Established in 1857 on Madison's Isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, Marquette Neighborhood (a.k.a. Williamson-Marquette or Wil-Mar) is one of Madison's oldest neighborhoods. From its earliest origins Marquette reflected an unusually strong sense of diversity. With its grand Victorian lakefront homes, single family Queen Anne style homes, and 2-flats to the modest workers' cottages sandwiched between shops and pubs on Williamson Street, otherwise known as "Willy St", Marquette has an impressive history of inclusion and co-existence. Read more about Marquette architecture, housing, and lifestyles here.
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Today’s Marquette Neighborhood is popular with professionals, students, and artists for its eclectic commercial district, proximity to the downtown and U.W. campus, high degrees of bike-ability and walkability, and attractive live-work options. In summer and fall Marquette’s continuous sidewalks transform into totally pedestrianized streets when the neighborhood hosts several signature Madison music festivals.
Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) was formed in 1968. Annual events include Chili Dinner, Waterfront Festival, and several signature music festivals such as La Fete de Marquette, Orton Park Festival, and The Central Park Sessions. Other festivals such as Willy Street Fair, Taste of Willy Street, and AtwoodFest are great options for discovering a wide range of multi-cultural food options. In addition to music, street, and food festivals showcasing every type of food, Marquette residents enjoy excellent grocery options at its Willy Street Grocery Cooperative (Willy St Coop) and East Side Farmer’s Market (held at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center).
There is ample local shopping within walking distance of nearly everything in Marquette Neighborhood. Art galleries, local coffeehouses, restaurants, live music venues, and locally-owned shops are the standard in the Willy Street section of this neighborhood. Local residents have been vigilant to keep national chains at bay to protect the neighborhood’s unique character and diverse population. Startup incubators now occupy former factories, and a home-grown entrepreneurial energy prevails. An involved community remains committed to popular Marquette traditions such as neighborhood fairs and music festivals, as well as regularly engages its community through new initiatives such as Little Free Libraries. In addition to food, music, shops, and dining, Marquette residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to parks and lake access. Neighborhood greenspaces include Orton Park, Central Park, Yahara Place Park, Morrison Park, BB Clarke Beach, and of course easy access to beautiful Lake Monona.
Marquette History & Architecture
Marquette's 19th century architecture showcases some of Madison’s oldest remaining buildings including a now-restored Carnegie–funded library originally opened in 1913. Sought-after housing options in Marquette include 100 year-old craftsman bungalows, as well as newly-built condominium homes and converted apartments. The neighborhood’s housing stock also includes a number of highly affordable units which serve as a reminder of Marquette’s long history of commitment to economic diversity.
Although years of decline left Marquette vulnerable to serious threats over the years including a proposed freeway, school closures, vacant factories, and demolitions, in 1971, the neighborhood association penned Madison's first neighborhood plan. The neighborhood was saved and citizens and neighbors of Marquette continue refining and realizing the goals of the ’71 plan to this day.
Included in the MNA plan, in 2008 Madison completed the Yahara River Parkway, a goal described by renowned planner John Nolen in “Madison: A Model City (1911)”. The Parkway, a long, straight park connecting Lakes Monona and Mendota, served not only to transform ugly brownfields into beautiful riverfront with bike paths, but which created open spaces for all to enjoy and to easily connect to Madison’s 8.7 acre Central Park.
Marquette Housing Styles
The 1850’s brought housing in the styles of Greek Revival, Italianate, Arts & Crafts and Bungalows to Marquette Neighborhood. Four national historic districts have been designated: East Wilson Street Historic District (1986), Jenifer-Spaight Historic District (2004), Marquette Bungalows Historic District (1997), and Orton Park Historic District (1988). In addition, two local historic districts have been designated: Third Lake Ridge (1979) and Marquette Bungalows (1993).
Although Marquette features some single family homes on mature lakefront lots and some historically significant single family homes, the vast majority of homes are more modest. Nestled into tiny side streets lined with mature trees, neighborhood pride has ensured that many of these homes have retained their architectural integrity despite being updated or added onto. Condominium homes are also available in Marquette Neighborhood and start in the low $200K price range. Single family homes, on the other hand, start in the low $300K's.
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