The Old Red Gym
Gateway to the Future


"Carefully restored and adapted for a new use as a gateway to the university, the Red Gym can continue to serve a pivotal role in the campus and city of Madison well into the 21st century."

The Armory and Gymnasium restoration and adaptive use project is under the direction of the Office of the Dean of Students.


A building with heart, in the heart of campus.

No building on campus represents the mind, heart, and spirit of the University of Wisconsin-Madison better than the Armory and Gymnasium, commonly known as the "Old Red Gym." Celebrating its 100th birthday in May 1994, it will soon be returned to the hub of activity it was during its first four decades.

I am proud to report that the first-ever Historic Structure Report on a state-owned building was completed for the Armory and Gymnasium in the summer of 1992. This report laid the groundwork for the approval of the Gym as a National Historic Landmark in November 1993. This designation signifies the importance of the events and activities that took place in the Gym as part of our local, state, and national history. There are very few Landmark buildings across the country. On our campus, only one enjoys this elite status--North Hall, soon to be joined by the Gym and nearby Science Hall.

The Historic Structure Report also confirmed our thorough plans to adapt the building as a multipurpose student services center. Adaptive use and historic preservation are a logical answer to the well-documented space needs of student services, but they are costly. We are seeking funds from the private and public sectors for the $11.5 million needed to complete the project.

To ensure its historic preservation well into the next century, the Gym will become the gateway or "front door" of the university. Prospective students and their families, as well as thousands of visitors, will be welcomed here on their first visits to the campus. Just inside the front door in the historic Artillery Drill Room will be the single most important source of information about the university's departments and many programs--the Campus Assistance and Visitors Center. Currently, unlike most major universities in the country, we do not have an established visitors center.

An important adaptive use of the restored Gym will be as a new home for the Admissions Office and Student Orientation Programs. First impressions are very important in attracting talented and successful students. We want people to feel welcome and pleased with the way the university treats them on their first visit. We want them to return many times as students, friends, and alumni.

For the thousands of continuing students, it will be home to many services and programs of the so-called "second curriculum." This includes activities and programs that occur outside the formal classroom, such as participation in student organizations and community service.

The Red Gym will function in many ways similar to the Memorial Union with meeting rooms, lecture areas and other shared spaces for hundreds of programs sponsored by students, faculty, and staff each year.

Four buildings in a two-block corridor--the Peterson Building, the University Club, the old bank building at 905 University Avenue, and the Gym--will house key services for all of our students.

In college, I was a classics major and I often studied the monuments of times past. As a long-time member of the student services staff here, I have watched this unique structure, with a rich and wonderful history, steadily deteriorate. With its distinctive architecture and central location, it must be used to its fullest potential. Through the Red Gym and its programs, today's students and visitors will experience a view of the past and have greater access to the benefits of the present.

At the heart of this project is all we admire about the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It represents the search for knowledge and our commitment to undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The renovation and adaptation of this building demonstrates our commitment to the Wisconsin Idea. The history and future of the "Old Red Gym" will be shared by citizens of this state, other states, and the many countries around the world from which our students come.

Your comments and stories about your personal experiences with the Gym are most welcome, as are, of course, your gifts to help make this plan a reality. Thank you.

Mary K. Rouse
Dean of Students
May 1994

The Golden Age, 1894-1929

It was a "red letter day" for the University of Wisconsin when the Armory-Gymnasium on Langdon Street opened with a flourish in 1894.

The friends of the institution, and it surely has no enemies worth considering, have made the formal occupation of the handsome new armory the occasion of an athletic festival which serves to demonstrate at once to the public the various and important uses of the substantial improvement," the Wisconsin State Journal wrote in an editorial.

"The new armory is a splendid structure, admirably adapted to the many requirements which will be made upon it, and worthy of the great state which has furnished it for its greatest educational institution," the newspaper continued, as it joined the citizens of Madison in celebrating the May 24-25 event. The opening, the Madison Democrat said, "is an event in which all lovers of that noble institution greatly rejoice."

The Daily Cardinal predicted the program "will undoubtedly be recorded as most important in the university's history." Classes were canceled, and railroads offered reduced rates to those wishing to attend.

The festival started on a Thursday night with a "magnificent rendition" of Handel's oratorio, Messiah, by the Madison Choral Union with soloists considered to be "the very best artists in the country."

