Gifts to UW-Madison and the City of Madison

Over the years, the Brittinghams contributed many significant gifts to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including donations to the construction of the student infirmary and the Memorial Union. They also helped procure the Weinmann statue of Abraham Lincoln on Bascom Hill.

A view of Monona Bay when it was an eyesore and health hazard. The Brittinghams donated substantial funds to have the area cleaned up; the resulting green space was named Brittingham Park. 1906. #WI.bls0148

A view of Monona Bay when it was an eyesore and health hazard. The Brittinghams donated substantial funds to have the area cleaned up; the resulting green space was named Brittingham Park. 1906. #WI.bls0148

The Brittinghams’ generosities to the city of Madison include funding the Neighborhood House in the Greenbush area and donating to Madison General Hospital (with the stipulation that one bed always remain open for a UW-Madison student in need).

They are possibly best remembered, however, for their donation of $19,500 to transform Monona Bay, by all accounts an unbearable cesspool and general eyesore, into Brittingham Park. This contribution was made around the same time that Daniel Tenney, George Burrows, and William Vilas made similar donations. All told, the four men gave nearly $110,000 to purchase 146 acres of land that remain the backbone of Madison’s existing park system.

Thomas’s will stipulated sizeable gifts to both UW-Madison and the city of Madison. The UW gift created the Brittingham Fund, which to this day has provided sponsorship to artists, writers, and researchers.

The fund donated a million dollars to help build the Elvehjem Center (now called the Chazen Museum of Art), which includes the Brittingham Gallery. Guided by representatives of the three branches of the family, the fund continues to support such initiatives as the Brittingham Poetry Prize.

Though the Brittinghams have moved far from Wisconsin, their influence on the city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison persists.