Community members push for State Street historic district

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- After the former Sacred Feather building on State Street was painted black, community members and the City of Madison Landmarks Commission discussed ideas to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future to preserve the history of the street.

At the Monday evening meeting, community members made public comments about the importance of preserving State Street. One of those speakers was Bert Stitt, who lives in downtown Madison.

“This paint job on the former Sacred Feather building is a wake up call, I wanted to add my voice to that wake up, and it’s like – wake up, wake up," he said. "We’re losing our precious historic dignity on State Street. And State street is a national, even an international treasure, and we would do well to do everything we can to hold it’s preciousness, if you will.”

Because the Sacred Feather is part of the urban design core district, the owners should have approved the paint change with the Urban Design Commission, according to Stu Levitan, chair of the City of Madison Landmarks Commission. Levitan said that the initial attempt to remediate the property and remove the black paint from the cream colored brick was not entirely successful, and did some damage to the brick.

Levitan said after the meeting that he believed it seemed the consensus in the room was that State Street should be a historic district.

“State Street as the critical street in Madison, and the critical street in Wisconsin," Levitan said. "The architecture shows us the development of our social and cultural and business life in downtown Madison. It’s in everyone’s interest to preserve it and enhance it."

Levitan said that the nomination to deem State Street a historic district would likely not be until 2020, as the 2019 budget year has already begun and there is no room in the budget to prepare. Levitan said the commission would like to create an inventory of the existing buildings on State Street to document the architecture, and start a campaign.

"Even as we’re doing the inventory of the existing buildings, we will start that education information campaign to explain the value of historic districts," he said. "And ultimately, in a year perhaps, depending on when we get budget authorization to conduct the full study, we’ll prepare a nomination and hopefully we’ll approve it.”