Ridgeside Co-op


By the mid-1970s, the four buildings at 839-847 Williamson Street had been longtime eyesores in the Willy Street neighborhood. The absentee landlord owner of all four properties had notoriously neglected the houses for years, letting them run down so badly that the City of Madison once took the rare action of ordering the owner to have them re-painted. He retaliated by having all four streetfronts done uniformly in a disgustingly-ugly shade of yellow paint. Known thereafter as the “Four Yellow Houses” (or, less politely, as the “Four Yellow Dogs”), the condition of the houses continued to deteriorate.

Of the four buildings, two had originally been built for the Biederstaedt family–843 Williamson in 1881 & 847 Williamson in 1899; before then, the Biederstaedt family had been living above their grocery business in the two-story brick building at 851-853 Williamson (now a Madison Landmarks building) at the corner of Williamson and Paterson Streets. Of the other two co-op buildings, 841 Williamson was constructed in 1896 and 839 Williamson in 1907.

Ridge Side Co-op Created. In 1979 the Madison Development Corporation purchased all four buildings, in conjunction with Common Wealth Development (Willy Street’s local development corporation), the City of Madison’s Planning & Development Department, and Design Coalition (a Willy Street architectural firm). These groups then developed the properties into Ridge Side Cooperative, a limited-equity cooperative with a total of nine apartment units.