Ancient civilizations are defined by their artifacts. troops finally started to trickle back from a long war in Vietnam.If Madison were suddenly smothered by a Mount Vesuvius, or swallowed up by Lake Mendota like Atlantis, what would future archaeologists conclude about us? It was there to mark the beginning of the career of the city’s youngest mayor.So are veiny black granite panels, meant to replace the blond brick that was put on the theater’s facade when it was “remuddled” in the 1960s.“Remuddled” is the term of architect Arlan Kay, who has restored many a historic building and is overseeing changes to the Orpheum.Those changes are meant to undo alterations made to the movie palace half a century ago in the name of modernization.What would we want them to find — and what would we wish had stayed buried forever? It was there when it was in style — and it was there when it wasn’t.
Rather, they provide a sort of Rorschach test in which our perceptions say more about us than what we're looking at. In Madison, chief among them is the metal sunburst chairs reassuming their position on the Union Terrace at UW-Madison in late April. Today, it softens a man who has spent enough time in city hall to know better than you — and he’ll let you know it.Many of them, like the Memorial Union Terrace chairs or state Capitol building, are pure Madison trademarks. The chairs go back into storage, with a promise they’ll return. And it’s impossible to picture Madison’s mayor of 17 years without his mustache.Others, like the brats we consume by the hundreds of thousands each year at the World's Largest Brat Fest, may not have been invented or even made here but have come to be so closely associated with Madison that they're in our blood. Soglin’s ’stache is as Madison as Soglin is, and no one has influenced the city’s personality in quite the way he has.This is actually the second edition of the Axe; the original, which was replaced with a much sturdier version in 2004, was donated to the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.Prior to that 2004 game, then-Badgers coach Barry Alvarez noted that UW had built a trophy case for the Axe. “That’s not good.”The Badgers beat the Gophers 38-14 that year and haven’t given back the Axe, which is displayed in a case in UW’s locker room.
Newcomers to Madison on their first trip to a city park need only be told to meet by the big shoe.