Atwood – Madison, WI
Atwood is part of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood on the near east side of Madison. Known as SASY for short, the community was featured as one of the city’s Great Neighborhoods in Madison Magazine in 2009.
Water and parks frame the area, which is bounded by the Yahara River on the west, Starkweather Creek on the east, and Lake Monona on the south. The northern border is East Washington Avenue.
Now entering its second century, this continuously inhabited neighborhood has retained its small town feel. Housing stock consists largely of older homes, both large and spacious as well as smaller and cozy. Single-family homes predominate, though three-flat rentals are also part of the community.
Public Facilities and Amenities
Commerce began at the intersection of Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street a century ago when Fred Schenk’s grocery opened for business. This is still the center of the business district, as many well-preserved old buildings attest.
The neighborhood has an elementary school, middle school and high school. There are two branch libraries, two police districts and a fire station. The Goodman Community Center provides public meeting space as well as activities and meals for youths and senior citizens.
When asked what they like most about living in SASY, most residents put the abundance of green space near the top of the list. Yahara Place Park, Hudson Park and Olbrich Park all border Lake Monona and include picnic grounds.
Olbrich Park also has a soccer field, tennis courts, and baseball diamonds. The beautiful Olbrich Botanical Gardens include natural and planned vistas, public art, a Thai Pavillion and water features. There’s a bike path on the north border of the neighborhood and Lake Mendota lies a short walk west along the lovely Yahara River.
Attractions and Events
One of the gems of the neighborhood is the Barrymore, a once grand movie palace fallen on hard times until, two decades ago, citizens took charge and restored it to its former grandeur. Today’s Barrymore is a venue for cinema nights and concerts featuring nationally known headliners.
Wisconsin’s tradition of nurturing artists is on display at Absolutely Art, a gallery showcasing the work of over 200 local artists. Not far from the site of Fred Schenk’s store is Studio Paran, gallery of well-known glass artist Richard Jones.
The seasons are enthusiastically celebrated here, and the whole neighborhood turns out for Summer and Winter Solstice festivities.
No longer the blue collar community it was years ago, SASY has reinvented itself as a casual but hip urban village, the kind of place where a family-owned butcher shop might be found next to a high-end chocolatier. The majority of residents are white collar, college educated home owners, yet there’s plenty of diversity, as SASY attracts people of all ages, professions, incomes and ethnic backgrounds.
What they all have in common is a desire to preserve the community feel of the neighborhood. Walking the fine line between gentrification and preserving a distinctive identity, it’s so far, so good for the neighborhood often called “the soul of Madison.”