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Elizabeth Plankinton

Elizabeth Plankinton

The basics
Quick Facts
Gender female
Birth 1853 (Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, U.S.A.)
Death 1923 (Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, U.S.A.)
The details

Elizabeth Ann or Anne Plankinton (1853-1923) was an American philanthropist in the early 20th century, the daughter of Milwaukee businessman John Plankinton. She supported local artists and artisans. One of her notable gifts was the 1885 statue of George Washington that was ultimately placed in Milwaukee's Monument Square. The people of Milwaukee called Plankinton the "municipal patroness" because of her generosity and she was also known as "Miss Lizzie".


Elizabeth Anne Plankinton was born in Milwaukee, Wisonsin, on July 27, 1853. She was a daughter of John Plankinton and Elizabeth Brasker (some records show Bracken). Her older brother, William, was born in 1844 and she had a sister three years older, Hannah, who died in 1870 when Plankinton was seventeen.

Elizabeth Plankinton House

Elizabeth Plankinton House
Constructed 1886-1887
1st city YWCA building
Donated by Plankinton, 1899

The Elizabeth Plankinton House was a three bedroom mansion in the upscale Milwaukee neighborhood of west Grand Ave that was built by businessman and millionaire John Plankinton and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in 1886-87 at a cost (at that time) of $100,000 and was located across the street from his own palatial residence. His daughter, Elizabeth, was engaged to marry British sculptor Richard Henry Park, and he built the house to give to her as a wedding gift. The marriage never eventuated, however, as Park abandoned Elizabeth and married a dancer from Minneapolis instead. Distraught, Elizabeth completely lost interest in the mansion, rejecting her wedding gift and never living in the residence which bore her name; instead, she travelled the world. The mansion stood empty for nearly ten years before eventually being sold to a widow in 1896. It was resold in 1910 to the Knights of Columbus, who sold the property to Marquette University in 1975, though they continued to occupy and use it until 1978. In 1980, the University demolished the structure to make room for student facilities.


Plankinton followed in her father's footsteps as a humanitarian and was affectionately called "Miss Lizzie" by the citizens of Milwaukee. She continued the tradition of philanthropy and historical records show that Miss Plankinton gave many gifts to the citizens of Milwaukee for their benefit. Out of respect, she was referred to as the "municipal patroness" because of her spirit of giving.

Short video of Washington Monument in Milwaukee

Plankinton is most notable for the gift of a George Washington bronze statute to the city of Milwaukee in 1885 at a cost of over $20,000 (at the time). Inscriptions on the sculpture include: on the lower left side, "RH PARK SC," acknowledging the sculptor, Park, who was Plankinton's then-fiancé; on back of the base, "The Gift of / Elizabeth A. Plankinton / To the City of Milwaukee / 1885"; and, on the front of the base, simply "WASHINGTON".

Some of her other public gifts include a $100,000 donation in 1892 that ultimately built in 1899 the first YWCA hotel of the city (pictured) for affordable housing for working women. She also purchased a $10,000 pipe organ for the then-new half million dollar 1909 Milwaukee Auditorium.

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