In a dedication speech, Charles K. Adams, president of the university from 1892 to 1901, noted that the three new buildings authorized by the legislature in 1891 were remarkable for their "solidity of structure and comeliness of form." The dairy structure, he explained, was "of Swiss architecture, the law building like that of the Renaissance, and it was thought best to make the Armory like the Norman. It was built to endure for all time." Noting that structures for New College at Oxford built six centuries ago still stood, he expressed the hope that "there is no reason why honest workmanship should not produce [buildings] that will last for ages."

After a parade and military review, water polo and boat races on Lake Mendota, and a baseball game with Iowa College, the festival ended with an athletic ball Friday night.

The Romanesque Revival-style red brick building was designed by Madison architects Alan D. Conover and Lew F. Porter to replace a smaller, wooden gym which burned in 1891. The same architectural firm designed nearby Science Hall, completed in 1887, now also a National Historic Landmark.

The need for the combination gymnasium and armory had been generated by requests from administration and students for better athletic facilities and the establishment of military training for male students. In addition, years of urban unrest in the United States, beginning with the New York City Draft Riots of 1863, led to a resurgence in the construction of urban armories. Labor unrest in the Midwest, including the Haymarket Affair in Chicago (1886), and strikes in Milwaukee (1886) and West Superior (1889) increased concern in Wisconsin. The castellated medieval fortress clearly expressed the armory's military function.

The passage of the second Morrill Act by Congress in 1890, providing funding for the construction of military training facilities, encouraged the Wisconsin State Legislature to authorize the construction of an Armory and Gymnasium in 1891.

Construction began in July 1892. University President Charles K. Adams decided that the large Drill Hall on the second floor should also serve as a much-needed assembly space. To accommodate this, a stairway was added to the west side of the building. When the building was opened in 1894, it was stated that the Drill Hall "forms one of the finest halls for dancing, drill, or auditorium purposes to be found in the west." The Regents tabulated the total cost of the building at $122,058.48 plus $5,657.43 for athletic equipment.

A description published in the Cardinal at the time of the dedication explained the layout and intended uses for the building:

"The gymnasium covers a space of ground 196 feet in length and 106 feet in width. On the first floor on the west side are the commandant's office, the artillery drill room and the bowling alleys. The office of the commandant is furnished with a fireproof safe for ammunition, etc., and is connected with the gun room on the floor above by a private staircase. The artillery drill room, which opens out of the office, has an unobstructed floor space and can also be used for classes in gymnastics or for a lecture room. On the other side of the building is the locker room which will contain, when completed, about 600 lockers. Back of this room are the bath and the dressing rooms. The center of this floor is occupied by a swimming tank, 80 by 20 feet, and varying in depth from 4 to 6 feet.

"The second floor can be reached by six different stairways. At the front and the west side are the main stairways which are wide enough for the use of the battalion in column of fours. Then a staircase goes up from the east side of the building, near the dressing rooms, and there is the small one from the commandant's office. The third floor, however, can only be reached by two stairways in the southeast and northwest towers. The drill hall, which occupies nearly all of the second floor, is 160 by 93 feet, and has a clear height of 43 feet. In front of the drill hall is the gun room and a visitors' gallery, reached by the main staircase, extends along the front of the room.

"The gymnasium proper, on the third floor, is 160 by 65 feet. A space in the center of the room where it is 26 feet high is enclosed in netting and used for a baseball cage. Outside of this cage the gymnastic apparatus, the rowing machines, etc., will be placed. On each side at a little lower level are two rifle ranges 160 feet long, and below on the outside is the running track of twelve laps to the mile. All of the available space in the building has been utilized. In the corner towers are several small rooms which can be used for offices, committee rooms, etc. Careful provision has been made for the heating and ventilation of the building. Fresh air will be forced over and between coils of steampipes in the center of the building and it will then be conducted to the various rooms so that the air in the whole building can be changed in a few minutes."

Another article in the Cardinal, published in September 1894 after the athletic apparatus had been installed, provided more details on how the building was used. The room on the second floor of the southwest turret held striking bags and drums, where all sparring was to be done. At the northwest corner of the gymnasium floor were stairs leading to the ball cage and track on the third and fourth floors and to the four bowling alleys on the first floor. A room for the gym instructor was located in the southeast turret. The southeast turret on the third floor was intended to be used for a trophy room, and another turret held a meeting room for the Athletic Association. The main space on the third floor was to be used for training teams. The 1895 catalog of courses claimed that the "gymnasium in its equipment is not surpassed by any in the West, and in size, it is absolutely the largest in the United States."

