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

University Club,   pp. 144-147


Page 146

of the club. After the house was removed, this double entry fire escape remained, and is still present
in a little opening in the center of the building. The club's first annual statement shows about 340
members, with 15 members living in the rooms at $3.50 per week.
The club's lodging facility was doing so well in those early years that in 1912 the club pur-
chased Parkinson's remaining lot to the south of the clubhouse and built a dormitory wing on the
south end of the west wing. This addition extended the west wing slightly to the south, then turned
east and extended behind the old house all the way east to a new entrance at 438 Murray. It was
opened in December of 1912, adding 49 dormitory rooms, arranged so that they could be rented
singly or as suites of rooms several of which were equipped with private bathrooms. There was a
ladies' parlor on the first floor, two dining rooms, and in the basement a "first class barber shop''6
Preference would be given to club members, but "all persons connected with the university, as in-
structors, assistants, graduate students, or members of the legislature who have been at any time
students at the University will be welcomed as tenants; but tenants who are not club members will be
expected to use the independent entrance on Murray Street."7
Few records remain from the next twenty years. In 1911 "The directors have decided to open
the restaurant to ladies, when accompanied by a member of the Club, for all meals. Special accommo-
dations [including a lounge with separate entrance and maid, and a ladies' reading room] are provided
for ladies, and they are not expected to make use of the Club rooms." In 1913 three nonsmoking
rooms are reserved and the club reports that about eighty people per week are using the restaurant
for luncheon, and that special dinner parties are served almost every evening. This may have been a
harbinger of falling membership, as the university grew larger and more impersonal, and the founders
died, became emeritus, or lost interest. An interesting note is that during the influenza epidemic of
1918, because the student infirmary was not finished, the University club was used as an infirmary.8
In 1924 the club took out a second mortgage for $25,000 at 6.5% and used the money to
build the last section of the proposed clubhouse. This project removed the old Parkinson house, and
built the east section which connected to the north side of the 1912 dormitory section of the club and
included the front entrance and parlor sections. This construction brought the clubhouse to the
current [1993] configuration. But the heyday of the club was over. As the depression deepened,
membership fell and the directors had to take extraordinary steps.
Madison, like all cities based on government and/or universities, was slightly insulated from
the national catastrophe of the great depression. The records show that in the years from 1927
through 1931 the club ran in the black in all operations. The club made a profit of about 27% per year
on income. Then in 1932 the depression arrived. The club lost about 21% on income. All indications
were that this was a serious trend. So on April 17, 1933 the club's directors called a special meeting
of the University Clubhouse Association at which were represented 328 out of 458 outstanding shares
(42%). The stockholders passed by unanimous vote the resolution to transfer title of the university
clubhouse property to the university, subject to the indebtedness of the Association.
Of course it was not quite as simple as this. The club wanted several things from the university
in return for the gift. Tax-exempt status for the property was worth about $3,000 per year. The
clubhouse would be connected to the heating and utilities of the university. But in order to prevent a
recurrence of the declining membership that had made life so precarious for the club, they proposed
to president Glenn Frank that the university could (if needed) make faculty membership in the club
mandatory. Frank appointed a committee of nineteen to investigate the advisability of accepting the
club's offer. This committee included W. H. Kiekhofer, Lelia Bascom, Helen C. White and E. B. Fred.
The committee, on April 21, 1933, presented their findings and recommendations to a faculty
meeting. They reported that the club property is estimated in value at about $300,000; that because
of membership shrinkage due to the depression, receipts were down to a point that jeopardizes the


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