Nearly every student on The University of Wisconsin campus walks up Bascom Hill daily, yet most are unaware of the importance of the building at the top of the hill and the history behind the hill itself.

Bascom Hill is seen by many as the heart of campus and some students see it more as a part of the social scene instead of a historical element of the campus."
The university began when Congress approved a land grant program for the endowment of a school in 1838. Bascom Hill, originally called College Hill, became UW property and the university was established July 26, 1848.

A $40,000 loan funded the construction of a "main edifice" — an all-purpose student building. The structure, built at the top of College Hill, (Bascom Hill) was designed for lecture rooms, a library, an astronomical observatory, a working laboratory, a principal dining hall for student use, a chapel and apartments for faculty.

University Hall, later renamed Bascom Hall, opened Aug. 10, 1859, a year overdue and costing more than $60,000. It was recognized as the university's first entirely instructional building and was described by the UW System Board of Regents as "the best building for educational purposes that has yet been erected in the West … the central point of educational interest in Wisconsin for generations yet to come."
A fire destroyed the dome on top of University Hall, (Bascom Hall) which has never been replaced, in 1916. Most of the university's 4,868 students trekked up the hill to assist the Madison Fire Department in saving the building. The dome collapsed into a water supply tank, extinguishing the fire and saving the rest of the structure.
In 1862, former president Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act to provide federal aid to Land-Grant institutions like UW. The Act heavily influenced the university's development and the general direction of higher education in America.
The bronze statue of Lincoln in front of Bascom Hall is a replica of the statue at Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky. It is the only copy of the original statue.
Ten years after its acquisition, the university named the path framing the statue at the crown of Bascom Hill as Lincoln's Terrace.

During its construction, workmen digging the foundation discovered bones of two men who were originally thought to be Native Americans. Traces of wooden caskets, however, confirmed College Hill had been the site of Madison's first cemetery. The remains were eventually identified as those of a workman and his friend who were killed by lightning while building the first state capitol. Their bones were reburied and marked by two grooves in the cement at the top of the south stairway of the path.

University Hall was formally dedicated Bascom Hall in 1920 after Florence Bascom requested a university building be named for her father, John Bascom, the university president from 1874 to 1887.

Follow this link to purchase a copy of Bascom Hall

source: The Badger Hearald

Bascom Hall, University of Wisconsin

Bascom Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison