Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Ass. - MPPDA
The Madison parks system got its start in 1888 when George Raymer built a pleasure drive along
Lake Mendota from UW-Madison to Eagle Heights. In 1892 Edward T. Owen built a parkway connecting
Raymer Road with the area that is now Hoyt Park. The drive opened in October 1892. Owen got help
on the project from John Olin, and Edward Hammersley. At first, they called their group the Lake
Mendota Pleasure Drive Association, but on July 10, 1894, it was reorganized as the Madison Park
and Pleasure Drive Association. The original goal of the MPPDA was to open, extend and improve
rustic roadways through picturesque scenery in Madison. Later the group began creating parks. In
1897 the MPPDA started building Farwell Drive from Sherman Avenue north to Governor's Island. In
1899 it purchased Tenney Park for $15,000, including a $5,125 donation by D.K. Tenney. Tenney
Park offered the only city access to Lake Mendota, except for street ends, and Tenney insisted
that the MPPDA hold the land in trust for the city. In the next decade, the MPPDA would develop
Vilas Park, Brittingham Park and several pleasure drives. Those projects included planting more
than 200,000 trees and shrubs.
For nearly four decades it served as the city's unofficial parks department. Much of our
parkland today is the legacy of this group of citizens. In 1938 the city took responsibility for
local parks and assumed MPPDA lands.
- 1892 Individuals constructed Lake Mendota Drive between Willow Drive and Spring Harbor.
That same year UW Professor Edward T. Owen built Owen Drive to connect Mineral Point Road,
Sunset Point and Regent Street.
- 1894 The MPPDA incorporated, selecting John Olin as president. Until his resignation in 1909,
he served as the driving force of the organization.
- 1897 The MPPDA constructed Farwell Drive through Maple Bluff to Governor's Island and Farwell
- 1899 Using a $4,000 gift from Daniel K. Tenney, the MPPDA began developing Tenney Park on a
14-acre marsh using a design by eminent landscape architect O.C. Simonds.
- 1900 The Wingra Park suburb gave the MPPDA Vilas Circle in order to protect the effigy mounds
- 1903 The MPPDA began working on the Yahara River Parkway, and attorney Burr Jones and Judge
J.H. Carpenter donated money for two neighborhood playgrounds.
- 1904 U.S. Sen. William F. Vilas and his wife Annie gave $18,000 to create Henry Vilas Park,
named in honor of their son. The MPPDA also constructed Edgewood Drive.
- 1905 Thomas Brittingham contributed $16,000 to dredge Monona Bay and create Brittingham Park.
He later paid for two boathouses one that was razed in the 1960s.
- 1906 Halle Steensland contributed $10,000 to build a bridge over the Yahara at East Washington
- 1908 The MPPDA hired eminent landscape architect and urban planner John Nolen as a consultant.
Two years later he produced his famous plan for city improvement. That same year south Madison
residents constructed West and South Shore drives, then turned them over to the MPPDA to administer.
- 1909 George Burrows bequeathed 12 acres on the shore of Lake Mendota, which was first a plant
nursery for the association and later Burrows Park.
- 1910 The Vilas Park Zoo was established with the gift of five deer from Thomas Richmond.
- 1911 Madison acquired the Monona Lake Assembly Grounds. Later renamed Olin Park, it was the
first park acquired entirely with public funds.
- 1922 A new organization, the Madison Parks Foundation, secured Olbrich Park and other
lakeshore property for the city, and a later acquisition formed the nucleus of the Arboretum.
- 1931 Madison established a park commission, and MPPDA transferred to it the property that
it had held in trust for the public. In 1938, the transfer complete, the MPPDA dissolved.