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

Sterling Hall,   pp. 165-167


Page 165

STERLING HALL
Fig. 1. C. 1917
rSteing Hall.
In the back-
grund:
a     nom and
theunfinished
west end of
Birge. In the
foreground, the
neighborhood
later replaced
by the Service
Memorial
Institute.
[gl002]
Sterling Hall was built in 1915 to house physics, political economy and commerce. In
1958 a wing was added on the south side to house the army math research center.
This center was the target of a bombing in August 1970. The building is now the
home ofphysics and astronomy.
n 1913, the College of Letters and Sciences was shoehorned into three buildings (Main, North
and South Halls). Not for more than a decade had building space been erected for L&S, despite
the fact that enrollment had risen more sharply in that college than any other, including some who
had been provided with several new buildings. Both president Van Hise and Dean of Letters and
Sciences Birge were determined to change this circumstance. Their approach was to plan for the
construction of two structures, a liberal arts building and a physics building. In the spring of 1913,
conferences began with department heads to plan the new facilities. The plan for the liberal arts
building gradually became a large addition to University Hall, and the physics building took shape as
the regents debated the best location for it. In October 1913 the regents decided on the site proposed
by the consulting architects Laird and Cret: the north side of the 'court of honor' formed by University
Hall, Birge Hall and the new building. It was to be a four story building, with physics in the lower two
floors. Then during the winter of 1913, estimates were obtained and the thinking began to change.
The Committee on Constructional Development recommended that the decision to locate the physics
building on the court of honor be rescinded in favor of a site north of the Chemistry building and east
of Charter Street. 1 President Van Hise explained that the adoption of this plan eliminated the need for
a very costly "Madison stone" building required for a building in such a conspicuous location as the
top of Bascom Hill, and that considering the likely appropriation, the available space in a building on
Charter Street would be one third larger than the space on the Hill site. Professor Snow, the head of
the physics department voiced unspecified concerns about electrical disturbances, but decides that the
165


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