W. Jerome Frautschi Makes His Second $10 Million Gift to Fund the New | Wisconsin Historical Society

News Release

W. Jerome Frautschi Makes His Second $10 Million Gift to Fund the New Wisconsin History Center

For Immediate Release (January 31, 2024)

W. Jerome Frautschi Makes His Second $10 Million Gift to Fund the New | Wisconsin Historical Society

Latest donation brings Frautschi’s total support of the project to $25.1 million

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Historical Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Wisconsin Historical Society, has announced a $10 million gift from philanthropist W. Jerome Frautschi in support of the new Wisconsin History Center that is slated to open on Madison’s Capitol Square in early 2027. A dedicated supporter of the new five-story, 100,000-square-foot center, Frautschi has contributed more than $25.1 million to the project to-date.

“The Wisconsin Historical Society has made significant progress on the new history center over the last year and it has been exciting to watch the design come together,” said Frautschi. “The Wisconsin History Center promises to be a vibrant hub of learning for the state of Wisconsin and one of the leading cultural experiences in the Midwest. I’m proud to support this project and excited to welcome this new addition to Madison’s growing cultural district.”

The $160.5 million history center, expected to break ground in the fall of 2024, received $112.3 million in state funds for design and construction, contingent upon the Wisconsin Historical Foundation contributing $48.2 million in private donations. With Frautschi’s most recent commitment, the Foundation has now surpassed this requirement and has raised a total of $52.6 million for the history center.  The total private fundraising goal for the project is $66.5 million to account for transition and operating costs needed to sustain the entire project.

 “We are humbled by Mr. Frautschi’s continued generosity to the future Wisconsin History Center. It is an incredible boost of confidence and reflects the enormous enthusiasm behind the project,” said Wisconsin Historical Foundation Executive Director Julie Lussier. “We are so grateful for the support from our donors who see the significance and value of bringing this new facility to life.”

The history center replaces the Wisconsin Historical Museum, which was located in the space of a former hardware store at 30 North Carroll Street on Madison’s Capitol Square. The museum was long unable to adequately provide access to the state’s collections — one of the most significant historical collections in the nation — or to meet the growing demand from school groups and residents. The center will house three permanent galleries, a rotating community gallery sharing local history from across the state, and a changing temporary gallery large enough to bring in the nation’s most sought-after traveling exhibits. The Society will offer robust public programming throughout communal spaces, while extending the center’s resources across the state through advanced technology.

 “We are so thankful to Mr. Frautschi for his incredible leadership, support, and vision for the future as we move toward constructing a world-class history center in the heart of downtown Madison,” said Christian Overland, Ruth and Hartley Barker Director & CEO of the Wisconsin Historical Society. “His belief in this project is an inspiration to all of us and we look forward to delivering an exceptional building and experience that will make Wisconsin proud.”

To realize this vision, the Society has partnered with an industry-leading architectural and exhibition design team that includes Ralph Appelbaum Associates as well as Continuum Architects + Planners and SmithGroup. Extensive engagement with community members, a 12-member scholarly advisory panel, the Institute for Human Centered Design and a Native Nations Council also is contributing to the final design experience.

While the Wisconsin History Center is being built, a temporary History Maker Space, located on the main level of the US Bank Plaza on Capitol Square, houses an interactive education space for school groups along with pop-up exhibits, special events, history center sneak peeks and a refreshed retail shop. The temporary location allows the Society to continue hosting school field trips and pilot new public programming during the construction of the new history center.

For more information on the new history center project, visit wisconsinhistory.org/historycenter


About Wisconsin Historical Society 
The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, ranks as one of the largest, most active and most diversified state historical societies in the nation. As both a state agency and a private membership organization, its mission is to help people connect to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing stories. The Wisconsin Historical Society serves millions of people every year through a wide range of sites, programs and services. The Wisconsin Historical Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, receives grants and private contributions benefitting the Wisconsin Historical Society and administers the membership program. For more information, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org