The history of the present-day town of Madison begins with the merging of two individual villages, Madison and Herman. The original Madison was established in 1875, with the town of Herman following in 1878. The two towns became bitter rivals for naming of the seat of Lake County. With the creation of a third city, named the “new Madison” by settler C.B. Kennedy, the existing residents of “old Madison” were eager to make the transition. Herman residents were less enthusiastic, many of them putting up a formidable resistance, but eventually most of the town agreed to the move. Today, the new Madison is a thriving tourist community, and is also home to Dakota State University, the city’s nationally recognized center of higher education.
Madison exercises a strong commitment to the health and wellness of its citizens, exemplified by The Community Center. Run by the Dakota State University and the City of Madison, this multifaceted indoor recreational facility boasts a fully outfitted gym, volleyball and basketball courts, an indoor track, a large six-lane swimming pool, racquetball courts, and more. For those who prefer outdoor recreation, the Lake Herman State Park and nearby Walkers’ Point offer numerous lakeside activities, including camping, fishing, boating, and hiking.
Dakota State University is proud to house the Dakota Prairie Playhouse. Located on campus, the Playhouse is the site of numerous performing arts events. It also contains a spacious conference center ideal for banquets, receptions, and corporate events. Also located on the DSU campus is the Smith-Zimmermann Museum, which displays fully restored Victorian rooms with antique furnishings and relics used by 18th century farmers. The Depot Railroad Museum commemorates the early railway systems that helped to shape and fortify Madison. Just two miles west of Madison, Prairie Village is a museum community with more than 40 restored buildings, including churches, a schoolhouse, the Lawrence Welk Opera House, and more. Each exhibit is filled with antiques from the pioneer days, helping modern-day visitors understand the challenges and ways of life of the first South Dakotan settlers. In downtown Madison, renowned local artist John C. Green keeps his working studio, where he creates the nature- and wildlife-focused paintings that have earned him a stellar reputation throughout South Dakota and the nation. His main inspiration has been the surroundings of the beautiful town of Madison, where he’s lived all his life.
Madison services tourists and residents with a variety of high-quality dining establishments, including Rumors Steakhouse & Lounge, El Vaquero Authentic Mexican Restaurant, and Stadium Sports Grill. Shopping enthusiasts will delight in an eclectic offering of unique stores peddling handmade jewelry, local antiques, Western apparel, home care products, delicious bakery products, and books.