A short story about Tenney Park and the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, told by Caroline Hoffman.
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I: This is Joe Orman, it is May 19th, 2019, and I am here with—
N: Caroline Hoffman. H-O-F-F-MAN
I: Alright and Caroline you said you wanted to talk about the sculpture [inaudible]?
N: Yeah so, today we’re having the big Centennial Celebration for Tenney Park, and at 4:30, we’re gonna unveil a postcard installation—
N [CONTINUING]: it’s in Tenney Park, it’s gonna be permanent. And what we did is, I printed up, vintage postcards from 1900, enlarged them, and they’re printed on aluminum. And they’re gonna be permanently in the park—there’s five of them! So the story of them, is that I am the child of a collector. My father collected lots of stuff.
N [CONTINUING]: Japanese prints, daguerreotypes, old maps. And he strongly believed that— you—the joy is not in the owning, but in the collecting. So he believed that when you had collections you needed to get them back out there so others could see it.
About 15 years ago, a woman who was born on the same street that I am—Marston Avenue, which faces Tenney Park—her name was Martha Kilgore. She had a postcard collection. And, she showed it to me, and she also said “There must be some way that we can show this to other people.” Flash forward another 15 years and I was selected by the city to design one of their—utility art boxes…
N [CONTINUING]: Once my art box was up, I thought—what can we do with these postcards? So I wandered around—I wandered around the park and other areas of the city. And, decided that they needed to be in the middle of a park. Not near the shelter, where, too easy to see, we wanted it where people had to walk to see it. SO, we decided, I decided on the location.
I went to my neighborhood association—the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association. They said “Good’ [or INAUDIBLE]. I wrote a grant to the city, for a neighborhood grant. We got the grant, and the grant includes not only the celebration—but the postcard installation. So at 4:30, we encourage everyone to come see. It’ll be up there, as long as they last. Which, aluminum, should be a long time.
I: Should be a long time.
N: A long time!
I: That’s fantastic. So you—have you lived here your whole life then, in this neighborhood?
N: No I moved here in 19, um, 77. I bought the house in ’77 I live across from Tenney Park. So—and—it’s a 2 flat, and we have a spectacular view on the second floor of the whole park. So, um, and there are, I know of 3 people who lived their whole lives on my block. So…
I: Yeah, that’s fantastic.
N: So… So… Um, I also enlarged—and they’re outside, we can bring them in here, some maps that showed the original way that Tenney Park was designed—and the way it currently looks. Want me to go get one?
I: Uh... yeah I’d like to—I’d love to see it after the recording, that’d be fantastic.
N: Ok, ok, that’s alright [INAUDIBLE].
I: Yeah so, in terms of the park itself, do you have like any specific favorite memories or any specific times in the park [INAUDIBLE]?
N: Oh geez I loved the roller slide. [I LAUGHS] So there were two things the city had and then they removed because they said it was liab—liability issue.
N: One was a roller slide which was so much fun, and the other was the see-saws, or the teeter-totters depending on where you’re from. The city removed those. They were fun, um, that’s too bad. Otherwise we used to play baseball out there, and I play tennis now, and, it’s a great park! But the original design was not like this at all.
N: In 1909, Mr. Simonds designed it to be a serpentine design. He believed you leave the world better than the way you found it. And so his design was wilderness. It involved a lot of lagoon, a lot of islands. And he wanted people to get in canoes and go by and see wilderness. And Mr. Olin had hired him. He made the design—and then, the public hated it.
N: They were a working-class neighborhood, and they just, absolutely hated it. They said, “We want recreation”.
N: SO, Olin hired Nolan—John Nolan. John Nolan came in and redesigned it for recreation— baseball and other things. And then—nobody came! So, Olin came up with another idea. He said: “Why don’t we have a concert, a brass concert in the middle of the park.” This is 1912- 1912-1913. He said “Let’s have a concert and give away ice-cream!” So, the first time he did it, 4,000 people came.
N: The population of Madison at this time was only 3,200! 4,000 people came, to go to this concert. From then on, every Sunday there was a concert. People came, they sold ice cream and made money for the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive. And from then on, people used it. But he needed to get people here initially and so, that’s how he did it.
I: That’s fantastic.
N: So, the park you see now is really designed by John Nolan, but Mr. Simonds had a good idea!
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