Over the years, the building was modified to accommodate changes in use. Bowling alleys were converted to locker and dressing rooms (1902), buttresses added to the north wall (1905), swimming pool rebuilt (1922), minor changes made to the second floor (1911-18), fire escapes built on the north wall (1905 and 1913), and the west public stairway reconfigured to increase capacity (1915). An annex stood on the east side (today's location of the Wisconsin Center) from 1911-12 until 1956.

From the very beginning, the Red Gym was used for more than athletic and military functions. For many years, the gym was the center of university and city sporting, social, political, and cultural events. It was the site of occasional political gatherings, partly because it was for many years the largest space available in Madison.

A Republican rally held in October 1894, just a few months after the building had been dedicated, was probably the first example of large-scale political use. In this instance the university's Democratic Club and Republican Club successfully petitioned the Regents to allow William McKinley, the Republican governor of Ohio, to speak.

Exhibitions such as the one held at the grand opening were popular. The last athletic exhibition of the 1896 season included a gymnastics performance by 30 freshman wom-en, "the beginning of--no one can tell what, in the way of female athletics at Wisconsin university," ac-cording to the Wisconsin State Journal.

William Jennings Bryan spoke here several times. "A Big, but not Suffocating Audience Greets the Boy Orator," the Wisconsin State Journal said after his two hour and 40-minute talk in 1899. He returned in 1912 and 1921.

In 1902, the Regents formalized a policy for public use of the property beyond "strictly University purposes." The statement noted that the Regents had "permitted its occasional use in political campaigns, chiefly presidential, by the different political parties, where the national reputation of the speakers was such as to be likely to bring together a greater audience than could be accommodated in any other hall in the city." It was expected that "a considerable part" of such audiences would be students.

The Regents continued to consent to the political use of the armory and gymnasium by orators and political groups. "A mass meeting of all the churches in Madison" was planned in March 1913, on the second floor "to discuss the `Dry Zone' question." A Republican convention used the space in 1914, and a Democratic meeting was approved in 1916. The Madison Dry League met in 1915, and the Wisconsin Anti-Saloon League planned "a state-wide ratification rally in favor of the federal constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors for beverage purposes." In 1920, the Regents turned down a request by the Wisconsin League of Progressive Women to use the gymnasium for a "political meeting." Upton Sinclair was given permission to speak in 1922 only after he promised "not to make use of the occasion to refer to any controversy" concerning open forums on university property.

The Regents' 1902 policy noted that the university had made the second floor available to a group called the Attic Angels for a charity ball in support of constructing a hospital, since it was expected that the hospital would benefit the students, among others. Also allowed was use of the second floor for "public addresses of general interest and especially of a literary or scientific nature, in which it was thought the students would feel an interest." Accordingly, permission was granted to use the building for such events as a lecture by Dr. Richard S. Storrs in 1894, the celebration of fifty years of Wisconsin Statehood in 1898, a Labor Day event in 1903, and a meeting of the State Council of Defense in 1917.

The Red Gym was also the site of notable cultural events. Pablo Casals, Ignatz Paderewski, John Philip Sousa, and the New York Symphony Orchestra all performed in the gym. The activities even included the Italian Grand Opera, "in concert form," in 1906. Junior proms were held here from 1895 to 1916.

The gym was the site of the annual sophomore-freshman "rush," and hosted championship basketball teams from 1911 until the Field House opened in 1930. The new fight song, "On, Wisconsin," was performed here for the first time November 11, 1909, by its composer, William T. Purdy, at a mass meeting before the Minnesota football game. Thousands of students watched out-of-town football games being plotted on a Gridograph hung at one end of the second floor.

But the structure's greatest historical significance comes from its association with Wisconsin Progressives. In fact, according to the landmark nomination, the Armory-Gym "is the only extant building with such an outstanding association with Wisconsin's Progressive Movement."

The gym was the site of two important state Republican political conventions led by Robert M. ("Fighting Bob") La Follette. La Follette, elected governor of Wisconsin in 1900, moved the 1902 conventionto the gym from its traditional Milwaukee site.

