Image courtesy of UW-Madison Archives

Attic Angel Association traces its roots in Madison to 1889, when Miss Elva Bryant heard that twins had been born into a family so poor that they could not afford clothing for the babies.

Attic Angel Association has a long and rich history in Madison. It goes back to 1889, when Miss Elva Bryant (pictured left) heard that twins had been born into a family so poor that they could not afford clothing for the babies. She set about sewing appropriate clothing and when she delivered it to the grateful parents, she found that there were many more, equally desperate, families in need of children's clothing. She enlisted the help of her sister, Mary (pictured right), and several friends, who continued the mission.

One day, the sisters were up in their attic, collecting discarded clothing for these children. Upon descending, they were greeted by their father, prominent Madisonian and federal servant General E.E. Bryant, who declared, "Here come the attic angels!" The women enthusiastically adopted the name.
In the early 1900s, when good health care was hard to come by, the growing Attic Angel group of civic-minded women pledged $1,000 along with additional help to establish Madison’s first hospital in 1903. Five years later, they established Madison’s first visiting nurse service, which became Home Health United and is today known as SSM Health at Home. And in 1915, they started and ran the city’s first well-child clinics for 34 years before turning them over to the Madison Health Department.

Jumping ahead to 1969, Attic Angel showed an even deeper commitment to children by building and maintaining a facility to house a much-needed South Madison day care. In 1991, Attic Angel gifted ownership of the building to the occupant, Child Development Inc. (CDI). In 2014, Attic Angel provided $100,000 to renovate the building before it reopened in 2015 as One City Early Learning Center, which prepares children from birth to 5 for life success.
The Association expanded its care to older adults in 1953, when the group determined Madison’s need for a nursing home for middle-income people who did not qualify for public assistance. A home on East Gorham Street (pictured) in Madison was purchased and the Angels provided care to 21 residents. The Association later bought and built a health center on Segoe Road as well as independent living apartments in the Tower.

In 2000, the Association and their residents moved to the far west side of Madison to form Attic Angel Community, with the Association office and Attic Angel Place on the same campus. The Angels brought assisted living care to the community with the addition of the Household Apartments.

In 2001, ground was broken for Attic Angel Prairie Point neighborhood of ranch-style homes, offering independent living without the cares of maintaining a home and allowing for priority placement at Attic Angel Place, if needed.

From 2005 to 2007, the volunteers conducted an internal capital campaign to raise the funds to add a memory care unit, the Haven, to Attic Angel Place. The Haven was opened in 2007.An expansion in 2013 added 20 new assisted living apartments and converted all health center (skilled nursing/rehab) rooms to private rooms. A larger rehabilitation department was added and the old one was transformed into a wellness center and fitness room.
At present, care is provided to residents on five different levels to form a continuum: independent living, apartments with services, assisted living, skilled nursing/rehabilitation and memory care.

Attic Angel Association now claims more than 500 members who put in 35,000 volunteer hours each year. Through their well-known sales events, they raise money throughout the year and give an average of more than $200,000 to causes that benefit children and seniors. 

The Bryant sisters would be proud of how the current “attic angels” are upholding their legacy of caring!

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