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

Kronshage dormitories,   pp. 229-231


Page 231

that there was no maid or janitor service and the residents could choose whether to board at the
refectory or elsewhere. The fees were to reflect the actual cost, estimated at about $70 per year
exclusive of board. These first three units of the Kronshage dormitories held 240 men.6
During the construction of these first three units, the regents had received word that the
federal Public Works Administration had granted them $229,909 for the dormitory project. With this
money, and with the head start they had on the project, the regents planned to complete the group, by
adding five more units and a refectory. The total cost of the project was estimated at $510,909. On
October 14, 1938, the regents awarded the general construction contract to Jacobson Bros. of Chi-
cago for $297,000. Construction proceeded very rapidly. Ground was broken on October 19, 1938,
amid some regret that two fine Indian mounds and a popular wooded area were being destroyed for
the new foundations. During the summer of 1939 as the five new units were going up, the regents
decided on names for the eight houses: Frederick J. Turner, Stephen W. Gilman, John G. D. Mack,
Grant Showerman, Allan D. Conover, Thomas Chamberlin, Burr Jones, and Magnus Swenson, all
named for outstanding university regents or scholars. Since the refectory was named for Theodore
Kronshage, the group became known as the Kronshage group.7
The construction was completed in time for the fall semester of 1939, a year after the first
three units had been finished. They were full from the first with a total of 640 students, the director of
housing saying that the waiting list was as long after the opening as before. Of the five new houses
two (Jones and Swenson) were cooperative, though unlike Mack house, refectory meals were re-
quired. Kronshage was the first refectory on campus to adopt the cafeteria style of food service.
Considering that they were intended as low cost housing, the dorms had considerable ameni-
ties. The full basements were used as public space to provide: a barber shop (in Mack), a nonprofit
cooperative store (Mack), a library and music room (Gilman). By the end of the first semester, the
students had begun a newspaper, the Dorm Dweller, and a radio station. The dorms were adminis-
tered, after the fashion of Tripp and Adams, by a student self-government organization. The dorms
had turned out very much as the dorm committee of Halverson, Kowalke and Bradley had envisioned.
For the modem student who may be tempted to view these dorm rooms as small and low quality, the
qualifications for university approved housing at the time Donald Ranney died in the fire, included: no
more than twelve students per single bathroom, a fort watt light bulb per student, and a hot water
supply available for washing and shaving. The dorms must have seemed like palaces to the students
accustomed to those standards. Decoration and trim was kept to a minimum as befit a low cost
project.
The dormitory city by the Lake, including the Van Hise dorms and the new Kronshage dorms,
comprised nearly 1200 men students, and they were about to be joined by the 540 women of the new
women's dorm on the lake shore Elizabeth Waters Hall, begun at the same time as the second group
of Kronshage units.
1) Daily Cardinal, December 1, 1936, p. 1, December 3, 1936, p. 1; Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, January, 1937, p.
172.
2) The Student Housing Situation, Goodnight and Dollard, regents papers December 6, 1937.
3) Proposals for Additional University Dormitories, J. D. Phillips, March, 1937, series 24/1/1 box 126, dormitories
folder.
4) A Proposal for Additional Dormitories tor Men, November 23, 1937. series 24/1/1 box 156.
5) Regent's Minutes, December 7-8, 1937, March 8-9, 1938, April 26-27, 1938, October 14, 1938; Daily Cardinal,
December 9, 1937, January 20, 1938, January 21, 1938, April 26, 1938, July 14, 1938, September 23, 1938, October 9,
1938.
6) Daily Cardinal, October 1, 1938, October 7, 1938; Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, November 1938.
7) Regent's Minutes, October 14, 1938, June 16-17, 1939; Daily Cardinal, May 3, 1938, July 30, 1938, October 21,
1938, October 1, 1939, October 20, 1938; Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, April 1940, p. 213.
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