5 Names Immortalized on Chippewa Valley Institutions

Tom Giffey

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library
L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

1. L.E. PHILLIPS

You’ll find Lewis E. Phillips’ name on more high-profile Chippewa Valley facilities than any other, including Eau Claire’s public library, the senior center, a drug and alcohol treatment center, a career development center, a Boy Scout camp, and more. An immigrant from Lithuania who became a major Eau Claire industrialist, Phillips established Ed Phillips & Sons in 1918 and became president of National Presto Industries in 1942. Though he died in 1978, the L.E. Phillips Foundation and other charitable foundations associated with his family have donated many millions over the years to local causes.

2. JOHN MENARD

Known best for founding the home improvement chain that bears his name – which includes more than 280 stores across 14 states – as well as for sponsoring auto racing, Menard has also opened his wallet for several major community endeavors. You’ll see his name on the Menard Center for Emergency Care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire as well as on the Eau Claire YMCA’s soon-to-be completed Menard Family Tennis Center.

Putnam Trail, Eau Claire
Putnam Trail, Eau Claire

3. HENRY PUTNAM

Putnam was a land speculator and lumberman who made his fortune in Eau Claire in the latter half of the 19th century. After contributing to all that timber cutting, Putnam became a conservationist and donated the 230-acre Putnam Park to the City of Eau Claire in 1909. The park was transferred from the city to UW-Eau Claire in 1957, and later it became a Wisconsin State Natural Area. Today Putnam Park is a unique urban nature preserve and provides a home for hundreds of plant and animal species, research opportunities for UWEC students, and a tranquil place to take a stroll for people of all ages.

4. WILLIAM H. HOBBS

Way back in 1885, William Hobbs founded a wholesale and retail supply company in Eau Claire. Among other things, the W.H. Hobbs Supply Co. operated the city’s first auto dealership and garage, the Eau Claire Mill Supply Co., and the Phoenix Manufacturing Co. Hobbs’ heirs created the Hobbs Foundation, which over a 35-year period gave out $5 million to community causes, including for the Hobbs Ice Center in Eau Claire and Hobbs Altoona Sports Center.

Heyde Center for the Arts, Chippewa Falls
Heyde Center for the Arts, Chippewa Falls

5. DENNIS HEYDE

Entrepreneur and Chippewa Falls native Dennis Heyde has been involved with numerous businesses, ranging from health care to travel to hospitality, including Fanny Hill Dinner Theatre. He also was a benefactor of the Chippewa Valley Cultural Association, which renovated the former McDonell Memorial High School in Chippewa Falls and reopened it in 2000 as the Heyde Center for the Arts.

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