Established in 1848, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is one of the country’s first land-grant universities, currently serving over 43,000 students and 21,000 faculty and staff. The main campus is comprised of over 938 acres of picturesque grounds along nearly 4.5 miles of Lake Mendota shoreline in Madison, Wisconsin. Approximately 300 acres of the main campus are defined as the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and are protected from development. The university is located in Dane County, less than a mile from the state Capitol. Inland lakes create a narrow isthmus where concentrated development patterns exist within a scenic setting.
This spectacular lakefront setting is its greatest physical asset. The natural areas, historic landscapes, and public spaces are the places that create astounding first impressions and lasting memories for those who visit, work, educate, and learn at this institution.
The 1850 campus plan, attributed to Architect John Rague and the university’s first chancellor, John H. Lathrop, proposed situating the campus on Madison’s “second hill”, facing the nearby state capital building which was located on the “first hill.” The hills overlook the city of Madison surrounded by beautiful lakes and natural areas, created by the glaciers some 15,000 years ago. The effigy mound, so prevalent on this campus and throughout the upper Midwest, also occurred over 1,000 years ago. These relationships have served as a structure for the physical development of the campus landscape for over the last 150 years.