The Town of Burke is a community of 3,505 located near the north side of Madison. It was named after Edmunde Burke, an Irish Patriot and poet. We moved here in 2006, and it has taken me awhile to finally tell the story of this once-prominent town. Here are the current boundaries, the unincorporated town has slowly fragmented over time.
Lets start at the beginning. The town was first formed in 1847 as one of the four towns of Windsor. Read a detailed account of Burke’s early history here. Burke has been giving its historical records to the Sun Prairie Historical Society and Museum. I did my research in their research room after calling 608-837-2915. Historic photos posted are courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Sun Prairie Historical Society‘s archives.
The former Town Hall is actually in Sun Prairie, behind McGovern’s.
It is now a privately owned house. Good it still stands and is in use.
We live in and near some of the other Burke fragments. Just down the road from me is the former Sanderson School, District 5. It now is an apartment building.
On what is now the north side of Madison on North Sherman, part of the former Bill Droster Store building remains.
On the other side of our home is the still active train track. It has been rerouted slightly at least a couple of times over the last century and once since living here, partly due to the Dane County Regional Airport being built on former farmland. I caught the Canadian Pacific train on its return trip to Portage recently. See a detailed map of all Wisconsin railways here.
As we continue up the hill on Highway CV, we see Messerschmitt Rd. going behind the gate of the airport. It was named after the farmer Sam Messerschmitt who used to live in this location before the airport was built. remnants of his farm remain today, the Ghost Hill Ranch building is now part of the property of Best Buds, a local greenhouse. In April of 1999, the Messerschmitt stone home-built in 1932, referred to as the “gumdrop” house, was moved to avoid demolition due to an airport runway expansion.
Here is the house today, very unique!
Beyond is a hill that has been quarried since it’s materials were used to build Dane County’s Municipal Airport in 1939. Read more of its fascinating history here. It has been Wisconsin Aviation since 1981, serving privately owned pilots and charter flights. Inside is a restaurant where I used to work between 2007-2009, Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room that is open to the public. Here is a picture of me taken with the staff in January 2009.
An old stone farm building used to stand the former downtown by the railroad track on 5263 Reiner Road, the same one that goes by our home. The Wisconsin State Historical Society has three older photos of this barn in its archives.
I went to nearby Burke Rd. by the railroad track, the former center of town during its heyday a century ago.
The train station used to be nearby too.
And also Burke Station Tavern, from 1929. Sadly, it burned down in 2007. I never did get any pictures of it myself unfortunately.
I did get a windbreaker from there at a thrift store a few years ago. At least I have that artifact.
There is still some business going on here. Pierre’s Portrait Art Co., which opened in 2014.
In this area is also a marker for the former Burke Station School.
Burke has three cemeteries. One is at this location.
The 2nd one is Hoepker Cemetery in Sun Prairie. The Hoepker family is buried here. Also early settler Adam Smith and his wife Mary. He owned a tavern and was a Justice of the Peace.
In what is now Sun Prairie, his house still stands.
The 3rd is at the Burke Lutheran Church
The Reindahl family is buried here. They have a historic site near East Towne in Madison. Also Reindahl Park, complete with a barn and a stone monument across the street. Knute Reindahl was especially famous.
This town may be small, but it still has two festivals a year. Lets go to the current Burke Town Hall and the Burke Town Hall Park on the grounds for these festivals.
The park also has a covered bridge and pond around it. Very pretty in winter too.
The Saturday before Easter, Burke has an Easter Egg Hunt, and kids can get their picture with the Easter Bunny.
Burke’s other festival is the 3rd Saturday in August. The town holds an annual picnic all residents are invited to.
We have music from the local group Staff Infection, playing a country mix.
Also horse-drawn wagon rides around the park. Lots of fun!
The food is prepared by the Token Creek Lions Club, brats and corn with Culver’s custard for dessert. What a great evening!
We close our story of Burke at the Sun Prairie Public Library, where they had a Burke artifact display up when I visited in January 2014.
And a sad post-mortem of of Burke’s “future”. It will be dissolved in 2036.
We are sad this town’s peak was long before we were born, but glad we could learn more about its history before annexation into DeForest, Madison and Sun Prairie.