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

Lathrop Hall,   pp. 117-119


Page 118

delivered to the regents in 1908, it was never formally adopted or rigidly followed. Still it influenced
the thinking of the university planners for decades to come. The commission was committed to a plan
that would gracefully absorb the best of the old buildings on campus, notably North, South and
Bascom Halls; since they were regarded as particularly good restrained classically influenced designs
executed in local material (Madison sandstone). The general plan called for a group of buildings for
women students, to be located near the comer of University Avenue and Park Street, the existing site
of Chadbourne Hall. The commission was responsible not only for the general plan but for the design
of specific buildings for which there was immediate need.
The opening of the armory and gymnasium (the red gym) in 1894 had given the men a suitable
physical education facility, but despite petitions the women were not allowed to use it. The 1895
remodelling of Chadbourne Hall added a women's gymnasium was added, but it was quickly out-
moded. In his first report to the regents, Van Hise stressed this problem: "Last year there were in the
university five hundred thirty five young women.... There is an immediate need for a commodious
and modem building, which will serve as a gymnasium and social center for the women of the Univer-
sity."1
In this context the commission designed Lathrop Hall. Preliminary studies were underway in
late 1906. It was intended by the commission that the building serve the dual purpose of gymnasium
and social center until a separate women's union was built, at which time the building would revert to
housing only a gymnasium. The commission had preliminary drawings of the proposed "Women's
Building" ready for Van Hise to show the legislature by February 1, 1907. They specified that the
building would be faced with Madison sandstone and would form part of a quadrangle of women's
buildings. The legislature promptly approved the appropriation for the building. The plans were then
presented by Peabody to various faculty members who would have the most to do with using the new
building.2 By October 15, 1907, the revised plans were complete and ready for bids. There were
further changes made after this date and the regents did not advertise for bids until January 1908.
When the bids were opened March 16, 1908, the lowest bidder was T. C. McCarthy with a bid of
$175,574.
The contract with McCarthy was signed April 14, 1908. The contract specified that the
building should be enclosed by December 1, 1908, and "the entire building in all its parts shall be
completed on or before September first, 1909".
Ground was broken May 1, 1908. By the end of the summer, all the walls were up to the level
of the second floor. The work continued smoothly into the late fall and winter. By February 1909, the
walls were all erected, the roof completed and finish stonework was begun. The heating and plumbing
systems were completed by April, 1909. In May 1909, a fire at the planing mill of J. H. Findorff
destroyed all but a small portion of the finish wood trim for the building. In June 1909, the regents
approved some changes to the interior layout of the fourth floor to include administration offices. The
regents building committee on equipping the Women's Building met October 5, 1909 estimated the
cost of equipment at $36,282. About this time Abbey Mayhew complained that only 500 lockers
would be available in the gym. She estimated that they would need at least 800. This would not be the
last time that the people who had helped plan the facility would revise upward their estimates.3
In late 1909 the question had arisen of what to name the building, a suggestion was received
from the students that it be named Adams Hall apparently after Mary Adams the popular and recently
deceased wife of ex-president Charles K. Adams. Some regents objected to the foolishness of calling
the women's building "Adams Hall", proposing that "Eve's Hall" was more appropriate!4 President
Van Hise offered Lathrop Hall as a compromise and it was accepted.
The grand opening was held on April 1, 1910. As described by the Wisconsin Alumni maga-
zine: "Lathrop hall, the new women's clubhouse and gymnasium, was dedicated with appropriate
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