March 7, 1990 – Madison, WI
Michael Wilson, a bartender, splashed gasoline around the stage area of the tavern portion of
the building at 21 S. Butler Street, which also houses Turner Hall then started the fire moments
before he left.
The ensuing blaze was discovered within minutes by a Capitol police officer who was patrolling
the area of state office buildings across the street. Firefighters were on the scene within
minutes of that. Nonetheless, the fire caused extensive damage to the bar area, although fire
fighters were able to prevent it from spreading throughout the building.
Wilson denied that he set the fire and claimed he locked up the building, called a cab, and left.
Michael W. Wilson (31)
The fire was the third major fire on this site since the first building was constructed in 1855.
Buildings were destroyed in 1863 and 1940. The current structure was built after the 1940 fire,
believed to have started when a guest at a wedding in the building threw a cigar in a waste basket.
Over the years, the building owned by German immigrant group called the Turners, has served as a
theater for German drama, music performances, a meeting site for labor unions, and a gymnastics