Neighborhood House


  1916 - 1929early Neighborhood House


  1929 - 19491946 Neighborhood House dance


  1949 - 1966Madison Neighborhood Centers


  1966 - 19901990 band


  1991 - 2015Dan Foley


      2016 - ?Neighborhood House






 About the History of Neighborhood House

In the fall of 2014,  the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offered its third annual capstone course--the culminating course for its majors.  Randy Stoecker was the professor for the course. Twenty three students signed up for the class.  Assisted by Nadia Carlson, a Morgridge Center Service Learning Fellow, the students embarked on a semester-long project.  Half of them dug through archives across campus and the city and the Internet.  The other half set about finding and interviewing past participants, leaders, and staff from Neighborhood House.  Everyone then began to piece together the fragments of stories they found into a coherent mosaic that gives glimpses into what Neighborhood House was and is.

Gay Braxton, the first paid staff person of Neighborhood House and its iconic leader, divides her history at Neighborhood House into "the pioneering or interpreting years," "the unemployment and depression years," "the war years," and "the prospectus."

We chose, ultimately, to divide up the longer story into periods of major transition.  These periods are as much major historical transition points as they are Neighborhood House turning points.  But that is fitting, because Neighborhood House has been so much about responding to the externalities wrought by major historical turning points--wars, waves of immigration, massive economic dislocations, urban renewal.  What we have, then, is not so much a singular story as a collections of stories that, together, create a stained-glass window through which we can understand Neighborhood House in its many incarnations.

Each chapter was initially drafted by a team of four to five students. Randy Stoecker then went through each chapter to convert it into a web page, make revisions, and develop a common writing style.  Three students from the initial capstone course, as well as the Morgridge Fellow from the capstone course, continued to gather data in the spring of 2015.  And Randy then continued researching and writing through the summer of 2015. 

We were guided in this process by a group of leaders from Neighborhood House past and present: Sadat Abiri, Dan Foley, Andy Heidt, Janet Laube, Adetunji Lesi, Ben Tolle, and Nate Warnke.  This leadership group helped us figure out what questions to ask, and who to ask them of.  They reviewed our writing at both the very rough stage and the more polished draft stage.

There are a number of people to thank, including the University of Minnesota Social Welfare History archives, the Wisconsin Historical Society archives, the Madison Public Library's subscription to The project brought out the generosity of others.  We thank Andy Kraushaar of the Wisconsin Historical Society, Linnea Anderson of the University of Minnesota Social Welfare History Archives, Jonathan Gramling of the Capital City Hues, Dennis McCormick of the Wisconsin State Journal, Mark Gajewski of Historic Madison Inc., Vicki Tobias of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, and Pat Graham and Fugazi for allowing us to use images and photos free of charge.

We have tried to stick to facts that we could verify, and that has been difficult at times.  Even the newspapers made many errors in reporting about Neighborhood House over the years.  In those places where significant uncertainty remained, we've indicated that in the text or chapter notes. 

In quoting people we have tried to remain as true as possible to the speaker's original words, though we've needed to add clarifications in some places. 

Finally, to some, the history of Neighborhood House is inextricably the history of the old Greenbush neighbohood.  Many others, such as Mark Wagler's Cultural Tour, have covered that history.  Our focus is on Neighborhood House itself.

What is good about this project is thus the result of those who have left behind their stories in print, entrusted us with them through interviews, and shaped our telling of them through their guidance. This is by far the most comprehensive history of Neighborhood House.  But all histories are always incomplete, and we take responsibility for that incompleteness--for what remains unknown about Neighborhood House. Our hope is that this history becomes a living document, expanding and deepening as Neighborhood House learns ever more about its past and forges its future. We expect there is both much more history to be understood, and to be made.

With gratitude, Randy Stoecker and the Fall 2014 Community and Environmental Sociology capstone class:

1916-WWII era group:

Sean Fitzgerald
Kimberly Mayer
Krystal McCalvy
Desire Smith
Emily Young

WWII-1960 era group:

Dillon Flynn
Samantha Lewis
Erika Nickels
Gabriel Orduna
Daria Rydzak

1960-1980 era group:

Katherine Diaz
David Grube
Robyn Steinerman
Zoe Sumnicht

1980-2000 era group:

Elly Evans
Forrest Gauthier
Margrethe Hippensteel
Sonya Sedegui
Thuy Dan Tran

2000-2015 era group:

Jenna Dart
William Gehl
Anthony Grolemund
James Hickey III

Spring 2015 Independent Study Students:

Jenna Dart
Gabriel Orduna
Sonya Sedegui

Morgridge Center Service Learning Fellow:

Nadia Carlson


Randy Stoecker