The gym was decorated with flags for the famous "Gymnasium Convention" of 1904, the last of Wisconsin's statewide political conventions before the direct primary. "After all there is nothing more beautiful and vivid for decoration purposes than American flags," newspapers reported. A six-foot wire fence separated the delegates from the spectators. A split took place between the Stalwart and Progressive wings of the party and the Progressives, backed by husky football players, prevented the Stalwarts from entering the building. The Stalwarts held a rival convention, but Progressive party control had been assured.

The controversy at the Gymnasium Convention was widely reported. National attention was directed at the Wisconsin Progressives, and La Follette received much favorable publicity, establishing his prominence on the national scene. The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down a decision legitimizing the Gymnasium Convention on the eve of the 1904 election. Progressives swept into office and took control of the state legislature.

The institution of direct primaries and the subsequent reforms enacted by the 1905 legislature established Wisconsin as the national model of the Progressive Movement.

During the 1920s and 1930s, military use of the building declined. Use shifted again after the construction of the Memorial Union in 1928 and the Field House in 1930. The Badgers played their last basketball game at the gym, described by sportswriters as "the little old band-box of Langdon Street," winning 34-23 over Indiana before 2,200 fans on March 8, 1930.

While many activities moved elsewhere as the campus expanded, the gym took on a new task in 1928 as the last step in the registration for classes--a long-remembered role that endured nearly 60 years.

Decline, 1930-1988

The 1930s were a tough time. While the economy recovered, the decline of the Armory-Gymnasium continued for 60 years.

Few alterations or improvements were made during the 1930s and 1940s. The only repair recorded for this period was 21 squares of Barrett Black Diamond pitch and felt roofing that were installed in October 1940, probably on the "head house," over the south entrance.

Drawings prepared by the Department of Buildings and Grounds in February 1928, and revised in November 1953, give some indication of alterations made up to that time. On the first floor, a chlorine room was inserted in the northeast turret, and partitions were put up in the former artillery drill room. Stairs were built from the second floor to the mezzanine, and the balcony was removed; stairs were also built from the second floor to the mezzanine level of the northeast and northwest turrets.

On the upper levels, the former shooting galleries were subdivided into rooms (more dividers were added after 1953), and partitions were put up along the north end of the former running track. Stairs from the running track to the rifle range were built (those to the west rifle range were removed after 1965). A heavy masonry wall on the east side of the gun storage room on the second floor was replaced with a partition of glass and wood; a stairway connecting this room with an office on the first floor was removed.

By the early 1950s, the annex and the gymnasium were considered antiquated, and planning for demolition began. The Wisconsin Alumni magazine announced in 1951 that "according to a plan recently initiated by Paul J. Fisher, `22, the cramped Armory pool will be the first of the building's inadequate facilities to be replaced." After the annex was razed in 1956, athletic activities that had been held in the annex were housed in the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center.

Demolition of the gymnasium itself was planned for some time after 1953. Alexius Baas, a columnist for the Madison Capital Times, lamented that it was "Too bad the old gym must be torn down. We could well imitate other universities in this country and abroad and preserve our historic buildings with their memories and traditions."

Campus leaders in 1956 called the physical education facilities "woefully inadequate and outmoded" and "easily the worst in the Big Ten." In 1957, the Board of Regents asked the Campus Planning Commission to investigate a possible site for a new gym, which would include a new pool and space for fencing, gymnastics, and other sports, for both physical education and intercollegiate athletics. After considerable discussion, the Regents selected a site in September 1958, and approved plans in 1960, but it was not until the fall of 1963 that the gymnasium, Unit I, and natatorium--located on Observatory Drive near the intramural playing fields--was ready for student use. It had Olympic-size swimming and diving pools, which were considered by President Conrad A. Elvehjem to be a great improvement over "that bath tub in the old red gym." It was anticipated that the old gymnasium would be demolished soon after the opening of this new building. In 1965, demolition was postponed until after another gymnasium, called Unit II, was added to the natatorium on the west end of the campus (opened in 1967). With the construction of these new facilities, the original armory and gymnasium was regularly termed the "old red gym."

