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

University houses,   pp. 249-250

Page 250

Schultz and Associates of New York. This firm had designed New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, as
well as projects similar to the Madison's project in several other cities. The general contractor se-
lected by the foundation was George A. Fuller of Chicago, known to the University through his
construction of Slichter Hall (begun in the fall of 1946). Some grumbling was heard about out of
state contractors, but Fuller employed local workmen. Groundbreaking on University Houses took
place in May 1947. The first units ready for occupancy were those in the eastern section, which were
assigned in April 1948. The rest were finished by spring 1949. Assignments were made on the basis of
faculty rank, veteran status, and need.
There are three different types of apartment buildings: 4 type 'A' buildings which contain 2
one bedroom flats on the ends and 2 central two story three bedroom apartments, 18 type 'B' build-
ings each holding 4 2- bedroom 2 story apartments, 9 type 'C' buildings containing 2 one bedroom
flats on the ends and 2 central two bedroom two story apartments, with utilities in the basements.
Types 'A and 'B' buildings have no basements, and have their utilities in the service building. Univer-
sity Houses contains 150 total residences in 32 buildings (31 apartment buildings and 1 service
building). All buildings are wood frame with concrete floors and tile roofs. The apartments range in
size from about 800 square feet to about 1125 square feet, all with kitchens, and access to laundry
facilities. Initial rents were $100 to $135 per month based on size. The project was to be self amortiz-
ing, that is all loans, utilities and maintenance were to be paid from rentals and rents adjusted to meet
costs. In 1961 as service building for the complex was erected at a cost of $25,000 by contractor
Home Lumber and Improvement.
In an effort to avoid the look of barracks living, each building is slightly different in exterior
treatment, using brick and lannon stone sheathing, different colored roofing materials, and trim
materials. The intent of the architects was to produce the effect of a subdivision of large homes
instead of rows of apartment buildings. Heat for all apartments was furnished by oil-burning furnaces
in five "key" buildings, avoiding any industrial looking smokestack plant. Utilities were brought in
underground to improve appearance.
In October 1951 representatives of WARF appear before the board of regents and offered to
give the University Houses to the University, in order that the payments on the principal mortgage
could be applied to research in the natural sciences. This gift estimated at a value of $2.75 million,
was the largest gift ever presented to the University at that time. WARF's University Houses Inc. was
dissolved and the University Houses were turned over to the Division of Residence Halls. In the next
few years, the University made several changes: the oil furnaces were replaced with gas fired ones
and some roofs were replaced. The intention of the University was that University Houses provide
temporary housing for new faculty while they searched for permanent locations. During the period
from its opening in 1948 through August 1953,405 families moved through the apartments. At that
time of the original residents only 14 faculty members remained who had arrived there in 1948,
including professors Curt Leben and Julius Weinberg. In January 1957 the regents set a maximum
time of occupancy of five years.3
1) Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, March 1948, p. 20.
2) Regent's Minutes, July 25,1946, November 22, 1946, January 17, 1947; Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, May 1949 p.
11; Daily Cardinal, June 4, 1947, April 1, 1948. A (possibly) apocryphal story is told of E. B. Fred. A citizens group of
Shorewood hills residents (including UW Professor Bradley) called on Fred to protest the development of an area so
near their homes. Fred told the committee, gesturing to a roll of plans on his desk, that he was glad the area had been
selected for housing, because he believed that the hog farm proposed for the area by the ag school would be detrimental
to the neighborhood. By the end of the meeting the citizens group was in favor of the faculty housing project, and Fred
had never unrolled the plans for the 'hog farm'.
3) Regent's Minutes, January 12, 1957, October 6, 1951, December 9, 1960; Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, November
1951, p. 7.

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