The Ranch House in Madison, Wisconsin

2 min read The post war housing boom changed the character of American residential life in ways that still influence our daily lives now. In Madison, you can see the different “types” of post war houses, spread across neighborhoods on the east (mostly cape cod) and west (mostly ranch) sides of town.

The first post war housing boom spread out toward the manufacturing districts on Madison’s east side, filling in housing between Milwaukee and Atwood Avenues and on the west, filling in beyond Midvale Boulevard as several farms were converted into housing developments.


The “Ranch” house form lagged slightly behind the classic Levittown style “Cape Cod” in Madison’s development.  The first houses to be added in these areas – in the first boom area from 1945 on – were the steep roofed Cape Cod styles sitting compactly centered on their lots.  Soon thereafter the Ranch style mixed in and became as (or even more) popular.  And then there’s the odd Sears catalogue Lustron pre-fab house dotted into the landscape.  Fun fact: my grandmother and aunt lived in a house like this in Monticello, IL for one year in the early seventies.


My initial and totally non-scientific survey of Madison’s post war neighborhoods seems to show that Ranches were more common choices on the west side and Cape Cods more popular to the east, although there are a healthy smattering of compact Cape Cods around the Midvale Heights neighborhood too.  I’m curious to find out if these patterns were driven by the rapidly changing trends and the timing of construction down to the year or by some social or socio-economic norms, or by some other factors.


My own neighborhood, Midvale Heights was annexed to the City of Madison in 1948 but it didn’t turn into a fully developed residential area overnight.  Even as the former farmland was parceled and houses were built, major streets were discontinuous or unpaved.  Per the local history published by the Midvale Heights Community Association, “Tokay Boulevard was a dirt road intersected by gravel streets,” and photos show that Midvale Boulevard was discontinuous between Odana and what is now the bike path.

Post-War Housing Styles of Madison Wisconsin. Thanks for sharing!