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

Agriculture Hall,   pp. 96-97


Page 97

excavation was completed in the fall of 1901, strikes delayed work in the spring of 1902, but the
structure was erected, roofed in and heated by December 1902. A second appropriation for $25,000
to furnish the building was passed in May 1903, and the completion of the building took until Decem-
ber 1903 when the building first went into service with the 1903 short course students.3
The building was a 200 foot by 64 foot rectangle with its long dimension set along Linden
Drive. It was three stories high over a full height basement. A two-story octagonal wing protrudes off
the north side of the main building. This octagon housed on its bottom level the agricultural library
and reading rooms. The second level held a 750-seat auditorium including a balcony suspended from
iron rods from the ceiling. Construction style was slow burn mill construction, a masonry and wood
combination intended to catch fire with difficulty and spread not at all. The material was brick, with
trimmings of Bedford limestone and terra cotta, the roof was of red tile, and the outside metalwork of
copper.4
Stylistically, Jennings used his favored Beaux Arts classical revival style. In terms of material
and general style the agricultural college was very similar to the engineering building on Bascom Hill
completed only a year earlier. It has several features that separate it dramatically from the consider-
ably more budget conscious engineering building, namely the grand and imposing Linden Street
entrance, with its four Ionic columns, the north entrance, a classical wall that is if possible even more
dramatic than the front entrance. A huge raised letter stone plaque "Auditorium and Library Hall of
Agriculture" is surrounded by swags and cartouches and all manner of classical ornamentation.
The agricultural library, which had been growing steadily since William Henry became dean,
became too large, too heavily used, and too vulnerable to fire to remain in the lower octagon level. In
1928 a pair of concrete and brick wings were added to the back of the octagon to house the library.
In 1910, with typical chutzpah, University architect Arthur Peabody convinced the regents that the
work of his predecessor Jennings on the building was laughably ugly and hired a contractor to chip
off a black finish on the headers of the building. It is no longer possible to determine where this
alteration was done, or what the original looked like.5
The agricultural college building was the first home of a large number of disciplines which
now have departments and buildings of their own. Among these are: veterinary science, poultry
science, agricultural economics, agricultural chemistry, home economics, bacteriology, agronomy,
agricultural engineering and genetics. This function of Agriculture Hall is similar to the role that
Science Hall played in the development of the sciences in the college of L & S.
Except for the library wings, remodelled for Landscape Architecture for $194,000 in 1969,
and the installation of some tile floors and dropped ceilings, the Agricultural College Building has
been almost completely unaltered through its ninety years of service to the university, recalling presi-
dent E. A. Birge's 1902 words" In our new Agricultural Hall we have a structure which should stand
for ages as in some fair measure representative of the intelligence, earnestness, and ambition of the
agricultural people of Wisconsin at the beginning of the twentieth century."6
1) Regent's Report,1900 p. 26
2) Some extant artists sketches indicate that the building might have been originally expandable into a quadrangle
which would have engulfed the octagonal auditorium.
3) Wisconsin Alumni Magazine. November 1901 p. 63; Daily Cardinal, March 12, 1902, September 25, 1902, October
1, 1902, December 10, 1902, May 14, 1903, September 30, 1903, December 7, 1903.
4) Nomination Papers National Register of Historic Places, State Historical Society, Historic Preservation Office.
5) Minutes of the Executive Committee, August 31, 1928, Minutes of the Board of Regents, December 7, 1910.
6) Report of the Board of Regents, Presidents report 1902 p. 17, Regents Minutes, February 14, 1969 Exhibit K.
97


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