Thursday, February 22, 2007

The "Madison Compromise" -- or why east is east and west is west in "the best city in the United States in which to live"

Two of the "must see" destinations on my [almost] daily stroll through the Internet are the lists of links to other blogs compiled by the staff at Isthmus (Madison Miscellany) and (Breakfast Links). Neither seeks to provide links to "all the news that's fit to print." Rather, they provide a solid list of links to recent news, reviews, and features about Madison published on blogs and print media. Occasionally, they provide links to other sources such as YouTube.

Last week, I clicked on a link labeled "Considering the east side versus west side rivalry here in Madison" and read Sara Ziemendorf's post titled "Direction Girl."

Like many of you, I've been hesitant about leaving comments on other people's blogs, in part because I wanted to embed links in my comments and I'd been having trouble doing this properly. Recently, however, a fellow blogger e-mailed me some very helpful hints for writing and posting comments with links. Emboldened by my new technical skills, I left a comment on Sara's post.

If you click on the links in this post (and you should), you'll find your way to Sara's blog and my comment. But since I know some of you don't bother to click on anything, and since the subject is one that is of interest to many of you who read this blog regularly, I'm going to post my comment here, too, so you'll have an opportunity to learn a bit more about why Madison's East Side and West Side continue to be very different places.

So, without further ado, here's a brief explanation of why east is east and west is west:

Call it rivalry, enmity, or ridiculous, the relationship between Madison's East Side and West Side has a long and well-documented history that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. David V. Mollenhoff does an excellent job of explaining it in his book, Madison: A History of the Formative Years (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1982). Here's an excerpt from the book, explaining what Mollenhoff refers to as the "Madison compromise," effected, in part, to make certain that industrial growth would not destroy Madison's beauty:

And so, based upon these tacit agreements between industrialists and anti-industrialists, the "Madison compromise" was framed. Only "high grade" factories employing highly skilled and highly paid workers would be encouraged to come to Madison and the factories were to be located "over there" -- in the East Side factory district. The capital city would have both factories and faculty, lunch buckets and brief cases. East Side and West Side. It was a comfortable world of cozy compartments separated by a socio-economic fault line that even today sends tremors through discussions of municipal problems.

Mollenhoff recently revised his 1982 book, but although I haven't had time to do a compare and contrast between the two editions, I'm certain the above paragraph appears in both (along with a great deal of additional material about the "Madison compromise").

There's more information about Mollenhoff's book, as well a many other local history resources, on the Madison Area History page of the Madison Public Library's web site. One of the other history resources listed there is a link to my blog about the history of Madison Central High School. Skip the reunion notices and head for the history posts such as the lists of the members of the Class of 1900 (surnames A-H and surnames J-W), where you'll find the names of many of Madison's earliest families. Or read about some of the school's famous alumni, including cartoonist Don Trachte, who last year was the subject of a page one story in the New York Times.

Note: The reference in this post's title is to the 1948 article in Life Magazine titled "The Good Life in Madison."

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