Meanwhile, various campus groups vied for control of the site of the old gymnasium. In 1961, the University of Wisconsin Foundation, the Wisconsin Alumni Association, and the Memorial Union put together a plan for the site that included an auditorium, classrooms, office space, and a new alumni house. Faculty members lobbied for a new faculty club on the site. However, in the late 1960s there was a great demand for space on the campus, and the Regents began to consider the possibility of keeping the old gymnasium and finding new uses for it. Student groups began to protest the proposed demolition because they felt that the gym should be kept as an athletic and recreational facility for students living near the lower campus. Others proposed that it become a botanical museum. In the spring of 1967, the Board of Visitors agreed that the Red Gym should not be demolished "until a recreational facility of equivalent capacity be made available to replace it." A subcommittee of the Campus Planning Committee, with the support of President Fred Harvey Harrington, meanwhile proposed that the gymnasium be replaced with a "multipurpose campus community center serving needs of students, faculty, and alumni." The legislature deleted proposed funding for that project from the state budget.

The gymnasium continued to be used heavily during the 1960s as an athletic facility and headquarters for ROTC. A proposal was made to remodel the north end of the pool room with men's showers in 1969. Otherwise, few repairs were made during this period, when its demolition apparently loomed only a year or two in the future.

The Red Gym became front-page news after arsonists firebombed the building early on the morning of January 2, 1970. Flames caused extensive damage to the southeast tower used by students in the Water Resources Management Program, not by the ROTC, the arsonist's target. It took more than seven hours to bring the blaze under control; the Capital Times reported that new fires kept breaking out, "fanned by drafts and carried through the walls and heating ducts." There was extensive damage to a locker room. The ROTC offices in the southwest tower were not damaged.

The second floor gym was ready for registration in late January. On January 16, 1970, the Board of Regents decided "to repair recreation-related facilities in the Old Red Gym at an estimated cost of $21,000 to be paid from insurance proceeds received from the State Insurance Fund." Total damages were estimated at about $46,000; damaged areas not scheduled for repair were boarded up. Most recreational facilities reopened by the end of February.

Since its construction, the armory and gymnasium facilities had been intended for the use of men. In November 1971, however, about 15 women began playing basketball on an upstairs court and refused to follow instructions from an attendant, who told them to leave and that they were "carrying this women's lib thing too far." The women gained permission from the director of men's recreational facilities to continue playing and scheduled a meeting for the next week to demand the right to use the showers. It was not until 1973, as part of a program "to achieve a greater degree of equality for women staff and students in athletic programs and facilities for the coming year" that the university authorized expenditures for "separate locker room, shower and toilet facilities for the Unit II gymnasium, Lathrop Hall, and the red gym." The project included the construction of a partition in the shower and locker rooms. A delay in making the changes prompted more protests by women, who renamed the area around the pool a "People's Locker Room" and dressed in the same room with the men. In 1974, 108 lockers along the west side of the first floor and ten showers were set aside for women, partitioned off by green vinyl curtains.

Also in 1974, after some controversy, the Red Gym was included in the Bascom Hill Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a part of the university's 125th anniversary celebration.

During the 1980s the Red Gym was made more accessible to people with disabilities. In June 1980, the Board of Regents voted to use funds from General Obligation Bonding to install an elevator, build ramps, and modify entrance doors. The plans were prepared by Strang Associates under the direction of Gordon Orr, the campus architect, who favored preservation of the building. In 1988, accessible facilities were added in the men's and women's toilet rooms. A ramp was built in the corridor to the pool. When negotiations were underway for the construction of the Southeast Recreational Facilities (SERF) on West Dayton Street, a sum of "about 20 percent of its original financing was shaved off for future maintenance of the Red Gym." With the opening of the SERF in October 1983, more recreational activities shifted away from the Red Gym.

Basketball courts on the second floor were replaced with a gymnastics area in 1984. Folding bleachers from the Field House were installed on the second floor in 1984. Since the 1980s the gym has been used for recreational purposes and for the University Archives' Oral History Project and Wisconsin Humanities Council offices.

Despite complaints through the years (soon after the opening, the Daily Cardinal described the gym's water system as "a choice between a Turkish bath and ice water"), the gym has become a revered campus landmark. A 1978 architectural evaluation put the building in the top priority: "Those buildings possessing a high degree of architectural or historical integrity and whose retention is essential."

Alums remember the Red Gym as the site for student registration. When registration was moved elsewhere in the fall of 1983, it ended the last large, all-campus function for the gym.

