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Feldman, Jim / The buildings of the University of Wisconsin

Kronshage dormitories,   pp. 229-231

Page 229

Fig. 1. 1940: Mack House. Mack,
Turner and Gilman houses were the
first three units of the Kronshage
dorms. Three stories with a basement,
built of concrete and steel and sheathed
with sandstone rubble masonry. They
were originally called "A, B and C".
[Series 26/1, Kronshage, ns- 1519]
Erected in response to a severe shortage of inexpensive student housing, the first
three houses of the Kronshage group were occupied in the fall of 1938. The other five
houses followed in the fall of 1939. With Tripp and Adams Halls, they brought men's
dorm space to 1200.
On the afternoon of November 30, 1936, a fire broke out in the Mueller shoe shop at 651
University Avenue. The blaze was extinguished by eight o'clock; but unknown to fire-fighters
four university students had been living in windowless uninspected rooms in the rear of the
building. When freshman Richard Ranney returned from classes, he discovered that his 22 year old
brother Donald had been killed in the fire. Donald Ranney's body was recovered from the basement.
He had been working odd jobs and living in the cheapest possible manner in order to return to the
university, which he had attended briefly, then withdrawn due to poverty. The outrage of students at
this loss, and the horror of Madison resident's that conditions like this were tolerated, had an enor-
mous long-rang effect on student housing in Madison. 1
Less than one month later, the regents received a report on the student housing situation,
which stated that 55% of the 6884 men enrolled in the university were living in private commercial
housing in Madison, and that one third of those were in unapproved or uninspected housing. The
report states that most of this housing was not fireproof, and was substandard in nearly every way.
The point is continually made that what is needed is not inspection, since removing these units from
the market will reduce the housing pool to an unsuitably small size. The housing was being used
because it was cheap, and there was a class of students who lived in it strictly because it was all they
could afford. What was needed was decent and cheap housing.2
The report recommended a return to the university city concept from the days of the Van Hise
dorms. A key question was whether the university would or should take responsibility for housing
students who are too poor to pay the customary expenses of college. Implicit in the university's

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