Boomerang Boomers

After decades away, a Badger grad and his wife gratefully return to the city where it all began


Photos by Martha Busse

A few years ago, as Scott Henderson planned his retirement, Madison wasn’t anywhere on his radar.

He and his wife, Joan, knew they would move out of their dream house in Stillwater, Minnesota. But after a career spent mostly in and around the Twin Cities, Scott figured he and Joan would remain in the area. Then some old friends invited them back to Madison for a football game. Both were impressed with the changes they saw, especially the revitalized city center. That got them thinking about coming back to the town where Scott went to school, where they had their children and where they bought their first house. Then they met with Kenton Peters, who was developing the Marina condominium tower, and their minds were made up. These Boomers were coming back.

Once they made the decision to return, they had to wait for the Marina to be completed. As the building went up, Joan and Scott worked on interior plans with Brownhouse, doing most everything long-distance from Minnesota. Scott, somewhat concerned about space and used to his three-thousand-square-foot house, wanted to make the most of the twenty-two-hundred square feet they had in the condo. He also had to make sure there was ample room for his four-thousand-album record collection, which he began amassing back in the sixties.

Mission accomplished. The unit has the building’s standard walls of windows in the great room plus a balcony, both of which allow them to enjoy expansive views of Lake Monona. “We traded trees and songbirds for water and sky,” Joan says, also pointing out that they can spy both Lake Monona and the Capitol outside the window. She and Scott also joke that their new home includes free admission to summer water-ski shows and the opening swim in September’s Ironman.

The views inside aren’t bad either. The kitchen blends into the great room, which has plenty of seating and dining space for entertaining. A small, round bistro table against the window has become the couple’s preferred spot for morning coffee.

Scott’s nearby masculine yet modernist den houses most of his record collection. Across the condo near the front door is Joan’s space where the former teacher and doula is working on a manuscript. The office doubles as a guest room and nursery when her son visits with his baby or her daughter comes with her two children.

And now that they’ve moved in, they are falling in love with Madison all over again. They walk to restaurants and arts events. They stroll through James Madison Park and peruse the fresh veggies at the farmers’ market. It is this thriving city center that lured them back. “I wouldn’t have done it had downtown not been here,” Scott says.

In a way, this is all part of a second honeymoon with Madison. So far the rose-colored glasses haven’t come off. “I didn’t know it would be so peaceful,” Joan says, noting that they never hear their neighbors or noise from the streets below. “We just feel so comfortable,” Joan says.

Naturally, the return to Madison has caused both Joan and Scott to reflect on their lives together. “I guess we’ve been able to live the American dream as Baby Boomers. Our housing choices have reflected that. We started here in Madison in an apartment and we bought our first home here. Then we moved to the Twin Cities …,” Joan says, describing their urban Victorian home there and then the country dream house they built after their kids were grown. “Now here we are where we first started, in a condominium overlooking the water, and we can kind of see the area where we first lived here.”

After a lifetime away from Madison, it’s all coming back to them now.

Jennifer Garrett is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Madison Magazine - March 2007
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