Vilas Neighborhood Pop Quiz!

Rhino from Henry Vilas ZooThe Vilas neighborhood is one of near-west Madison's best spots. It has it all - fun and loveable local shops on Monroe Street and South Park Street (not to mention a slew of great ethnic restaurants); beautiful, eclectic houses along tree-lined roads; and numerous outdoor attractions (I’m talking Lake Wingra, Henry Vilas Zoo and the UW Arboretum to name a few). Just blocks from several hospitals and healthcare facilities and within a mile of the Memorial Union and UW campus, Vilas is a popular place for students and professionals of all ages to call home. The Vilas area is truly a one-stop shop kind of spot that can easily meet the interest of any visitor; a unique quality for such a compact space. Although Vilas is a well known and loved area in Madison, a recent stroll through the Henry Vilas Zoo and Vilas Park got me wondering how many people are aware of the rich history and fun facts that dwell there…

DID YOU KNOW that when Henry Vilas Zoo first opened in 1911, only the following animals were in attendance: nine deer, three ground hogs, three wood chucks, two guinea pigs, two rabbits, two white rats, one raccoon, one eagle, one squirrel and one toothless red fox ( Man, a lot has changed!

DID YOU KNOW that the elaborate and somewhat decrepit marble water fountain at the end of Erin Street was only in pristine conditionOld marble fountain at the end of Erin Street for a mere six years ( Work on the fountain finished in 1925 and by 1931 vandals destroyed parts of the fountain. No restoration efforts were ever attempted.

DID YOU KNOW that an over 227-year-old tree sits on the edge of Vilas Park? In 1987 the National Arborist Association and the International Society of Arboriculture recognized the tree as having lived there at the time of the signing of our constitution. WOW!

DID YOU KNOW that Lake Wingra was originally surrounded by an expanse of wetlands that served as a favorite hunting and fishing spot for the Winnebago Indians (

DID YOU KNOW that the origins of the shoe slide in Vilas Park, a long time Madison icon, were a complete mystery up until last year ( The Wisconsin State Journal was contacted by those who had firsthand knowledge of the slide’s construction after including the slide in a series called “Madison in 100 Objects.” Who knew!

Do you have any fun facts or historical tidbits to share about the Vilas area? If so, please comment or email us!

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