Photo Book Shows The Development Of Madison


"Photo Book Shows The Development Of Madison" Used by permission Wisconsin State Journal :: DAYBREAK :: D1 Wednesday, November 20, 2002, William Wineke.

Old photographs serve two purposes: they tell us a little about how things used to be - but they also give us a clearer understanding of how things are today.

Angus McVicar, a commercial photographer, took photos of Madison buildings and streets from the 1920s through the 1950s, not for art's sake but to document the city for people willing to pay for the service.

A few years ago, Zane Williams, a contemporary Madison photographer, looked at McVicar's collection and decided to recreate it.
The result is the just-published "Double Take: A Rephotographic Survey of Madison, Wisconsin" (University of Wisconsin Press: $45). The heart of the book is a series of photographs of the same sites, separated by 50 to 75 years.

The photos in the book tell a story of change; very few buildings look the way they did 70 or even 20 years ago. The old Madison Post Office gave way in 1929 to a new Manchester's Department Store, which, in turn, gave way in 1981 to an office building, Manchester Place, which now anchors the Wisconsin Avenue entrance to the Square.

Older residents of the city may find themselves more intrigued by the business names on marquees than on the buildings that have changed.

Names like "Olson & Veerhusen" and "Waters Motor Co." and "Rennebohm Better Drug Stores" were once known to virtually every city resident; they're now part of the city's history.

Some names stayed but the stores' place in the community changed.

The Sears store was once an important stop on State Street. Sears moved to West Washington Avenue and then to the malls. The building recently housed Zorba's Gyros, which then gave way to Takara Japanese Restaurant.

Smart Motors once sold Hupmobiles at 437 W. Gilman. Smart is still around, selling Volvos and Toyotas on Odana Road. Its "Art Deco" brick and limestone building now houses a dry-cleaning store.

Art critic Thomas Garver, a former director of the Madison Art Center, writes in an essay in "Double Take" that we shouldn't always assume that change is bad.

While renovations have hidden some beautiful architectural details of venerable buildings, overall, things may be getting better, Garver said.

" But Madison is changing, and for the better. We now pay more respect to the special qualities of our environment, rather than regarding any environmental gifts simply as resources to be exploited."

McVicar, for example, photographed a row of private boathouses along the Lake Monona shoreline in 1931. The general site (it's been filled in some since 1931) is now a parking lot next to Monona Terrace on John Nolen Drive, not an altogether beautiful spot, but one that is, at least, open to the public.


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Copyright © 2011 Zane Williams Photography, Madison, Wisconsin. All rights reserved.