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Saturday, August 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 69.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Madison's Bassett Neighborhood: Historic ambience

Laid out before the advent of automobiles, the Bassett Neighborhood's streets render it a cornerstone of Madison's old city - that part of town that European cities call their vieille ville. Eminently walkable, these streets are lined by stately old Victorian homes (some divided into apartments, others renovated by residents determined to return them to their glory days after decades of neglect by tenants and landlords) and an outburst of recent condo projects (ranging from the Fourth Ward Lofts and Prairie-style Bedford Court to Metropolitan Place, Meriter Retirement Community and the gleaming Nolen Shore tower). Bassett's residents find everything close at hand: work, play, dining, entertainment, even recreation for their dogs in the neighborhood's pocket-sized dog park.

Covering the southwest flanks of the Capitol's hill, this neighborhood is home to students and professors, empty-nesters and full-fledged retirees, hippies and yuppies, vagrants and professionals, and to creative-class entities ranging from the Wisconsin Humanities Council to the funky listener-sponsored and volunteer-driven radio station WORT-FM. It exudes a vibrant, colorful vibe that is just rough enough around the edges to stop it short of gentrified.

Bassett Street and its neighborhood are named for Richard Bassett, one of the signatories to the U.S. Consititution. (Mifflin Street, which crosses Bassett and gave rise to the neighborhood's most renowned annual event, the Mifflin Street Block Party, is likewise name for Constitutional signatory Thomas Mifflin.)

Neighborhood residents live a short stroll from the Kohl Center, Brittingham Park, the Madison Public Library's main branch, the Overture Center, Monona Terrace, the Capitol, dozens of restaurants, a hardware store, a grocery store, the southeast UW-Madison campus, both lakes and the charred remains of St. Raphael Cathedral. The long-standing neighborhood watering hole of choice is the Echo Tap. Nearby at Tuscan Place, Jo's Tazzina brings European flair and flavor to the neighborhood with its array of exquisite chocolates, pastries, coffees and sandwiches.

Though its streets have been re-engineered over the years to accommodate motor vehicles, the Bassett Neighborhood remains built to a pedestrian scale. With almost everything within walking distance, the only significant reason to get in the car is to drive somewhere else. But with so much so close at hand, there's little reason leave the Bassett Neighborhood.

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