Natives called it the land of four lakes. In 1829 a former federal judge bought over 1000 acres of swamp and forest on an Isthmus between two of the lakes. His vison was to create a city and he lobbied for it to be the Capital city of Wisconsin. He then named the city for President James Madison who had died in 1836. Street names are for the other 39 signees of the US Constitution. The first Capitol's cornerstone was placed in 1837, replaced with a second Capitol in 1863 which burned down in 1904. The current Capitol building was raised between 1906 and 1917.
On April 5th, 2013, I arrived at night looking for the closest church to this State Capitol. In the glow of the Capitol Dome I found Grace Episcopal church in the shadows on W. Washington street. It's heritage in Madison's history is captured in this article on their website.
The Heritage of Grace Church. On Saturday, July 28, 1838, the Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, Missionary Bishop of the Northwest, with two traveling companions arrived in Madison, Wisconsin. With more mosquitoes than houses, this "city of four lakes" was on the verge of becoming the capital of the Territory and was ripe for the "immediate labors of a missionary."
What began with services in a roughly built storefront quickly resulted in the construction of a small chapel and in September 1855, one year before the city of Madison was granted a charter, the ground was broken on the West Washington corner of the Capitol Square for a gothic sandstone structure to be named Grace Episcopal Church.
On Sunday, February 14, 1858, worshipers gathered for the first time in the newly built place of worship. Over the years, many of the most prominent families in Madison and Wisconsin have called Grace home, and Presidents Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman worshiped here. The deep faith of those early generations has left a legacy of commitment to Jesus Christ and to the community that is symbolized in works of art like the Baptistry Window designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and our long tradition of outreach in the community and the world.
By the time American artist Georgia O'Keeffe was baptized here on August 31, 1888, Grace was a well-established parish. Today Grace is home to congregants from all religious backgrounds who have found a spiritual home in The Episcopal Church and this historic place of worship.
Present day Madison is home to the the fastest growing city in Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin, and ongoing discussion of church and state topics. All sitting on an Isthmus in the land of four lakes.