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Angle Worm Station

Angle Worm Station

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-11643

Angleworm Station Boat Landing

In the 1870s there were, reportedly, three centers of interest and of social life in Dane County – the Capitol, the Park Hotel, and Angleworm Station. The latter, a boathouse, was located on the north shore of Lake Monona at the foot of South Carroll Street.

Captain Frank Barnes, who began operating the first steamboat on the Madison lakes, the Scutanabequon, in 1864, erected the boathouse. The structure supposedly received its name when a billboard painter named Webster put the words “angle worm” and “station” on the wall in jest. When Barnes later hired Webster to paint the boathouse he permitted him to keep “Angleworm Station” upon the wall.

Barnes developed a twenty-minute speech about “that downtrodden bit of humanity, the angleworm” that he gave every Fourth of July. A few years after the close of the Civil War General Lucius Fairchild invited about 25 generals, among them Hancock, Sherman and Sheridan, to Winnequah, where as part of the program Cap Barnes entertained with his lecture. “Phil Sheridan, a little, broad-shouldered, florid Irishman, got to laughing so hard at Barnes’ antics that he had to get up and leave the party.”

The Madison Yacht Club, an early rowing organization, met near the Angleworm Station. In 1878 crews from Moline, Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Paul raced the home crew on Lake Monona, with Madison winning the event with a four-oar scull. The members of the team were presented with gold medals. At the end of the regatta the pier at the Station gave way under the weight of several hundred spectators and dropped white-flanneled men and daintily dressed women into Lake Monona. The crowning point of that rowing season was when General Fairchild presented the crew with a six-oar, cedar-built scull which was named the Lady Fairchild after his wife.

In 1900 William Askew, who had operated steamboats on Lake Mendota with his brothers Charles and Thomas, purchased Angleworm Station and began running boats on Lake Monona. The Askews eventually deserted Angleworm Station for their Esther Beach landing. About 1925 Angleworm Station, and a number of unsightly boathouses on the shore of the lake, were razed.

Mark Gajewski