Over a period of 60 years, the historic structure had become a woefully underused building at the crossroads of a very busy central campus complex.

A Gateway to the 21st Century Campus

No matter how rich in history a building may be, its future is bleak without an adaptive use plan and community support.

The university's need for more centrally located space for student and visitor services coincided with the desire to find a way to use space more efficiently in the historic Armory and Gymnasium. The two goals came together in the fall of 1988 when then-Chancellor Donna E. Shalala asked Dean of Students Mary Rouse, and Bruce Murray, professor of landscape architecture, to co-chair a 15-person committee of faculty, students and staff to examine future uses for the Red Gym.

Dean Rouse, the senior student affairs officer on campus since 1987, and Professor Murray, a highly respected environmental planner, were committed to the mandate to strengthen and improve the undergraduate experience. At the same time, they saw this opportunity as a way to solve the well-documented and long-standing space shortages for a number of student services programs. The co-chairs and the committee studied the building throughout 1988 and developed a preservation and adaptive use plan.

By February 1989, the committee had adopted a focus statement, saying, in part, that remodeling should flow from the building's two most important characteristics: "(1) it is centrally located next to the Memorial Union in the highest student traffic area of the campus, and (2) it is one of the most distinctive, easily recognized University structures. . . . We propose that this building be identified as the `front door,' the `gateway to the University' for visitors, prospective students, and their families and as the primary, high traffic information and service center for undergraduate enrolled students."

During the spring semester of 1989, the committee circulated its focus statement, asked for comments, arranged meetings with offices interested in relocation, analyzed space questionnaires, and carefully documented needs. When listing the proposed occupants, the committee noted that about a third of the space could be shared, especially the proposed auditorium or activity room/lounge and conference rooms, reception, and waiting rooms. The committee also pledged to assist current occupants relocate.

The committee's plan, accepted by Shalala and then-Provost David Ward, went to the Campus Planning Committee for consideration.

Committee member Professor Lawrence Kahan emphasized the importance of first impressions. "At the time, my older son was a high school junior/senior, and we were looking around at colleges. When you only have a day to visit, you are very sensitive to things that happen to you. If you are made to feel welcome, it puts you in the right frame of mind to make a decision to spend four years there. . . ."

Kahan continued, "The red gym, with its swimming pool and towers, was a difficult building to deal with. The gym committee had very cleverly thought out how they could use a number of elements, to very good advantage, while keeping some of the flavor of the building. In my four years on Campus Planning, I don't remember a project that brought together as many different kinds of people and programs--and that had been prepared so well."

Since the final report in August 1989, Dean Rouse has been responsible for implementing the recommendations. Throughout, she has shown a firm dedication to improving services while maintaining the structure's historic integrity. The project has moved step-by-step through the approval process, with increasing numbers of people supporting the project.

The building was placed high on the campus priority list. With the Board of Regents' endorsement, the State Building Commission earmarked a $190,000 loan in March 1991 for the first step in an adaptive use project, a Historic Structure Report (HSR). Students enthusiastically added their support.

"This is a modest investment in a building which is crumbling and needs immediate attention," Dean Rouse told the commission's higher education subcommittee. "The Red Gym deserves a prize for the most underutilized space, not only on campus, but probably among all state-owned property. Just yesterday, we counted the total number of people who entered the building between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. for any purpose. It was 203 during a prime weekday of our spring semester--70,000 square feet of space used by 200 people in the heart of our campus."

The structure report, published in the summer of 1992, confirmed the gym's historic significance and provided suggestions for restoring the UW-Madison landmark.

The Red Gym "was constructed of high quality materials assembled with well-conceived details. Carefully restored and adapted for a new use as a gateway to the university, it can continue to serve a pivotal role in the campus and city of Madison well into the 21st century," the report stated.

"It is a rare surviving example of a once important, and unusual building type--the combination armory and gymnasium. Today, there are few remaining armory buildings or university gymnasiums dating from the period of the Red Gym," according to the consultants, Mesick Cohen Waite Architects, Albany, N.Y., and the Zimmerman Design Group, Milwaukee.

The Historic Structure Report "is the first of its kind prepared for a state-owned historic building in Wisconsin," according to Charles J. Quagliana, project manager in the Wisconsin Department of Administration's Division of Facilities Development. "The development of this historic structure report is the result of statewide concern about significant historic architecture and should set a standard for all future projects involving significant state-owned properties," Quagliana said.

