This was a neat place, part of its allure deriving from the owner, Fran Remeika, an old-line Madison liberal. She also lived on the first floor of the large, three story house, which was a few doors up the hill from where Frances St. ends at the shore of Lake Mendota. It's where I passed my first Wisconsin winter, and it was a particularly cold one.
One of the best features of the location was its proximity to the lake. Life is simply better by a body a water, what can I say? And if it can't be the ocean, then a large lake is certainly better than nothing. The value of this to me was in part conditioned by the fact that Urbana-Champaign, where I had been for the preceding three years, has no significant body of water anywhere near the town. Ten miles away there was a pond, laughingly called a lake, a commercial swimming hole, with the emphasis on "hole." It was called Lake of the Woods, but naturally was known to everyone (and still is) as Lake of the Weeds.
By contrast, Lake Mendota was heaven. The late-summer sunsets over the water were spectacular, and when the winter came for real, it happened in such a way that the entire surface froze in one night, without a breath of wind. It stayed very cold, but it was at least three weeks before the first big snow, and here was this massive sheet of crystal-clear, mirror-smooth ice, 30 square miles of it, a skater's dream!
My little apartment ($13/week, considered quite steep back then) was one room, about 12x15 feet, with a tiny kitchen shoehorned into a narrow closet, and a shared bath, which at least I didn't have to go out into the hallway to reach. But though it was spartan, I managed to make a good if somewhat dissolute life in it for the year and a quarter I was there. Most of that life is described with my Madison family episodes.