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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: -3.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Take a trip with the Conklin House through downtown Madison

Credit:Kristian Knutsen

Weekend merrymaking ran well into the early hours of Monday morning in downtown Madison as hundreds of people took to the streets to watch a house get moved from its 120 year-long home in the heart of the UW campus to a new lot on the near east side. Wielding cell phones and cameras of all kinds, a strange procession of people clearly enjoying the summer-like weather kept pace as the house made its way along several of the city's busiest streets.

The building in question was the Conklin House, a Queen Anne-style home originally built in 1887 and substantially remodeled in 1905 that was has been granted landmark status and is named for one of Madison's prominent early families who once called it home. Long situated on the appropriately named Conklin Place behind Luther Memorial Church on a block surrounded by university property, the house was moved to a new home on the 500 block of East Mifflin Street on Sunday night. Placed on stilts and removed from its original foundation, the Conklin House was effectively sawed in two, as it is so large that it could only be moved in sections, with each half situated on an oversized trailer.

A photo gallery showing the move can be viewed above.

The move stared at about 8 p.m. on Sunday, with the house's long circuitous trek through downtown lasting into early Monday morning. Starting from its former home at the corner of West Johnson and North Mills streets, the two halves of the building traveled about two miles across the isthmus the new location on East Mifflin Street. The route ran along West Johnson, turning onto North Broom Street, then onto West Washington Avenue, turning one half revolution around Capitol Square, then along East Washington Avenue, another turn onto North Blair Street, and then changing directions one final time before parking in front of its new foundation on the 500 block of East Mifflin Street.

Moving crews will subsequently rejoin the two halves and anchor the reconstituted Conklin House at its new home in the Old Marketplace Neighborhood.

I came upon the scene while riding the #2 bus from the west side towards downtown on Sunday night. A gentleman entering the bus on the west end of the UW-Madison campus started talking about the move that had started a couple of hours early, and was noticeably slowing down traffic on West Johnson. Passing the massive pit in the ground that was the former site of the Conklin House, we eventually turned off Johnson to avoid the thickening traffic headache as the building halves approached their first major turn onto North Broom.

Jumping off the bus after it completed its detour along Dayton, I caught up with the move at the intersection of North Broom and West Mifflin, next to Capital Centre Market and the looming face of Metropolitan Place. The scene there was lively, with a growing mass of mostly college-aged people enjoying the warm weather and following the sections of the house as they crept southeast across the isthmus. Nearly everybody was armed with a cell phone, using them to either snap pics or video of the move, or to share word of the spectacle with their friends. It was almost as if the 2008 Mifflin Street Block Party had started early, albeit without the ever present inebriation or forced partying atmosphere. This was something far more spontaneous.

The progress of the building was slow, owing to the need of city crews to adjust the positioning of streetlights and any other obstructions along the path, and there were several times when the halves snapped many branches off the various trees they passed along the way.

The crowds remained thick as the halves progressed along broom and then up West Wash and around the Square, with the procession accompanied by a parade of followers constantly entering and departing the spectacle. Maybe everybody was just a little mad, with the light of the full moon illuminating the scene throughout.

Here's a brief video clip of (one-half of) the house turning from Carroll onto Main Street on the south corner of the Capitol Square.

There have got to be many thousands more photos and videos saved on cell phones and memory cards out there, meanwhile, and a few have since been published online. One photo set taken by Judy Karofsky was published on Monday by Nadine Goff, featuring more images of the house as traversed the Square. Another photo gallery was published by near east side alder Brenda Konkel, meanwhile, featuring images of the house completing the final leg of its journey along North Blair and East Mifflin streets, along with a few looks at the halves sitting next to their new home in the early morning light.

The 500 block of East Mifflin will remain closed until the house is situated in its new lot in the near east side neighborhood. Back on campus, the former site of the Conklin House is slated for the construction of a new 14-story apartment building, the latest in a series of dense developments along the main axis of the university.

Madison is continuously undergoing cycles of construction and development, but on Sunday night, those partaking in the strange revelry got to experience one minor yet still massively spectacular change in the relative blink of an eye.

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