Tag - WI

Ella’s Deli & Ice Cream Parlor Madison, WI

In the early 1960s, Ella Hirschfeld opened Ella’s as a small, kosher-style deli on downtown State Street. Today, Ella’s is undoubtedly the favorite restaurant of Madison’s kids and families.

Ella's deli

Ella’s Deli

In 1976, Ella’s opened a second location, with the aim of providing breezy entertainment as well as delicious foods. Later, Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor on East Washington Avenue became the preeminent (and only) Ella’s Deli.

Under the same ownership for more than 45 years, Ella’s offers down-home cooking in a fun-filled, zany, and carnivalesque atmosphere. Cheery, animated displays are ubiquitous, including jugglers, monkeys, flying supermen, sports heroes, castles, and wild decorations brushing back and forth on wires overheard, or jutting out of trap doors in the ceiling or walls. Many tables have glass tops with odd scenes below, or have moveable parts inside, which contain everything from model trains whizzing through miniscule villages to marble labyrinth races.

Sensory stimulation makes the place memorable, and children will be entranced by the spirited shows that crowd the restaurant’s atmosphere, from top to bottom, side to side, wall to wall. Outside, during the warmer times of the year, Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor operates one of fewer than 75 identified original carousels in the United States. First constructed in 1927 in Leavenworth, Kansas, the Parker Carousel was functioning in a park for 20 years in North Tonawanda, New York.

Inside ella's deli

Inside Ella’s Deli

The food at Ella’s is decent diner fare, better than your average greasy spoon, closer to home cooking than unfriendly fast food. Kids eat free Monday and Tuesday nights, and the special two-page kids’ menu should keep them happy. Ella’s menu spans the traditional choices of cheeseburgers, roast beef plates, hot dogs, and ice cream sundaes.

In addition to being an amusing venue to take the children, Ella’s is also a fully-functioning, kosher-style deli. Named best deli and best malt shop by locals, the twenty-page deli menu boasts something for everyone. Patrons may begin with one of the many homemade soups, including matzo ball, sweet and sour cabbage, and chili. From a slender corned beef sandwich stacked high on tasty rye bread, to an enjoyable garden salad or a warm open faced melt soaked in melted Swiss cheese, the selection aims to ensure something for all. Much beloved city favorites include the corned beef Reuben, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and the vegetarian burger.

Diners should leave some space for dessert at Ella’s, which has a menu running twelve pages just of sundaes and splits. The ‘Number One Sundae’ mixes homemade pound cake with three scoops of Ella’s own vanilla custard, hearty fudge, and whipped cream. There are also seven distinct banana splits, twenty different tastes of ice cream, and a bevy of baked specialties.

In the spring, summer, and fall no outing to Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor would be complete without a journey on the 1927 Parker Carousel ($1 per ride, parents ride free). Vibrantly reconditioned and accompanied with organ music, the ride is a quirky treat kids won’t soon forget. Entertaining and edible, Ella’s is destination which shouldn’t be missed if you are in Madison.

Richard Jones, Studio Paran Madison, WI

Humans have experimented with embers to make glassware since at least 1,000 BC. From the sacred shores of ancient, hallowed lands to a hip little enclave of the ‘Mad City’, the art of glass blowing continues to captivate its practitioners, awe its constructors, and keep those working within its domain and energy both vigilant and respectful.



Glass blowing is a fast-paced, productive, alert, amazing medium,” says Richard Jones, owner of Studio Paran Showroom and Glassblowing Studio, 2051 Winnebago Street.

Located two miles from the Capitol on Madison’s near eastside, Jones constructs a striking mix of utilitarian and elegant invention, a commitment to radiantly, exotically sensible art. With a few tools and the spark of adrenaline, he pumps out decorative, functional art at its fieriest.

Glass blowing is much less about self-expression to me, than it is about self-actualization,” says Jones. “My theory of art is about getting rid of the ego, getting out of the way of my work, and best focusing on the conduit. I try to get my small self out of the way, so that something bigger may be created.”

Jones’s ego indeed seems removed from the power of its creativity, aloof of the spectacular objects spawned from its own invention. When I compliment his work, abstractly comparing the beauty of one of his vases to an absolutely elegant sip of wine, he interjects, not rudely, but almost apologetically, “being a craftsman, I often only see the flaws.”

Early glass blowers often used their skills to make small items for personal accouterments, such as beads, small perfume bottles and oil, candle, flower, perfume and incense containers, some of which Jones also creates.

Glass making

Glass making

Glass making is precise, cautious, grimy, and dangerous work. In order to perform glass blowing, Jones uses a blowpipe. He pre-heats the tip of the blowpipe by dipping it in the molten glass of a sweltering furnace. Soon, a ball of the molten glass accrues on the blowpipe. It is then rolled by Jones onto a tool called a marver, a stout sheet of flat steel.

The marver is important to the glass blowing process, as it develops a cool outside layer on the glass and makes it possible to tinker with aesthetics. While Jones holds the blowpipe, an assistant craft puffs air into one of its ends, forming a bubble with the molten glass. Once the glass is blown, Jones is free to design an endless variety of shapes and combinations. By using large steel tweezers, he can pull or pluck the glass to shape detail.

Jones invites visitors to tour his workshop and adjacent studio, a gorgeous salon of exotic glassware, which opened in May 2009. The workshop allows guests to witness the intense heating process that makes this ancient art so unique and impassioned. Studio Paran also carries handmade glass marbles, sculptural graphite drawing tools, and a selection of handcrafted wooden furniture.

