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Feldman, Jim / The buildings of the University of Wisconsin

Birge Hall,   pp. 120-122

Page 120

Fig. 1. Front
entrance of
Birge Hall, c.
. 1950. [series
1 9/1 ig
Designed to alleviate the crowding of Science Hall, Birge Hall (then known as the
Botany building), opened in August of 1912. A ten story wing was added on the west
side in 1956, and the library section on the east in 1980. The building was renamed
Birge Hall in 1950.
Wen Science Hall was designed in the 1 880s it was believed to be large enough to house all
kown science departments for the indefinite future. By 1900 some of these departments
(i.e. engineering, physics and chemistry) had already outgrown their space in science hall.
The life sciences were close behind. In 1905 Dean of Letters and Sciences Edward Birge recom-
mended to president Van Hise that he ask the legislature for an appropriation for a Biology Building
to alleviate the crowding. The building was envisioned by dean Birge as housing the departments of
zoology and botany, leaving science hall to physics, geography, and anatomy.
However, with both the central heating plant and Lathrop Hall underway by 1907, the biology
building did not percolate to the head of the priority list until 1908.1 Plans were in flux: "Preliminary
drawings for this building are begun, and conferences with the departments of Botany, Zoology and
Medical Science are being held almost daily."'2 The first discussions of the design of the building
hinged upon the work of Peabody, Laird and Cret, the consulting architectural commission, and
followed the general layout of the general plan of 1908 for the grand "court of honor" atop Bascom
Hill. This court was intended to be a large open courtyard flanked by Bascom Hall on the west, open
to the east, and flanked to the north and south by museum buildings for the college of letters and
science. Except for Lathrop Hall, the Biology building would be the first application of the general

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