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A Little Orchard Ridge History

Long before the golf course, the pool and the school, the Orchard Ridge neighborhood was home to different Indian tribes. Various artifacts discovered here such as food storage pits are estimated at date back to 1250AD. The Sioux Indians lived in the area around the 1700s. They were followed by the Chippewa, then the Iroquois. When the Europeans began to settle here most of the inhabitants were Winnebago Indians.


 The early white settlers described the Orchard Ridge area as prairie land, and a large marsh covered the land approximately where Odana Pond is now. The Beltline East of Whitney Way bridges the pond today.

From the mid 1800s until 1950, these 500 plus acres were considered rural Madison and were primarily the home of dairy farms. When Ted Hammersley came here in the 1870s his family established a large dairy farm and apple orchard. His family sold the farm to Orchard Ridge's first developer, John McKenna, in the mid 1940s.

The first lots for development measured 100 by 150 feet and sold for $1250. By 1958 the Orchard Ridge neighborhood was almost completely developed.

Orchard Ridge school (now Orchard Ridge Elementary and Toki Middle) was built in 1958. The established woods near the structure became part of the school grounds. In 1962 the Orchard Ridge Garden Club helped restore 3 acres of the woods "to provide a Natural Laboratory where children especially may have the opportunity to study the native flowers, trees and shrubs of Wisconsin."

Many of the current Orchard Ridge residents are original neighborhood homeowners. Several children have grown up and purchased their own homes in the neighborhood nearby their parents - or have returned to Madison and resettled in the neighborhood they once grew up in.

Research by Lisa Stec. Primary source: "Study of a Community The Orchard Ridge School Area," by Richard W Magnuson and Thomas W Klausmeier, a project funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Council (David Walker Executive Secetary)

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