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The Dividing Ridge-Madison WI 1898 | by South Madison History
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The Dividing Ridge-Madison WI 1898

Download this image and zoom in on the details with your computer! Awesome detail in this high resolution image.


You can see the Dividing Ridge almost in its entirety. There is a sand and gravel quarry chewing away at it near the center of the image.


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.


The following things are also noteworthy in this image:

•The Brittingham Park area is still mostly marshy lakeshore.

•West Shore and South Shore Drive do not exist yet. They were created after the marshy shore of Monona Bay was filled in.

•There is a huge lake ice storage building where Bernies beach is today.

•Though hard to make out, you can see the Richmond Mansion and Butler House in the image. The Richmond Mansion is surrounded by trees and is hard to see.

•Blue Mounds can be seen on the horizon near the right side of the image.


This image is a cropped portion of the following image - Panorama from the Capitol Dome, 1898. located in this Flickr photo album.


April 2019 Note: Flickr has recently limited upload and download capabilities for images on their website. The original high resolution image that I uploading is no longer available for download on Flickr. When you choose to download the original image size you only get a 5.5 MB jpg file. My original upload was a 74 MB PDF file.

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Uploaded on March 25, 2015