What is the capital of Wisconsin?

Madison, Wisconsin, USA downtown skyline at dusk on Lake Monona.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA downtown skyline at dusk on Lake Monona.

Wisconsin is known for its cold temperature, northern location, and cheese. However, even if you’re a fan of this state, you may be wondering: what is the capital of Wisconsin?

The capital of the state of Wisconsin, U.S.A. is the city of Madison. According to Bethany Brander, a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society, 16 other locations were considered for the capital before legislators chose Madison for its economic value and influence. Madison is home to several museums, lakes, and a zoo, as well as art museums.

In this article we’ll cover where the city of Madison is located, its history, why it was chosen as the capital of Wisconsin and some of the best places to visit in the area!

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Where Is The Capital of Wisconsin Located?

Where Is The Capital of Wisconsin Located
Where Is The Capital of Wisconsin Located

Madison is located on a type of land-bridge called an isthmus which connects the land between the lakes Mendota, Kegonsa, Monona, and Waubesa. In Wisconsin, it lies in Dane county just south of the state’s center. It is in the top 100 biggest cities in the United States, and is one of the midwestern states on the Americas continent.

In terms of terrain, Madison is settled on the shores of several lakes and experiences cold, even icy weather for a little over three months out of each year.

Brief History of Madison

Wisconsin state capital in Madison Wisconsin
Wisconsin state capital in Madison Wisconsin

Madison City was established by James Duane Doty in 1836. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it was named after the fourth president of the United States, James Madison, who had passed away earlier that same year. 

It is important to note that before its establishment as the state capital, Madison was almost entirely undeveloped by mankind except for one trading post on Lake Mendota in 1820. After becoming the state capital, the University of Wisconsin was established in the city in 1848 and continues to hold classes to this day!

Also worth noting: author and architect Frank Lloyd Wright lived in Madison as a child and even attended the University of Wisconsin, designing buildings for the city. It was also the home of the 1900’s Progressive Party.

When Did Madison Became The Capital Of Wisconsin?

Madison became the capital of Wisconsin before it was even a real city! Technically, the land was owned by James Doty and Stevens Mason after 1830, and before it had only been untamed wilderness.

Once Madison became the capital of Wisconsin in December fifth in 1835, it only had around a year to wait before building began. Therefore, the capital of Madison is about as old as Wisconsin itself!

Why Is Madison The Capital Of Wisconsin?

Madison, Wisconsin, USA state capitol building at dusk.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA state capitol building at dusk.

Madison’s establishment as the Capital of Wisconsin can be traced back to the original landowner of the territory: James Doty! According to historians, there was a heated debate surrounding which city would be named the capital of the state that would be known as Wisconsin.

Some of the proposed cities were Green Bay (home of the Green Bay Packers football team,) Milwaukee, and some that had yet to be constructed. One of the cities that wasn’t even in existence yet was suggested by James Doty, and would eventually become Madison.

James Doty surveyed the land he had purchased between the Four Lakes and worked with surveyors and partners to create a detailed map of what a city could look like on that land.

He brought that state-of-the-art map with him, along with strong arguments for Madison’s future benefits, and convinced the legislators who were debating about the capital in Belmont that they should choose his area for their headquarters.

He did this by championing patriotism, not only naming the city itself after recently-deceased President James Madison, but naming future streets of Madison after the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. He also offered some of the legislature a good price on buying land in Madison, swaying the vote.

Madison was also profitable as a halfway point between Milwaukee and the wartime post, Prairie du Chien, as well as Green Bay and the lead mines.

Best Places To Visit In Madison

Some of Wisconsin’s greatest virtues can be seen in it’s capital city! Below is a list of the best places to visit in Madison:

  1. University of Wisconsin – Not only was this University home to Frank Lloyd Wright, but it was also the home of the researchers who discovered that Vitamin D could be produced in milk! Additionally, the campus is situated on the lake and is home to bustling crowds of shoppers going in and out of restaurants and quaint stores on State Street.
  2. Overture Center For the Arts – This theater houses incredible, internationally-beloved operas, dance shows, musicals, and art exhibitions. The building itself is stunning and has a variety of accommodations if you need to hold a convention, business meeting, or even party in a fancy location!
  3. Bike Trails – If you’re feeling active, Madison, Wisconsin is one of the best places to bike in the country! The Lakeshore Path winds around Lake Mendota after beginning at the Memorial Union, covering woods and prairies before ending at a popular picnic destination on the peninsula. For more adventurous bikers, try Quarry Ridge Trails!
  4. Henry Vilas Zoo – The Henry Vilas Zoo features polar bears, red pandas, lions, and even capybaras! It allows a Behind the Scenes tour and is located in downtown Madison. Kids can have tons of fun learning about critters and climbing on the beautiful statues!
  5. Wisconsin State Capitol – The last floor of the Wisconsin capitol building is a museum and doubles as an observation deck. Interestingly, it is also built with 43 types of stone from eight states and six countries. There are even fossils to find within these stones!

In Conclusion

In conclusion, Madison, Wisconsin was established as the state capital in 1835 thanks to the lobbying of former judge and landowner, James Doty. It is situated between the Four Lakes and is home to several museums, a zoo, and the legislature of the state. It is a great place to visit if you’re hoping to attend the University of Wisconsin or simply experience an all-American town!

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!