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Feldman, Jim / The buildings of the University of Wisconsin
(1997)

Historical Society,   pp. 82-84


Page 82

HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Fig. 1. The State Histori-
cal Society Building in
1900. Four stories of
steel and Bedford lime-
stone, the windowless
fourth floor is hidden by
the entablature. [9/2
Historical Society folder
jf-24]
This building was constructed for use by both the University Library and the State
Historical Library, and opened in 1900. The north stack wing was added in 1914. The
University left the building in 1950for Memorial Library. The last large modification
was the west addition in 1965.
By the middle 1890s both the library of the university and the collections of the Wisconsin State
Historical Society had gone from pillar to post for years. The University library had variously
occupied parts of North Hall, South Hall, Bascom Hall, and finally together with basements
all over campus the 1878 Library Hall. The Historical Society collection's course was even more
tortuous. Starting with a single bookcase in 1849 in the state capitol1, it moved successively to the
basement of the home of society chairman Lyman Draper, the basement of a local church, back to
enlarged rooms in the capitol, and back to the church. The legislature from time to time considered
the matter of funding a separate building for the collections, but there were always delays, objections,
and failure.2
The state of the University library in Library Hall was very bad. The reading room was so
crowded that some students were forced to stand while studying. They were sharing the building with
the military drill classes. Book purchases were well below the levels of all other schools of its class.
While the contents of the historical society collection was already notable and a pride to the
state (especially to the university students who had access to it in the capitol) it was in large part
inaccessible due to inadequate space. It was also hideously vulnerable to fire, to which the capitol
building was demonstrably not immune. A much larger and fireproof building was needed. Society
director Lyman Draper began a "vigorous campaign" for a new building.
In late 1891 university president T. C. Chamberlin as a member of the Historical Society
executive committee suggested that the committee ask the legislature for a building near the univer-


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