Mansion Hill Neighborhood

Mansion Hill NH Chair Gene Devitt’s message from the 2015 CNI Annual Report:

Looking back it seems like there was always something going on in the Mansion Hill Neighborhood. Beginning in earnest in 1960 with the end of the requirement that undergraduates needed to live in UW supervised housing and the resulting demand for apartments followed by the anti-Vietnam War Movement and the advent of powerful stereos that could entertain entire blocks, the neighborhood changed fast and in a big way. Paul Soglin, the new Mayor, decided to take the downtown neighborhood seriously and embarked on a series of civic improvements, such as the Langdon and Wisconsin Avenue reconstruction project. Things were still a mess, but at least we had good streets and sidewalks.

Then a little over 40 years ago, around the nation’s bicentennial, historic preservation as a movement picked up and Madison’s first landmarks ordinance was passed. Mansion Hill became the first landmarks district. Since that time, the housing quality in the neighborhood has dramatically improved, resulting in a return of permanent residents who are moving in to housing vacated by students who have moved into the new high rises closest to campus. Not that there haven’t been some big fights, such as the attempt to keep the view of Lake Mendota intact as part of the Edgewater project and a couple of spirited defenses of the historic district. More recently, long term street projects, such as West Gilman Street and now North Pinckney Street are nearing completion, as is the final undergrounding of utilities throughout the entire neighborhood. The fate of the Steensland House on the Bethel Lutheran Church block was satisfactorily negotiated with the result that promises to make just about everybody happy. But of course, we still have issues, such as keeping the MATC Downtown Campus alive and well, down to small but important items like trying to get the bus company to not use audible turn signal devices that are interrupting our neighbor’s sleep–it never ends.


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