A team including representatives from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, State Building Commission, UW-Madison Planning and Construction, and UW System Planning Office, plus Quagliana, Rouse, and Murray, assisted with the extensive six-month study. The Evjue Foundation contributed significantly to the repayment of the loan.

The consulting team recommended that the exterior, three main interior spaces, and main stair hall "be restored to their historic conditions." The high ceiling of the second floor Drill Hall and Assembly Room would be retained, and the floor used for offices with low partitions.

The report also suggested uses for the first floor Artillery Drill Room ("public facility, such as the visitors center") and top floor Gymnasium ("offices created with an office landscape system designed to allow the original space to be comprehensible and installed in a manner that is entirely reversible"). Other areas of the building, extensively modified over the years, "provide the flexibility to adapt the structure to its new use," the consultants said. Many of these areas, damaged by fire in 1970, are not being used. Almost a third of the space in the restored building will be used for the Admissions and Student Orientation Offices.

By April 1993 the State Building Commission unanimously approved $240,000 in building trust funds. A preliminary plan and design report was funded for completion by the fall of 1994.

Kahler Slater Architects, Milwaukee, in association with Mesick Cohen Waite, started work on the design report and a detailed budget in February 1994. Kahler Slater's restoration work includes the Wisconsin state capitol and the UW-Milwaukee's Center for Continuing Education in the Plankinton Building, a part of Milwaukee's Grand Avenue Mall. Mesick Cohen Waite, who earlier participated in the historic structure report, is nationally known for restoration projects, including the Thomas Jefferson pavilions at the University of Virginia, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The next step, after approval of the design report, will be to secure $11.5 million necessary to complete the project by the end of the 1995-97 biennium. As with many other recent buildings, a public-private partnership is being proposed. Two million dollars from gifts and grants will be sought through the University of Wisconsin Foundation, to be added to $9.5 million from tax funds.

To provide further confirmation of historic significance, the university submitted a nomination as a National Historic Landmark. After approval from Wisconsin's Historic Preservation Officer and the National Park Service, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior formally approved the landmark status on November 8, 1993. Jerry Rogers, associate director for cultural resources of the National Park Service, dedicated the gym and presented bronze plaques to Chancellor David Ward on May 16, 1994. Nearby Science Hall, completed in 1887, was also formally dedicated as a landmark on that date.

The ceremony on the second floor of the gym marked the 100th anniversary of the athletic festival that opened the gym, on May 24-25, 1894.

Now that the Red Gym is well along the road to revival, the project has generated many letters and calls, especially from alumni:

"Beginning in about 1911, my parents started to take me to band concerts in the gym. I shall never forget the Sousa music. Then there were the Venetian nights on Lake Mendota, when the decorated canoes started at the gym and went along the shore to Wisconsin Avenue," Catherine K. Hooper (`28, `29) recalled in a letter to Wisconsin Alumni magazine in 1991.

This building, with its welcoming atmosphere, its obvious linking of past and present, and the access to essential services it provides, promises to add immeasurably to the university's ongoing quest for community. The programs to be housed here in the Red Gym have a strong history of success in supporting the institution's academic goals. These programs are currently in different campus locations, all in inadequate, obsolete or borrowed space. Bringing them together in this unique facility offers new opportunities to create a synergy for progress well into the next century.

With these occupants, the gym will become the key structure in a two-block, four-building student services corridor. Prospective and newly enrolled students will learn how to use the university and its tremendous resources to their advantage and, at the same time, discover the history and traditions passed from generation to generation.

Admissions. This office serves as the front door to UW-Madison for thousands of prospective and admitted freshmen, transfer students, and their families. About 7,000 to 10,000 prospective students and their families visit the office each year. Despite increased demands, the main office has been at the same location since 1963. Offices, currently in two separate campus locations, will be together on the fourth floor.

Campus Assistance and Visitors Center. For almost 25 years, the Campus Assistance Center (CAC) has served as UW-Madison's primary information and referral service--the single most important source of information on campus. During those years, more than three million people have used CAC services.
   More than 750,000 visitors come to the campus each year. The center will greet and guide visitors with literature about the campus, and feature displays of research and events, audiovisual presentations, and tours.

