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Nakoma District

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1915–present. Roughly bounded by Odana Rd., S. Midvale Blvd., Manitou Way, and Seminole and W. Beltline hwys.
  • Louis and Esther Gardner House (Photograph by Jeff Dean, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

The Nakoma district reflects changes in residential development that took place in the years following World War I. Streetcar lines had connected earlier residential neighborhoods to the university area and to downtown, where most residents worked. Nakoma was one of the first Madison subdivisions to be built beyond the reach of streetcar lines, a development made possible by the growing use of automobiles among the middle class. The presence of attached garages in the Nakoma neighborhood reflects the automobile’s increasing importance. Moreover, as pedestrians gave way to drivers, architects reoriented the social spaces of houses from the street to the back yard. Porches—once the focus of neighborly socializing—disappeared, and houses were set back farther from the street.

Nakoma’s remarkable unity of architecture and landscape did not come about by accident. O. C. Simonds, who had designed Vilas Park (see DA33), created the overall plan for the new neighborhood in 1911 (construction began in 1915), and Leonard Smith laid out the curvilinear streets. Building plans had to be reviewed by a licensed architect and a committee, which could approve or reject a design based on its aesthetics and adherence to the neighborhood’s general scheme. The Madison Realty Company promoted Nakoma’s emphasis on planning and its country-like atmosphere as the neighborhood’s key assets. “A bit of garden,” trumpeted a promotional brochure, “an inviting path, across the knoll a winding road—this is the Nakoma that has developed out of carefully considered property restrictions that assure … a spacious breadth and an open-air view that only a far-planned subdivision can hope to possess.” Design review resulted in a coherent neighborhood, although it kept several distinguished modern houses from being built here. The district contains one of Madison’s finest concentrations of period revival architecture, notably Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival styles. Madison’s Henry Dysland designed many of the houses and constructed them through his contracting firm, the Better Homes Company. Other architects working in the district included Alvan Small, John Flad, Frank M. Riley, and the firms of Balch and Lippert, and Law, Law and Potter.

The first houses built after the Madison Realty Company began developing the subdivision in 1915 predate the establishment of the design-review committee. The Frederick Jr. and Anita Miner House (1915; 1026 Seminole) is Prairie Style, as were most of the earliest houses here. Low-slung proportions, rows of windows, and dark bands emphasize the horizon and anchor the house visually to the earth. More typical of the neighborhood is the William and Estelle Dineen House (1929; 4122 Mandan Crescent). The quarry-faced stone, conical tower, segmental-arched wall dormers, and steeply pitched hipped roof evoke a medieval manor.

Henry Dysland designed the Louis and Esther Gardner House (1929; 4230 Waban Hill) in Tudor Revival. The facade’s complicated composition juxtaposes a conical entrance tower with a pavilion that features a false half-timbered gable and a bow window. Dysland provided a French Provincial theme for the Albert and Clara Dysland House (1927; 1133 Waban). Albert was Henry’s brother and the treasurer of his firm. The house has an imposing facade of random-coursed stone, a steeply pitched hipped roof with gabled wall dormers, an arched doorway, and pronounced stone window heads.

Nakoma Road bisects the original subdivision plat. Here the Thomas and Calla Lloyd Jones House (1915; 3853 Nakoma Road) exemplifies the decorative relationship between the Tudor Revival buildings that characterized much of the district by the 1920s and the earlier Prairie Style, the two sharing an Arts and Crafts aesthetic. Consequently, Alvan Small’s side-gabled design harmonizes with Nakoma’s period revival theme. Paired casement windows across the second story and a cantilevered entrance canopy draw their inspiration from the Prairie Style, while the false half-timbering and the exposed rafters are Tudor Revival.

The most prevalent style in the district is Colonial Revival. The Paul and Julia Stark House (1921; 734 Huron Hill) is one of the oldest and largest examples. The two-story, stuccoed house has a side-gabled roof, punctuated by hipped dormers. Pairs of pilasters flank sidelights on either side of the central entry. Over the door, large consoles support a canopy, crowned by a wrought-iron balconet. One-story wings flanking the main facade include a sunroom, whose pergola-like roof and elephantine columns suggest Craftsman design. Exposed rafter tails along the roof visually tie this wing of the house to the two-car garage on the other side.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Nakoma District", [Madison, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 459-460.

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