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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Madison in Dane County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Here was Madisonís first African-American neighborhood

The Madison Heritage Series

 
 
Here was Madison's first African-American neighborhood Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, July 4, 2010
1. Here was Madison's first African-American neighborhood Marker
Inscription. John Hill first set eyes on Madison while visiting a relative who was attending the University of Wisconsin. He moved his family here from Atlanta in 1910 to join a modest community of about 140 African Americans.

In 1917, Hill bought a house and attached grocery store at Dayton and Blount streets from Reverend Charles Thomas, pastor of St. Paulís African Methodist Episcopal Church. Thomas had purchased the building, formerly used as a boarding house and meeting hall, from civic leader John Turner.

John and Amanda Hill operated Hillís Grocery for more than 50 years. Their daughter, Freddie Mae, was the UWís first African-American graduate. Their neighbors included the Miller family, who worked to improve the lives of African-Americans in the city, and Benjamin Butts, a former slave liberated by Wisconsin troops during the Civil War. The Hill building has been designated a Madison landmark for its rich cultural history.

Sidebar:
Churches have played a vital role in African-American neighborhoods, offering community, shared worship and mutual assistance. Founded in 1902, the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the oldest African-American congregations in Wisconsin. Organizers bought the original building from a Norwegian congregation and moved it to land donated by founding member William
Closeup of John Hill Photo on Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, July 4, 2010
2. Closeup of John Hill Photo on Marker
Miller at 631 East Dayton Street. One pastor of the church supplemented his meager wages by opening a grocery nearby, later selling it to church trustee John Hill. Hillís Grocery became a neighborhood institution, operated by a single family longer than any other grocery store in Madison.
 
Erected 2006 by City of Madison.
 
Location. 43° 4.869′ N, 89° 22.738′ W. Marker is in Madison, Wisconsin, in Dane County. Marker is at the intersection of East Dayton Street and North Blount Street, on the right when traveling east on East Dayton Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 120 North Blount Street, Madison WI 53703, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Thomas / Hill Grocery and Residence (here, next to this marker); Miller House (a few steps from this marker); Badger State Shoe Factory (within shouting distance of this marker); City Horse Barn (within shouting distance of this marker); City Market (within shouting distance of this marker); Ceramic Arts Studio of Madison (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line but has been
Here was Madison's first African-American neighborhood Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, July 4, 2010
3. Here was Madison's first African-American neighborhood Marker
The John Hill house is just behind the marker, with the former Hill's Grocery building attached on the right. The Miller house is just beyond the former Hill's Grocery building.
reported missing); Anna and Cornelius Collins Residence (about 700 feet away); Irene and Robert Connor Residence (about 700 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Madison.
 
More about this marker. This marker is part of the Madison Heritage Series, Sharing Our Legacy, created for Madison's sesquicentennial. The marker was sponsored by the Madison Community Foundation and Madison Gas & Electric.
 
Regarding Here was Madisonís first African-American neighborhood. According to the Madison Landmarks Commission, which designated the John Hill house and Hill's Grocery as landmarks (no. 96) in 1991, "The two vernacular buildings [ca. 1850; moved 1901 and 1912] on this site [120 N. Blount Street and 649 E. Dayton Street] represent one of the last vestiges of Madison's first African-American community. The two-story commercial building was moved here in 1901 by African-American civic leader, John Turner, to provide a meeting place for the Douglass Beneficial Society. The house was moved here in 1912 to serve as living quarters for the pastor of the nearby St. Paul A.M.E. Church. John W. Hill purchased the property in 1917 and operated a grocery store here until around 1980."

The
Hill's Grocery Store Building image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, July 4, 2010
4. Hill's Grocery Store Building
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church no longer exists at 631 East Dayton Street; a row house development now stands in its place.
 
Also see . . .  Madison Landmarks Commission. The landmark nomination form for the Hill Grocery and Thomas residence. (Submitted on March 17, 2011, by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin.) 
 
Categories. African AmericansChurches, Etc.
 
Hill's Grocery image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, July 4, 2010
5. Hill's Grocery
The windows to the right of the front door of the former Hill's Grocery building still bear the name as seen in the photo on the marker.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 1,606 times since then and 5 times this year. Last updated on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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