Anchoring Sherman Avenue’s lakefront houses at the northeast is the city’s first large urban park, for which development began in 1900. It originated with the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association, which purchased a marshy area at the mouth of the Yahara River. The park expresses the ideals of O. C. Simonds, a pioneer in promulgating a new Prairie Style landscape aesthetic. Simonds arranged native plants and local landscape features in a naturalistic and picturesque manner. The serpentine lagoon symbolized prairie rivers, and the island meadow represented the prairie landscape. Visitors to the park were supposed to admire nature from a path or a boat, but the passive aesthetic experience that Simonds envisioned appealed to few Madisonians. Consequently, in 1908, John Nolen was hired to design areas for more active recreation such as swimming and band concerts. Nolen also refashioned the lagoon’s series of islands into a single ten-acre island.
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