timeline was written by Ron Shutvet, Madison WI
 From: "Madison The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1" by Stuart D. Levitan
 Note: The background of this image shows the center portion of the State Office Building on Wilson Street under construction. Since this portion of the building was completed in 1938, it is believed that the original photograph was taken in early 1937.
 MAHOTFY - page 126: MTISHV1 - page 30
 MAHOTFY - page 126,131,136; MTISHV1 - page 81
 MAHOTFY - page 174; MTISHV1 - page 105
 The structure partially seen on left side of hyperlinked image is the meeting pavilion built in 1882.
 This image of an identical auditorium in Monteagle, Tennessee shows how the interior of the Monona Lake Assembly auditorium may have looked.
 MAHOTFY - page 396: MTISHV1 - page 155
 MAHOTFY page 405
 MAHOTFY - page 175: MTISHV1 - page 105
 Though this hyperlink takes you to an image of the interior of an auditorium that was located in Monteagle, Tennessee, this auditorium was almost identical in design as the one in Olin Park and gives you an idea of how the interior of the Olin Park structure may have looked.
 The relative distance of the buildings in this picture and their relationship on the skyline relative to each other suggests this photograph was probably taken in the vicinity of Esther Beach.