Beautiful art work

Beautiful art work

With more than two decades’ worth of experience immersed in the flaring, flaming art of glass blowing, Jones still takes pleasure in its powerful emotions. His world is one where so many expressions of awareness take place daily. “There are still always horizons to work towards,” says Jones. “There’s a comfort to doing this skill-based craft for so long, as it’s a space I’m familiar with. But I’m certainly open to finding things in my work that I do not expect, seeing them as an opportunity. I lead the work, but I do not follow it. I engage in a familiar yet fresh process.”

Indeed, at Studio Paran, there is no chance for Jones to rest on his laurels, no autopilot button to push, no coasting on the job, no daydreaming around the bonfire. Heat, glass, flare and fire obligate Jones to keep all internal mental noise and distraction to an absolute minimum.

“If I’m not paying attention, or if I’m somewhere else mentally, things don’t go well,” says Jones. “Paying attention causes old ideas to be replaced by new ideas, and forces priorities to shift. That’s all part of the maturity of glassblowing.

H.H. Bennett’s 19th Century Photography Studio, Wisconsin Dells, WI


Bennett’s studio Wisconsin Dells

Centered in a somewhat chaotic labyrinth of the Wisconsin Dells’ tacky T-shirt shops, moccasin stands, merchandise, and the overblown upheaval of tourism, there is a gem of a site of particular interest to those with a bent for early photography and the stereoscope.

Henry Hamilton Bennett (1843-1908) opened his first studio in the Wisconsin Dells in 1865 (its oldest operating business), and he would become famous for his gorgeous, vivid photos of the Dells and the Native Americans of the Wisconsin River shot between 1865 and 1908. In 1875, Bennett moved into the self-designed Broadway surviving studio – thought to be the oldest operating photography studio in the United States. Bennett profited well from the business, utilizing it to sell postcards and souvenir portraits to vacationers, primarily Chicagoans. Bennett’s descendants continued to work the studio, modifying it in the years after his death. In 1999, when its new owners, the Wisconsin Historical Society, took over, the historic building was reconditioned to its 1908 appearance.

Explore Benett's studio

Explore Bennett’s studio

Noted for his advanced techniques, photography historians regard Bennett as one of the pioneering landscape photographers of the 19th century. Bennett was an initiator of early photography, discovering the stop action shutter, which allowed him to take photographs of on-the-spot events – the earliest samples of American photo journalism. Bennett’s dedicated his landscape work to creating stereo views and assembling his own equipment for producing stereo views and prints.

The resourceful inventor also built a spinning solar printing house to print his pictures (now at the Smithsonian Institution), and he was able to innovatively depict details of the sky and water by lacing together negatives from multiple photographs before fashioning a final print. By employing this method, Bennett weaved the loveliest of panoramas. Additionally, Bennett was commissioned by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad and took pictures in other states, including Chicago, Illinois’s epic World’s Columbian Exposition. Bennett sold postcards and photos from his studio and worked as a professional landscape photographer until his death in 1908.

Benette's studio back then

Benette’s studio back then

Today the studio still houses many of Bennett’s original photographs, cameras, equipment, glass plate negatives, and photography inventions. For better or worse, the Dells and their abundance of accompanying miniature golf courses, Roman coliseum-replica roller coaster rides, magic shows, laser-tag games, and populist buffets, are all part of but one facet of the popular contemporary American vacation experience.

Among the frenzied maze of activity and frivolity, however, is a true historical gem. Even in the most improbable of places, a story waits to be passed on, a life stands by to be described, and a history longs to be shared.

Owen Conservation Park Madison, WI

Owen Conservation Park Madison, WI

Owen Conservation Park -Madison, WI

One of Madison, Wisconsin’s most dearly held secrets, the hiking and panorama at Owen Conservation Park offer great scenery of mixed woods and prairie, and a city skyline overlook. The view of the city shows only a scant percentage of the buildings and gives the impression that there is very little around but forest and country.

History of Owen Conservation Park

Madison has certainly grown since the early 1900s. On a summit showcasing the city’s west side, this 84-acre park was once the summer retreat of former University of Wisconsin French professor Edward T. Owen (1850 – 1931). He named it Torwald. Owen was not only an educator, but he was also a real estate investor and conservationist. He feared that unchecked urban development would ruin the natural beauty of Madison. With associates John Olin and Edward Hammersley, he donated land for a 12-mile pleasure drive on the west side. Owen heavily influenced the creation of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, which bought and preserved acreage for public parks and drives decades before the city comprehended the meaning and importance of such ideas.

Hiking and Birding at Owen Conservation Park

Birding in the park

Birding in the park

Today, prairie and oak savanna have reclaimed Owen Conservation Park. Native prairie plants, aquatic plants, trees and shrubs envelop or blanket the ponds. The three wildlife ponds completed in 2008 give permanent water habitat to migratory waterfowl and other wildlife, including deer, turkey vultures, herons, wood ducks, and shorebirds. Goldenrod, coneflowers and bluestem are among the scores of plants that generate a reward of rotating color and consistency throughout the year. The park features 3.4 miles of trails of packed dirt, grass, and wood chip. Trail traffic is light and all of the loop options are easy. No dogs or bike allowed. Trails are groomed for cross-country skiing in winter. Access is limited from 4 a.m. to one hour after sunset.

Owen Conservation Park Directions

Various entry trails from all sides give community-park accessibility to Owen Conservation Park. High trees around its boundary give the impression that much of the enveloping world is primitive and countrified. From its intersection with University Avenue on the west side, follow Whitney Way south 0.2 miles to Old Middleton Road. Go west (right) 0.6 miles to Old Sauk Road. Turn left and at 0.4 miles the park entrance, 6021 Old Sauk Road, appears on your left. Follow the park road to the parking lot. The trailhead is to the right of the lot entry in the northwest corner of the lot.