The Canal That Never Was
1836 Madison, WI
James Duane Doty and a friend in Michigan formed the Four Lakes Co. in 1836. Their purpose was to buy land on the isthmus between Third Lake (Monona) and Fourth Lake (Mendota) and resell it to settlers. Doty's surveyor helped him develop a plat map to interest future purchasers. The survey map includes two streets four blocks east of the capitol West Canal Street and East Canal Street. Villages of the time frequently created canals to improve their transportation options. Doty's map placed the canal across the narrowest point of land, between Butler Street and Blair Street. The problem was this was a very high point of land. A revised plat map of 1865 showed the canal here would have been unfeasible.

While the canal was never built in 1852 the two streets which were intended to line it were. In the 1880 city directory, West Canal was described as E. Washington Avenue three streets northeast of Pinckney Street. East Canal was described as crossing Washington Avenue four streets northeast of Pinckney Street.

The streets eventually lost the name of the canal which never was. At the City Council meeting of April 17, 1883, Ald. Patrick Boyd made the motion that West Canal Street be changed to Hancock Street, and it carried. In 1889 Ald. George Hambrecht sought to have Canal Street renamed Scofield Street to honor Republican Gov. Edward Scofield, but the majority in the City Council voted the name down. The name was changed to Franklin Street on Jan.14, 1900.

Today the Canal Place Townhouses at the corner of South Franklin and East Main streets remind us of the original name of the street and the vision for a canal across the isthmus.