As a former township, Fitchburg covers approximately 35 square miles. John Stoner began farming in the area of Fitchburg in 1837, near the southern portion of Seminole Highway. Since Stoner worked the farm during the week and returned to Madison where he lived weekends with his family, the title of first permanent settlers goes to the Vroman brothers—William, George and Joseph. They were Dutch immigrants who came to the area to work on the State Capitol, but they began farming and built a residence in Fitchburg in 1839.
At one time the area of Fitchburg was part of a township called Rome, which also included part of the present towns of Oregon and Dunn. Fitchburg separated and became known as the Town of Greenfield in 1847. Joseph Vroman was the first Town Chairman serving from 1847 to 1849. The new name was chosen to describe the lush rolling fields around the town. Greenfield’s name was changed to Fitchburg in 1853 due to confusion with Greenfield in Milwaukee County.
The center of Fitchburg government at that time was Oak Hall, a settlement area at the intersection of County M and Fish Hatchery Road. It was the site of the original Quivey’s Grove, an inn that served as a stagecoach stop, a hotel, a government meeting place. Also there was a post office at the site which served five surrounding townships.
In addition to Oak Hall, several other areas of settlement grew in Fitchburg, largely influenced by early stagecoach routes and railroad stops. A settlement area at Highway MM and Cty. B was known as Lake View, Dogtown was located at Fish Hatchery and Lacy Road, Syene at Syene Road and Lacy Road, plus Swan Creek at Lacy and "MM", Stoner’s Prairie around Stoner’s farm site, and Fitchburg Village along Wendt Road. Fitchburg Village once might have been considered a "downtown" as it boasted a railroad station, feed mill, lumber yard, creamery, general store and post office.
Irish heritage figures prominently in Fitchburg’s history and settlement as well. Many descendants of those first families can still be found in Fitchburg...the Kinneys, Gormans, Lacys, O’Briens, Foxs, Purcells and Barrys.
In addition to remnants of history found in family names and along Fitchburg roads, the City has five sites on the National Register of Historic Places. They include Fox Hall, a Greek revival style stone house built by the Fox family in 1856; it is located along County Highway "M". Other sites are the Mann House (Quivey’s Grove restaurant), built in 1855, the Italianate McCoy House on Syene Road built between 1857 and 1861 by tobacco farmer Benjamin Brown, plus 13 original buildings of the Wisconsin Industrial School for Girls built in 1932, currently known as Oakhill Correctional Institute. Spooner’s 1852 Swan Creek Farm is the most recent addition to the National Register; it is located along Lacy Road, close to County Highway "MM".
Several other buildings and sites in Fitchburg, not on the National Register, but of historic interest include the Oscar Mayer Observatory now located on the hilltop property of Fitchburg Research Park Associates. This little observatory was originally located next to the Washburn Observatory on the UW-campus. Built in 1878, it was used as a student observatory, and was moved to Fitchburg in 1960.
Many of Fitchburg’s one room schoolhouses are still standing, and many can be located by the historical markers along the roadsides in the vicinity of Syene and Lacy, Grandview Road, Fish Hatchery and Whalen, County M and Fitchburg Road.
Fitchburg officially became a city on April 26, 1983. Driven by Madison’s continued encroachment into its boundaries and annexations of Fitchburg lands, the township government pursued a method of petitions signed by a percentage of Fitchburg’s residents in order to declare itself a city. The fight to become a City was finally determined by a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision which allowed incorporation to proceed.