This year will certainly be a time to celebrate at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The biggest reason will be the continuation of the Sesquicentennial celebration.
For those of you who stumbled over that word and thought, “Oh my stars, what does that even mean?” Well some might be familiar with “centennial” meaning a hundred, and “sesqui” means one and a half, so April of 2018 was the start of our 150thAnniversary!
Another very important campus birthday is also happening during the 2018-2019 academic year. The James R. Connor University Center will be turning 60! And just as the campus has continued to improve with time, the University Center has also aged with grace and charm.
In honor of the upcoming anniversary, enjoy this retrospective beginning in the 1920s and ending with the last addition in 1988 before the major renovation that took place in 2008 creating the beautiful building we see today.
1920s: Salisbury Hall
For years, the University Center, has been the gathering place and hub for students at UW-Whitewater. But it has changed in appearance significantly over the years. From the University’s founding in 1868, until after World War II, there was no on campus cafeteria or gathering place.
In April 1921, the Whitewater Normal School student body took part in the first student demonstration seen in campus history, when they organized a march to bring attention to the need for a campus dining hall. They asked the school’s band to lead the march as they followed behind two by two. By that night, $6,800 was raised to go towards buying a facility.
A corporation was then formed, and local stockholders invested the remaining needed funds to total $10,000. The old Universalist Church was then bought and remodeled to become “Salisbury Hall” (not to be confused with Salisbury Residence Hall that was built in 1957).
It opened for breakfast the following September when classes started. Although popular initially for meals and events, the beautifully remodeled building, which featured excellent service and quality food, Salisbury Hall patrons dwindled significantly by 1924. The off-campus dining hall then closed as small clubs grew in popularity.(Bohi)
1930s-1940s: The Goal Post
The Goal Post later became a popular soda shop and dining spot for students beginning in the 1930s. Located on Main Street across from Andersen Library, it was a prime location for students to gather during and between meals, and for faculty and staff to meet for a cup of coffee. Popular for after class hangouts, The Goal Post even hosted parties and special events like Fraternity Variety Shows.
The Goal Post served as the main gathering place for students until an army barrack came to campus in 1947 to serve as the first Unofficial Student Union. Remaining until the early 2000’s, The Goal Post became the restaurant Salamones, now located in Fort Atkinson. The building was removed to make way for a new apartment Complex that stands there today
1947: First Unofficial Student Union – The Army Barrack
Campus experienced many changes during World War II, and after its end, things began to come back to normal. Students also came back to campus. Enrollment exploded with the number of returning students and veterans gaining their education on the G.I. Bill. With this jump in numbers, an on-campus meeting place and cafeteria for students was needed. In 1947, this came in the form of an old army barrack. The Post-War Building Fund donated $5,000 to help reconstruct the barrack after it was moved from Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois, to Whitewater.
Named the Student Union, the old barrack could only hold 90 people in the cafeteria located on the first floor. Pool and card tables were located on the second. This recreational space provided room for social groups and school activities to hold meetings or parties. “Wisconsin State Teachers College has long been in need of something like this – in the past it has been a matter of standing in long lines at the co-ops, struggling through the Goal Post for a hamburger sandwich, or going downtown for dinner. The cafeteria will provide an opportunity for more students to eat regular meals,” 1948 Minneiska.
Due to the small capacity in the cafeteria though, lines still often formed out the door and onto the sidewalk during the lunchtime rush. By the mid-1950s, it became clear that the campus, although grateful for the barrack, would need a better equipped facility.
1958:A Luxurious College Life
As enrollment continued to rise, a new official student union building was a high priority. In 1958, ground was broken for the new Student Union that brought a “new luxuriousness to college life” (State Journal, 1959). Taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony were President Williams; the former and current presidents of student council, Jerome Ford and Edward Baranowksi; Student Activities Coordinator, Dr. I.W. “Ike” Schaffer; the Dean of Woman, Cora Forbush; and the Dean of Men, Dr. Clayton L. Droullard.
Costing $1 million dollars, the doors of the new Student Union opened for the first time in 1959. Located along what was then Graham Street (today the Walker Wyman Mall), the new building included a new lounge, cafeteria, snack bar, game room, television lounge, and bookstore, as well as offices and meeting rooms. Compared to the old army barrack, the new Student Union could hold 450 students in the cafeteria, along with another 250-300 in the snack bar area.
The State Journal covered the grand opening of the building and said, “Social life on the campus has been given a life by virtue of the fact that there’s now a place where students can congregate for talking, coffee drinking, and studying.” The director of the first Student Union, Richard Stoner, worked with a Student Union Board made up of students and faculty members to oversee the building and sponsor events.
The Student Union Activities Board was founded in 1959 to specifically plan and facilitate events and programming such as Ice-O-Rama, Ski Club, and special holiday events. Referred to as “the hub of campus activity” throughout the Minneiskas, the Student Union was a constant flurry of motion as dances, lectures, conferences, parties, and daily life filled the rooms and halls.
1963: Continued Growth Through an Addition
The new Student Union was already in need of more space after only just a few years of being built. So in 1963, a south addition was added onto the original 1958 structure. The addition included other dining and event spaces, as well as a game room and bowling alley.
Known as the Game Room, later the Rec Room, and today Warhawk Alley, the bowling alley started with only six lanes. The Game Room quickly proved to be a popular place for students, faculty, and staff, when they had to add an additional four lanes a year after being open due to the high demand.
A large dining room called the Warhawk Room would later feature a beer garden in the later 1970s and early 1980s, for special events/dances.
The Blackhawk Room would later be renamed the Ike Schaffer Room in honor of Dr. I.W. “Ike” Schaffer who dedicated 35 years to serving UW-Whitewater. The 1963 south addition still stands today and is where Warhawk Alley, the Bailey Interview Center and Career and Leadership Development are currently located. The entire building continued to be called the Student Union until 1965, when it was officially renamed the University Center.
1988: Expanding with an Expanding Campus
Talk of additional space and remodeling was evident already in 1970, when there were hopes to build into the hill towards McCutchan Hall by 1972, but the plans never came to fruition*.
Later, in 1988 another boom of construction occurred on campus.
The observatory behind Hyer Hall, and McGraw Hall were built, and finally another addition to the University Center. Enrollment numbers had steadily increased over the decades, particularly under Chancellor James R. Connor’s tenure.
In 1975, there were 8,760 students enrolled, and by 1988 there were already 10,992 students enrolled in the fall. As more and more students flowed onto campus, student facilities and programming needed to be improved. As a result, the UC addition was approved in 1985 and completed in 1988, opening in 1989*.
Until this addition, the University Center consisted of two sections that ran in a line along Graham Street, which later turned into the Walker Wyman Mall. The 1985 building extended across the mall. By doing this, they increased square footage to accommodate the UC’s expanding needs. It also created a pass through for people to walk under the second level of the building while outside. This addition also included a large multi-purpose room, the Hamilton Center that is called the Hamilton Room today. This name was chosen because that specific section of the addition now sat on the grounds where Hamilton Gym and Field had once been located.
The renovation, also introduced the iconic UC arches that would become the logo for the University Center for many years after this. And as can be seen in the photos, a round grass area was built. Students, faculty, and staff often hung out here between classes. It was nicknamed “Monkey Island.”
*Summer Royal Purple, August 4, 1970 No. 8, p. 1
*Royal Purple, Millennium Issue, December 13, 1999, “Buildings House Students, Education,” Shane Krukowski, p. 3
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