Madison received national attention with a cover photo and feature story in 1948 when LIFE Magazine, which had a weekly circulation exceeding 5 million at the time, named it America’s ‘Ideal City.’

For the story, the magazine sent its famed staff photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt to Madison to take photographs for a lengthy piece with the headline “The Good Life in MADISON, WISCONSIN. Is it the Best Place in America to Live?”

The story states, "If a group of Americans were asked to define the kind of city they would like to live in, they might mention some such qualities as these: scenic beauty, nice homes, good job opportunities, a wide variety of healthful recreation near at hand, first-rate schools, good hospitals and plenty of cultural activities. Recently some of Life's editors set out to determine what American city comes closest to this ideal. After considering many candidates, they came up, somewhat brashly, with an answer: Madison, Wisconsin."

This exhibit is sponsored by Oakwood Village, a local, faith-based, not-for-profit retirement community with two campuses in Madison. Oakwood Village was established on July 8, 1948 – two months before this article appeared in Life Magazine.

Copyright 1948 The Picture Collection Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted/Translated from LIFE and published with permission of The Picture Collection Inc. Reprinted/Translated from LIFE and published with permission of The Picture Collection Inc. Reproduction in any manner in any language in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. LIFE and the LIFE logo are registered trademarks of TI Gotham Inc., used under license.

Exhibit is on display at the University Hospital in the main hospital entrance. Parking is available in the hospital ramp for a fee. 

Past dates

Download schedule


  • Starting Sunday, December 8th, 2019, repeated every day until Friday, January 03, 2020 — all day


University Hospital and Clinics, main entrance

600 Highland Ave.
Madison, WI 53792