Wisconsin Historical Society’s Circus World Receives Grant to Save His | Wisconsin Historical Society

News Release

Wisconsin Historical Society’s Circus World Receives Grant to Save Historic Building

For Immediate Release (September 15, 2021)

Wisconsin Historical Society’s Circus World Receives Grant to Save His | Wisconsin Historical Society

Baraboo, WI. – The National Park Service, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services announced the recipients of the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant funding on September 10, 2021.

The Wisconsin Historical Society is pleased to announce it was awarded $499,999 in SAT grant funding for the restoration and preservation of the 1901 Ringling Bros. Office, a National Historic Landmark Building at Circus World, one of the Society’s 12 historic sites and museums located across the state. The grant program was established in 1998 and is a national effort to protect "America’s threatened cultural treasures, including historic structures, collections, works of art, maps, and journals that document and illuminate the history and culture of the United States."

“Circus World is an international leader in celebrating the timeless heritage of travelling circuses, the circus arts, and the vibrant stories of the people who made ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ possible. The circus was at the forefront of modern entertainment, bringing excitement and joy to communities all over the nation and exposing generations of Americans to innovative technology, diverse cultures, and spectacular performances,” said Scott O’Donnell, director of Circus World. “The Save America’s Treasures grant will allow us to continue sharing this dynamic circus history and to breathe new life into the historic 1901 Ringling Bros. Office on site.”

Circus World is located on the former site of the Ringling Bros. Circus headquarters and wintering grounds. Today, the Wisconsin Historical Society and Circus World maintain seven historic buildings on the site which were once used by the Ringling brothers to command their circus empire, including the 1901 Ringling Bros. Office building. The SAT grant provides funding for urgently needed repairs to the building which was built between 1901-1902 and changed hands multiple times before it was acquired by Circus World in 1991. To save the 1901 Ringling Bros. Office from irreparable damage, efforts are needed to stabilize its rapidly deteriorating foundation and to rectify significant structural damage caused by water, mold, and age. The building will be restored to its 1915 appearance before it is unveiled to the public.

“Without swift action to save one of Circus World’s most historically significant buildings, a piece of circus history will be lost,” said Angela Titus, assistant deputy director and chief program officer for the Wisconsin Historical Society. “This grant funding helps cover repairs needed to preserve a rare American treasure so that future generations can experience Wisconsin’s unique circus legacy.”

The grant will be matched by state contributions and private donations, and the entire project is expected to cost just over $1.5 million. To inform the restoration of the 1901 Ringling Bros. Office, private donors Circus World Museum Inc., Renee and Tom Boldt, Fred D. Pfening III, and the Les & Judy Smout Foundation pledged $125,000 to the Wisconsin Historical Foundation for the completion of a Historic Structures Report.

To learn more about Circus World, visit circusworldbaraboo.org.

This project is supported through the Save America's Treasures Grants Program, provided by the Historic Preservation Fund, as administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior.