Sigma Phi House–Fraternity and National Landmark

128. Greek

128. Greek

This immense home, approximately 18,000 square feet of space, was built as a wedding present for Harold C. Bradley, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and his fiancee, Josephine Crane, the grand-daughter of the founder of the Crane plumbing company.  Her father engaged the architect Louis Sullivan–Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor–to design the home, and the home was constructed in 1908-09. This was Louis Sullivan’s last residential undertaking, and in it he implemented many of the ideas of Wright and other Prairie School architects.

The home, located just south of the UW campus, was too large for the lifestyles of the Bradleys, and the size of the home made it difficult for the hearing-impaired Mrs. Bradley to supervise her young children. The Bradleys therefore sold the home to the Sigma Phi fraternity in 1915 and it remains a fraternity house to this day.

I visited the interior of this house while on the Wright & Like 2009: Madison tour, and though no interior photographs were allowed, it is evident that the Sigma Phi’s continue to maintain this architectural gem in the fashion it was intended. (I did find a blog which shows the lovely interior of several rooms, including a photograph of the circular dining room table which accommodates 16-well worth taking a look at.)

This home was nearly destroyed by a St. Patrick’s Day fire in 1972. Only one member of the fraternity was at home during the time and he escaped without injury. However, the second floor of the house was nearly gutted, and the first floor suffered from water and smoke damage. Due to the generosity of A. C. Nielson, the Nielson ratings guy and a Sigma Chi alumnus, and other donors, a substantial restoration took place. Neilson and his son, also an alum, continue to assist in the support and maintenance of this architectural masterpiece.


8 Responses to “Sigma Phi House–Fraternity and National Landmark”

  1. 1 tmcchesney
    June 18, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    What a gorgeous and massive house! Thanks for including some interior pics – wow that house is beautiful!

  2. June 18, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Great shot of one impressive building, I saw it years ago. I love the style. Thanks for the links.

  3. June 18, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Gorgeous old house. Did you say a frat house? Why is it so clean??

  4. 5 J
    June 19, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I lived there for several years during my undergrad education at Madison. The fraternity name is actually Sigma Phi, and we pride ourselves on maintaining the house’s pristine condition while still living out our college years to the fullest. This speaks to the caliber of member we initiate. And “truth be told,” we actually do all our own cleaning and maintenance every Sunday morning for several hours. Glad everyone appreciates the effort.

    • 6 Bo
      June 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm

      I do remember being told there were work hours every week-end by the fraternity members. But I am surprised there is no outside. The guys are to be commended all the more for their efforts.

  5. July 4, 2009 at 10:33 am

    What an interesting post. I really enjoyed seeing the entire set of interior shots on the blog you linked to. And, I’m glad I stopped in here after J made his post about the pride the fraternity members take in maintaining the home.

  6. July 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

    What a beautiful building and interesting history. Certainly doesn’t look like your usual frat house.

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All photography and written material under copyright. © 2008-09 by Bo Mackison, all rights reserved.
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