Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Historical & Cultural Highlights

Travel back through time by visiting Dane County Park System properties with unique cultural features and rich histories. These special places help visitors learn how people lived in the past and create a strong sense of place. The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department, including the Parks Division, has a long-standing history of working to improve, enhance and protect the county’s natural, historical and cultural resources through land acquisition and land management techniques.

To learn more about the history of some of our park properties, visit individual park property pages and click on the “History” button at the bottom of the page, when available. In addition, information on a few highlights is listed below.

Official Historical/Cultural Sites

A Dane County Park property classified as an Historical/Cultural site consists of land that is specifically set aside for the preservation, restoration, or reconstruction of features significant to the history or cultural heritage of an area. These sites are typically on or eligible for state and national register of historic places listing. Sites include:

  • Halfway Prairie School operated from 1844-1961 and is the oldest rural elementary school in the county.  Visitors can view the inside of the school in its authentically restored condition during specified hours.
  • Hauge Historic District Park (Town of Perry) surrounds the pioneer Norwegian Hauge Log Church built in 1852 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Lake View Hill Park served as a county tuberculosis sanatorium from 1930-1966. The buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Remnant structures and interpretive signs help tell the story of the sanatorium.
  • Schumacher Farm Park is a showcase of early 1900s farming practices and park hosts workshops and public events. In the warmer months, volunteers tend the chickens, the heirloom garden, and the small orchard.
  • Tenney Park Lock & Dam is part of the larger City of Madison Landmark Site that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. The first dam near this location was built in 1847 as a mill and brewery.

Additional Park Properties

Many other Dane County Park properties include historical or cultural features. Some examples include:

  • The Davidson House is a Greek Revival-influenced stone house built of local quarried stone around 1860. It is located in the Sugar River Wildlife Area Davidson Unit. The Verona Historical Society is assisting the county with management of the house.
  • Fish Camp County Park contains several interpretive signs and historical buildings documenting European settlers’ carp stocking and harvesting practices.
  • Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area houses the former Matz Farmstead stone ruins that were built in 1907 and burned down in 1949.
  • The Lake Farm Archeological District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 after an archaeological survey identified 32 prehistoric sites at William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park with artifacts dating back to the Late Woodland period, around 8,000 BCE.
  • The Lower Mud Lake Archaeological Complex was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and is encompassed by the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resource Area.
  • The Silverwood Stone House, previously the Silverwood family home, was built pre-Civil War of locally quarried limestone. The Town of Albion designated the house a historic structure in 2015. The house was renovated in 2016 for use as a visitor center at Silverwood County Park.

Native American Mounds

Human beings have lived in the Madison area for nearly 12,000 years. Early Native American tribes left traces of their activities in the form of artifacts and the remains of campsites, villages, cemeteries, and earthworks. This includes earthen mounds, built over a two thousand year period for burial of the dead and other ceremonial purposes. Over 1,500 of these mounds in numerous clusters or groups were built near the shores of the Yahara chain of lakes. As many as 80% of these have been destroyed per Wisconsin First Nations. This short booklet (PDF) provides a brief history of effigy mounds in Wisconsin.

State law protects all such burial areas, including those on both public and private lands, against unauthorized disturbance. Visitors should avoid walking over or picnicking on mounds and other designated burial sites.