Community Service Center. The expanded clearinghouse for the many campus volunteers will inform students about community service opportunities, encourage the development of service and learning opportunities for students in university academic courses, and assist student, faculty, and staff groups in designing and implementing innovative community service programs.

International Student and Scholar Services. This office serves international students. UW-Madison has the fourth largest international student population in the nation, totaling to 4,000 students from 118 countries, or 10 percent of the student body in 1993-94. The plans include space for the Madison Friends of International Students, a volunteer group organized more than 40 years ago.

Multicultural Center. Among this unit's more important aims is to create an atmosphere of warmth and identity, intersection, and connection among minority and majority communities. The center demonstrates a commitment to multiculturalism and diversity on campus. It serves a key role in the recruitment and retention of students of color and coordinates its activities with Admissions, the Graduate School, and academic department offices.

Student Organization Office. The office registers nearly 800 student groups each year, and advises student groups how to use university facilities and abide by rules and regulations to ensure the success of their programs and activities. The office is instrumental in developing student leadership skills.

Student Orientation Programs. The office, opened in 1988, welcomes new students to campus, organizes Wisconsin Welcome activities and mentor programs. About 25 percent of the students each year are new to the campus.

Chancellor David Ward has registered his continuing support for the renovation. This is in keeping with his firm commitment to undergraduate education, including teaching and learning which occurs in the often called "second curriculum" outside the classroom.

We all look forward to the time when the Wisconsin State Journal can write, as it did in 1894, "The new armory is a splendid structure, admirably adapted to the many requirements which will be made upon it, and worthy of the great state which has furnished it for its greatest educational institution."


Armory and Gymnasium Committee

Mary K. Rouse, Dean of Students
David Berge, Division of Recreational Sports
Linda Bishop, Student Organization Office
Ted Crabb, Wisconsin Union
Yvonne Fangmeyer, Campus Assistance Center
Chris Gluesing, Department of Planning and Construction
John Gruber, Office of News and Public Affairs
Joey Humke, Office of the Dean of Students
Candace McDowell, Multicultural Center
Bruce Murray, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Steven Saffian, Office of the Dean of Students
Sheila Spear, International Student and Scholar Services
Millard "Pete" Storey, Office of Admissions
Ann Zanzig, Student Orientation Programs

Historic Structure Report

The Zimmerman Design Group, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mesick Cohen Waite Architects, Albany, New York

Design Team

Kahler Slater Architects, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mesick Cohen Waite Architects, Albany, New York

State Historical Society of Wisconsin

H. Nicholas Muller III
Jeff Dean
James A. Sewell

National Historic Landmark Application

Elizabeth L. Miller
Division of Facilities Development, State of Wisconsin
Charles J. Quagliana


Text, researched and written by John Gruber, is based on the Historic Structure Report, especially sections by architectural historian Diana S. Waite; and the National Historic Landmark nomination form by Elizabeth L. Miller.

Original Design by Nancy Rinehart, Office of University Publications

Editorial and production assistance by Eileen Fitzgerald and Francine Hartman, Office of University Publications

Web Page Design by William P. Tishler, College of Letters and Science

Photography credits

Greg Anderson, UW Extension Photographic Media Center: pp. 1, 3, 6 (detail of locker room door), p. 9 (stairwell), pp. 11, 12 (detail of girder), pp. 13, 14, 17, 19, 20

UW-Madison Division of Archives: p. 5 (gun room), p. 6 (rush, Meuer collection), p. 7 (prom, Meuer collection), pp. 8, 9 (Meuer collection), pp. 10, 12 (student registration).

UW-Madison Office of News and Public Affairs: pp. 2, 16

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin: p. 4 WHi(D487)4547; p. 5 (drill team), p. 7 (women's basketball team), p. 9 (La Follette. WHi(X3)3086).

Architects' rendering for Armory and Gymnasium Historic Structure Report, July 1992: p. 15

How You Can Help

To contribute to the fund for the historic preservation and restoration of the Armory-Gymnasium, please contact the University of Wisconsin Foundation, P.O. Box 8860, Madison, WI 53708-8860. Telephone 608/263-4545.

For more information, contact:
Office of the Dean of Students,
75 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Drive,
Madison, WI 53706-1380. Telephone 608/263-5700.

(c) 1997 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System