What Madison looked like in the 1980s Through Fascinating Photos

Madison is the capital and second-largest city in Wisconsin by population. Founded by a former federal judge and land speculator James Duane Doty in 1836, it is named after late president James Madison, who died that summer. After Wisconsin became a state in 1848, Leonard J. Farwell, a wealthy businessman from Milwaukee, was instrumental in getting industries located in Milwaukee about 1850. After Wisconsin became a state, Madison became a city with a population of 6,864. The first settlers were Yankees from the east. Germans, Irish, and Norwegians followed them. Around the turn of the 20th century, Italians, Greeks, Jews, and African Americans arrived. The railroad arrived in 1854, and the city developed steadily.

The city of Madison is the trade center of a large agricultural area (dairy products, corn, soybeans, tobacco, and livestock). Food processing is a significant industry in Madison, which is home to Oscar Mayer Foods Corp. This city is known for its lakeshores, bicycle paths, and large parks, including Henry Vilas Park with its city zoo.

#1 Two Madison bars: Church Key & Headliners, Fall 1986

#4 Purple Rain at The Orpheum, State Street, Madison Fall 1984

#7 Gilman Street, south of State, Madison, March 1987

#8 Studying at UW Memorial Library, Madison, March 1987

#10 Climbing Bascom Hill on a foggy day, UW-Madison, Fall 1985

#13 State Street during “Maxwell Street Days”, July 13, 1985

#14 State Street during Maxwell Street Days, a major sales event in downtown Madison, 1985

#17 Red & White Hamburgers, N Henry Street, north of State Street, Madison, WI Fall 1984

#18 The Kinks Playing Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI, March 10, 1985

#27 Bike racing around the Square, Madison, July 1985

#35 Enjoying Spring Sunshine at Union Terrace, UW Madison, March 1987

#38 Lunchboxes on Display, outside UW Student Union, September 1986

#39 Madison Gas & Electric Power Plant, East of downtown Madison, fall 1986

#41 Madison Skyline from Van Hise Bldg (UW Campus), Fall 1985

#44 Bike racing around the square, Madison Summer 1985

#45 Taking a rest with some spare legs, Maxwell Street Days on State Street

#48 State Street, Madison during Maxwell Street Days Sale July 13, 1985

#49 State Street during Maxwell Street Days, July 13, 1985

#56 Mondale-Ferraro Rally, Fall 1984 at Wisconsin State Capitol, 1980s

#57 Looking along University Avenue to downtown Madison, 1980s

#59 Farmers Market on the Square, Madison, WI Fall 1984

#60 Farmers Market on the Square, Madison, WI Fall 1984

#64 Looking from Bascom Hall down Bascom Mall to Capitol, UW Madison, 1980s.

#65 Bike-mania–Budget Bike Shop on Regent Street, Madison, Dec 1987

#67 Fairchild Street, looking to State Street, Madison Spring, 1980s

#68 Park Street, University of Wisconsin, Madison–Fall 1985

#69 Library Plaza, looking to Student Union, UW Madison April-May 1985

#71 Looking down Library Mall and State Street from Bascom Hill, UW Madison 1985

#76 Madison Skyline from Olrich Park, Lake Monona, 1980s

#79 Bed Races, UW Homecoming on State Street, Madison Fall 1984

#80 Homecoming in the rain, Capitol Square, Madison, Fall 1984

#83 Looking down West Washington Street from Capitol, Madison, WI Fall 1984

#84 Looking up State Street to UW Campus from State Capitol, Madison September 1984

#85 Hanging out on the Terrace, UW Madison Student Union, along Lake Mendota

#89 Reagan admits mistake in Iran for Contras Deal, Newspaper Headlines, March 1987, Madison, WI

#90 The Kinks Playing Dane County Colliseum, Madison, WI, March 10, 1985

#91 The Kinks Playing Dane County Colliseum, Madison, WI, March 10, 1985

#92 The Kinks Playing Dane County Colliseum, Madison, WI, March 10, 1985

#93 Awaiting Buses, Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin, Madison, March 1985

#95 Langdon Street near the UW, Madison, Wisconsin, March 1985

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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  1. Fascinating? Many of the photos look like current Madison photos with crappy 80s vehicles. A notable exception is Machinery Row before they sandblasted the facade to remove coal gunk. The difference was astounding while they cleaned the building: the Library Mall, minus the godawful new St Paul’s.

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