The Greenbush Cultural Tour (GCT) is an in-depth study and presentation of the past, present, and future of the Greenbush neighborhood, in the area immediately south of the University of Wisconsin and the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. This is a collaborative project of 5th grade students in Room 208 at Randall School working with numerous community partners.
Thanks to the generosity of authors and historians of the Greenbush, we are able to offer selected text and images that create a picture of the complex Greenbush community. Please see “Contributors” for a list of people and institutions that have helped us create this web site.
This web site features texts (newspaper articles, anecdotes and accounts from books, interviews) and images (maps, photos and drawings) that are all part of a searchable database. We have selected documents to focus on themes and issues that spark curiosity, are readable by the general public and by 5th graders studying Wisconsin history, and are extensive enough to provide in-depth understanding. Click on “Themes” to see the list of topics we have used to organize this material. Click on an individual topic, such as “Urban Renewal” to see documents related to this theme.
Right now, we are still adding documents to our database, so be sure to check back as we continue developing the website!
You might also be interested in the Park Street Cultural Tour, created by our class about one of Madison’s major streets, which extends from the University of Wisconsin, through the Greenbush and Bay Creek neighborhoods, down to South Madison.
While 5th grade students in Mr. Wagler’s class at Randall School are taking the lead role in presenting the Greenbush Cultural Tour, they are receiving significant help from past and present Greenbush residents, community scholars, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, Italian Workmen’s Club, Bayview Community Center, the Educational Technology program, Landscape Architecture program, and Chadbourne Residential College at the University of Wisconsin, the Madison Public Library and Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture, the City of Madison’s Department of Planning, with funds from the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission.
“Box City” Exhibit
Brief History of the Greenbush
Settled in the early 20th century by Italians, Jews, African-Americans and other ethnic groups, the Greenbush became a vibrant community in which poor immigrants were able to find homes and begin their lives in the United States.
The stories of the Greenbush are at the heart of our project. Beginning in the early 20th century, immigrants from many ethnic backgrounds began settling in “the Bush.” The largest groups of new residents--Italians/Sicilians, Jews, and African Americans—were often unwelcome elsewhere in the city. These new settlers faced challenges—e.g. poverty, new language, stereotypes--similar to other immigrants of this era. Former residents recall how tightly knit the community was and how well all races and religions got along with each other. In the 1960’s, the largest portion of the Greenbush—the Triangle and the Brittingham area immediately east of West Washington—was bulldozed as a part of Urban Renewal, and former residents were scattered to new neighborhoods, many in South Madison, but also elsewhere in Dane County.
The more recent history includes stories of this diaspora of former residents who maintain contact with each other and with a few surviving institutions such as the Italian Workmen’s Club and Neighborhood House; the development of Bayview, Parkside, and Brittingham Apartments and the life stories of currentresidents; the development of the medical facilities at the corner of Park and Regent Streets and Asian Midway Foods at Park and West Washington; and the stories of the portions of the Greenbush outside of the Triangle not destroyed by Urban Renewal (e.g. residences, Meriter Hospital, Park Street Shoe Repair, Josie’s Restaurant).
Mark Wagler, 5th grade teacher at Randall School,firstname.lastname@example.org, 204-3337.