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A True Wisconsin Sanctuary: The Enduring Legacy of Allen Centennial Garden

By Paul Rowe

A beautiful oasis deep in the heart of the University of Wisconsin Madison campus, Allen Centennial Garden humbly began as a project of renewal.

In 1979, the former teaching gardens attached to the Plant Sciences building were destroyed to make room for a new building addition. The unfortunate loss of these instructional gardens was intensely felt by the Madison community, and by the early 80s plans developed for a fresh instructional garden.

This garden would eventually become known as Allen Centennial Garden, the welcoming refuge that Madison residents have cherished up to this very day. This building, which served as the domain of the University's first four deans, retains its status as a cherished landmark for generations of students, alumni, friends, family, and faculty alike.

Plans were laid out to create this newly designated safe haven on the 2.5 acres surrounding the historic Dean's Residence on campus, otherwise known as Lake Dormer or the Fred House, just one block away from its original location. The stately Victorian gothic home nestled in the epicenter of the agricultural campus is an undisputed hallmark of the area. Since 1984 the house has been featured in the National Register of Historic Places.

Years later in 2011, more renovations began on the storied Dean's Residence. Eventually, the house will be renewed once more as home to a new student center, a hub of activity centered around internships, studies abroad, scholarships, and much more.

Open all year, every day from dawn to dusk, the amiable folks behind Allen Centennial Garden have never required an admission cost to enter this gorgeous premises.

"The development of the Allen Centennial Garden was designed to complement the home and its existing plantings, including the larch tree (Larix decidua) planted in 1899 to commemorate the birth of the dean-in-residence's son," Director Benjamin Futa said. "Today, the Garden is the artful living laboratory and public botanical garden of the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison."

Although the specific role of the garden always changes, its stature as a place of refuge for students seeking a place to rest their minds remains in tact. In this world of constant flux, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison deeply value the Allen Centennial Garden: a place of endurance, growth, and renewal.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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