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816 State St. | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

816 State St.

National or State Register of Historic Places
816 State St. | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Reference Number:72000049
Location (Address):816 State St.
State Historical Society of Wisconsin
816 State Street, Madison, Dane County
Architect: Ferry and Clas
Date of Construction: 1896-1900

Located at the west end of State Street in Madison, the State Historical Society's imposing headquarters building is one of Wisconsin's finest Neo-Classical Revival style designs. It also houses one of the nation's greatest collections of materials related to American history. The State Historical Society was founded in 1846, two years before statehood was granted, and in the next 50 years evolved from a single bookcase in the office of its first director into an important museum and library and a nationally known center of scholarship and historical research.

By 1896, the Society's collections had grown to the point where a new home was needed. Since the University of Wisconsin's library collection was in a similar condition, the State legislature decided to house the two institutions in a single new building located on the lower of the University campus. A nationwide competition was held to find an appropriate design and the winner was the prominent Milwaukee architectural firm of Ferry and Clas, which had just won a similar competition two years before with their more elaborate Neo-Classical Revival design for the Milwaukee Public Library.

Completed in 1900 at a cost of $1,000,000, the new State Historical Society was the most expensive building built by the State up to that date. Its impressively colonnaded exterior is clad entirely in beautifully carved Bedford limestone. The centerpiece of the interior is the main reading room, a huge space that rises two full stories in height and which is reached by two broad marble staircases that are located at either end of the building.

When the University library moved into a massive new building of its own just across Library Mall from its old home in 1952, the State Historical Society took over the whole building. After more than a century of use, the State Historical Society is still one of the architectural and educational treasures of Madison and of Wisconsin.

The building is open to the public, Monday through Saturday, during scheduled library hours.

Period of Significance:1875-1899
Period of Significance:1900-1924
Area of Significance:Architecture
Area of Significance:Education
Applicable Criteria:Event
Applicable Criteria:Architecture/Engineering
Historic Use:Education: Research Facility
Historic Use:Recreation And Culture: Museum
Historic Use:Education: Library
Architectural Style:Classical Revival
Architectural Style:Other
Resource Type:Building
Architect:Ferry & Clas
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
National Register Listing Date:02/23/1972
State Register Listing Date:01/01/1989
Number of Contributing Buildings:1
Number of Contributing Sites:0
Number of Contributing Structures:0
Number of Contributing Objects:0
Number of Non-Contributing Sites:0
Number of Non-Contributing Structures:0
Number of Non-Contributing Objects:0
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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National Register of Historic Places Citation
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