On Campus: The Log Cabin

If you have found yourself on the campus of UW-Whitewater, you have most likely encountered the hill at some point. As you climbed the hill you likely witnessed this:

And, did you possibly think, why is there a log cabin on campus?

The log cabin is not original to UW-Whitewater, although it has been on the campus for over 110 years. Originally, the log cabin was constructed in 1846 by Gulick Halverson in Richmond, Wisconsin. President Salisbury sought to bring the log cabin to campus to celebrate pioneer life and bring more history to the campus. In 1907 the log cabin was carefully taken apart and the pieces were brought to the university. Alumni raised funds to reconstruct the cabin during homecoming and the cabin was raised on the hill.

On November 27, 1907, the faculty held a housewarming party (or perhaps a cabin warming party?) to celebrate the completion of the log cabin. A formal supper was served, songs were sung, and stories were told well into the nights.  Initially, the cabin served as an informal faculty clubhouse and students would often picnic nearby.


People in the community also utilized the log cabin as a meeting and gathering spot. Weddings, funerals, parties, and births were celebrated at the log cabin and it was feature for both the university and for the community. It also served a kind of museum for pioneer life, though in a somewhat informal manner. In the 1950s an inventory was taken of the cabin and over 100 items relating to pioneer life were found inside.

By the 1960s the log cabin was due for a face lift. In 1964 a second restoration of the cabin was completed by the Whitewater Historical Association. The log cabin today is padlocked and no longer the site of raucous faculty gatherings, but remains a prominent feature on the landscape of UW-Whitewater.

Reference: M. Janette Bohi, A History of Wisconsin State University Whitewater 1868-1968(Whitewater: Whitewater State University Foundation, 1967), 117-118.

Hyer Hall: Who is Frank Hyer?

One of my favorite buildings on campus is Hyer Hall, especially in the summer months when the ivy covers the building and the flowers bloom in varying shades of purple, white, and yellow. Hyer Hall is named after Frank S. Hyer, who was appointed president of the University in 1919. A Wisconsin native, Hyer attended Milwaukee State Teachers College (now UW-Milwaukee) and Ripon College. Before being appointed president of Whitewater, he was a teacher and administrator all over Wisconsin, serving in a variety of positions.

During his tenure as president, Hyer helped the University become the second largest normal school in the state. Between 1923 and 1925 enrollments reached nearly one thousand students. This also lead to improvements around campus. The East Wing addition, now Hyer Hall, was built in order to expand the Old Main Building complex and provide much needed space. Initially, Hyer Hall was intended to serve as an auditorium and this costly addition was completed in 1925 at the cost of $260,000.

His presidency is also marked by an event known as the Hyer-Cotton controversy. Professor Cotton attempted to host the Young Men’s Progressive Association campus, but President Hyer denied the use of the campus auditorium. Then, Professor Cotton, of the Public Speaking Department, invited more controversial speakers to campus for the Walworth County Open Forum. Hyer claimed Cotton was seeking publicity and sought to prevent the event. Cotton then accused Hyer of salary discrimination because of their differing political opinions.

The controversy split the community in 1926. The attorney general (and future governor) Philip La Follette sided with Cotton and the Board of Regents supported Hyer. Eventually, Cotton left the university and went to teach at Milwaukee State College (where he was fired in 1945 over a salary dispute).

Hyer remained president of the University until 1930. He left to become president of Central State College at Stevens Point (now UW-Stevens Point). The East Wing addition was named after Hyer in April 1967.

References: M. Janette Bohi, A History of Wisconsin State University Whitewater 1868-1968(Whitewater: Whitewater State University Foundation, 1967), 149-157; Richard Carleton Haney, Campus Cornerstones, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater: Biographical Sketches of the People for whom Buildings and Facilities are Named(Whitewater: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1997), 67-68.


Blogging about UW-Whitewater: Where do we start?

Blogging about UW-Whitewater: Where do we start? 

How do we begin to tell the history of the university through the archives? As with any historical research the best place to begin by asking questions:

  1. When and how was the university founded?
  2.  How did the university become a university?
  3. What is a good source to use for background information?

The best place to start in the archives is with the go-to book on the history of the university. M. Janette Bohi’s A History of Wisconsin State University-Whitewater 1868-1968, published in 1967, is heralded as the go to for the basic history of the university. Bohi methodically recounts the history of Whitewater and the first 100 years of the university.

UW-Whitewater originally began as Whitewater Normal School, a teaching training college, in 1868 with 48 students matriculating. In the first catalogue, the intention of school was clearly stated. The school, “being composed of teachers and those preparing for the work of teaching, its discipline and moral tone can be maintained at a much higher average than in ordinary schools.” The school flourished in the community and the classes, school, and Whitewater all continued to grow.[1]

Whitewater has always held its students to high standards. Students who wished to enroll were required to take a fairly rigorous exam. The Board of Regents Twenty First Annual Report, 1878-1879 included the exam. What do you think?

Sample Entrance Exam,Twenty First Annual Board of Regents Report, 1878-1879, UW-Whitewater Archives

The school continued to grow throughout the 1900s adding business education courses in 1913. Whitewater became Whitewater State Teachers College in 1927, when the school became the first normal school in Wisconsin to grant bachelor’s degrees. This shift in both name and degrees marks a significant change in the university’s history.

The creation and establishment of University of Wisconsin system in 1971 marks the final name change in the history. The campus became the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

For additional information and a pictorial timeline of the evolution of the university check out te Sesquicentennial timeline here.

References: For Additional Information: Please visit the UW-Whitewater website for the sesquicentennial and the archives page on campus history for additional information.

[1]M. Janette Bohi, A History of Wisconsin State University Whitewater 1868-1968 (Whitewater: Whitewater State University Foundation, 1967), 27-41. This book is available in the library, the archives, and online was published on the centennial anniversary of the university and therefore covers from 1868-1968.


What is public history and where can we find public history?

What is public history? Public history is a term that is often bandied about, but it can be difficult to develop a succinct definition. A good place to start is by consulting the National Council on Public History (NCPH).  To quote the NCPH:

Perhaps, though, one should think about Public History as history occurring outside the classroom walls. This allows history to be consumed by the general public. If we think about public history as a means of presenting historical knowledge to a general public, it can take many different forms. If we think of public history as history occurring outside of the classroom for public consumption, it becomes even accessible to the public.

According to the NCPH, public history is used:

A great discussion on Public History can be found on the podcast Historically Thinking. Episode 41: Putting the “Public” in Front of “History” is a great introduction to the topic and can be found here.

Where can we find public history? Some places include: museums, documentaries, podcasts, historic preservation projects, oral history projects, historic house tours, historical societies, historic battlefields, community projects, family history, etc.

Who does Public History? As the NCPH notes on their website public historians come in many different forms. Some examples of public historians are historical consultants, government historians, archivists, historical preservationists, curators, film and media producers, and many others.


Reference: “What is Public History? About the field,” National Council on Public History http://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/about-the-field/