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Monday, December 06, 2021

Local philanthropist donates $10 million towards new Wisconsin Historical Society museum

Local philanthropist W. Jerome Frautschi donated $10 million towards the construction of a new Wisconsin History museum in the downtown area on February 15th.

The donation pushes the total of private contributions towards the project over the $30 million mark, making the museum eligible to receive as much as $70 million in state grants to help complete construction, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.  

The museum is planned to be over 100,000 square feet in size and will be located between the 200 blocks of East Washington Avenue and East Main Street, and 10 blocks of South Butler and Webster streets. In total, the museum is estimated to cost upwards of $120 million.   

The Wisconsin Historical society has been working to establish a new museum for more than two decades. The new facility will provide twice the space of the current museum, located at the top of State Street, which was converted from a hardware store in 1984.

The recent donation comes from a foundation created by W. Jerome Frautschi, UW-Madison graduate and Middleton resident, who has donated to several projects located downtown, including the Overture Center and Children's Museum.

Frautschi voiced his hope that the new museum will add to the cultural atmosphere of the downtown area and attract more visitors to the Madison area.

“It has always been important to me for Downtown Madison to have the cultural vitality that reflects the values of the city’s residents,” Frautschi said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. “The history museum on its new East Washington Avenue site will join Madison Children’s Museum and the new Madison Youth Arts Center as shining examples of cultural excellence that will attract thousands to Downtown Madison each year.”

Prior to his most recent donation, Frautschi’s foundation had already contributed $3.5 million towards the creation of the new museum, which has earned him thanks from the Wisconsin Historical society.

“Mr. Frautschi has been a longtime friend and generous supporter of the Wisconsin Historical Society,” said Christian Overland, the CEO of the Wisconsin Historical Society, in a statement to “We are humbled and deeply appreciative of his incredible gift. He is a true visionary, and generations of Wisconsinites will benefit from his leadership in helping to build this exciting new museum.”

The campaign to create a new Wisconsin history museum has been co-sponsored by former governors Tommy Thompson and Jim Doyle, both of whom extended their thanks to Frautschi as well.

“Thanks to Jerry and the generosity of many other private donors, and the support of the governor and legislative leaders, we are ready to make the museum a reality,” Doyle said in an interview with the State Journal. “I am very pleased that the new preferred site maximizes the use of state property and serves all 72 counties.”

Thompson issued a similar sentiment, saying Frautschi “has shown time and again his devotion to our great state, and Wisconsin is awfully lucky to have someone like him with such strong foresight. Wisconsin deserves an engaging and inspiring state history museum that tells our wonderful diverse statewide stories.”

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The new museum is estimated to attract as many as 150,000 visitors on an annual basis, 50,00 of which are expected to be students, according to

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