AT THE November, 1943, meeting of the Board of Regents, Professor Lewis M. Gram, Director of Plant Extension, presented a Postwar Public Works Program for the University of Michigan. He was assisted in its preparation by John C. Christensen, Controller, and Walter M. Roth, then Assistant Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds.
This program recommended the construction of a "General Service Building housing the business, administrative, and public service departments of the University." It was provided at the time that the University Broadcasting Service would also be housed in the new building. The estimated total cost was $1,310,000.
The proposed site was on the west side of State Street immediately south of Newberry Hall. Such a building of necessity required the closing of Jefferson Street from Maynard Street to State Street and the removal of Morris Hall at the southwest corner of State and Jefferson streets, at one time the home of Dr. Charles de Nancrède, who had been Professor of Surgery. This house, later used as St. Mary's Chapel, was at the time of its removal the headquarters of the University Bands and the Broadcasting Service. Also removed were three houses on the south side of Jefferson Street, owned by the University, a large rooming house and a residence on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Maynard streets, a service station on the northwest corner of State and Jefferson streets, and two small frame buildings immediately south of Newberry Hall. The Mimes Theater was sold for the price of its removal.
The architects selected by the Regents were Harley, Ellington and Day, of Detroit, to whom the contract was awarded in December, 1944. The general contract was awarded to Bryant and Detwiler, of Detroit. The first spadeful of earth was turned in June, 1946, by Regent R. Spencer Bishop, who unfortunately did not live to see the completion. The building received its first occupant in December, 1948. The total construction costs of the building when finished were $2,275,067.00. Including construction, the total for furniture and equipment, architectural and engineering fees, land and land improvements amounted to $2,463,127.06.
At a meeting of the Board of Regents on November 3, 1945, the building, which had previously been referred to as the General Service Building, was designated as the Administration Building.
The mass move to the building was made from eight campus units: University Hall, Mason Hall, South Wing, Haven Hall, Angell Hall, the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, North Hall, and Barbour Gymnasium. University Hall, center of student service activities for many decades, was vacant of permanent personnel for the first time since 1872. In June of 1871 the very first official act of President James B. Angell had been to lay the cornerstone of University Hall, the structure that united the two wings (Mason Hall and South Wing). When he reached Ann Arbor, President Angell found on the campus the wings of University Hall, a Law Building, a Medical Building, a small Chemical Laboratory, and the four original houses for the professors. The entire faculty numbered only thirty-five men.
Like the University Hall of those early years, the Administration Building is, in a physical sense, the front door of the University. Almost all of the institution's new students enter its portals Page 1570within a few hours or days after they reach Ann Arbor; the undergraduate students take their needs there many times during their campus careers; visiting educators and business personnel find under its roof many of the University staff members whom they come to see.
The building is an imposing five-story face brick and stone structure. It extends for 282 feet along South State Street, across from Angell Hall. The edifice is shaped like a very shallow "U" with wings extending 116 feet toward the west on both extremities.
Within its walls are modern facilities for some 285 staff personnel. The activities which the building houses can be broken down into five general groupings: general administrative services (Regents, President, and other officials of the University and their staffs); students' services (Office of Student Affairs, deans of Men and Women, residence hall offices, admission and registration, etc.); the Extension Service (Correspondence Study, Adult Education); the business services (Cashier's Office, Purchasing Department, Accounting Department, and Investment Office); and the other services to the public (Information Services and News Service, etc.).
All of the student services are on the first floor to ensure maximum ease of handling the heavy flow of student traffic. The main entrance leads through a vestibule and the elevator lobby to a spacious student lobby. To the rear is a broad entranceway opening to a large parking area behind the building. The upper floors are laid out for offices in a system which affords flexibility to the space assignments.
In the basement is a lunch room, a shipping and receiving area below the upstairs dock, and adequate space for the sorting and handling of United States and campus mail. On the fourth floor in the north wing is a lecture room, with capacity for seventy-five people, which fills a dual role: educators and other visitors preview films from the Audio-Visual Center's library; other small University group meetings are also held there.
Because the building is, in effect, a large office building, a maximum amount of window space affording natural light was incorporated in the design. Throughout the edifice all of the windows and window sills are of aluminum construction — no exterior painting was required and the maintenance costs are low. The interiors, which are acoustically treated, feature fluorescent lighting.
In common with other new structures on the campus, the Administration Building offices are painted in eye-pleasing colors that were selected after careful study of the room's exposure to sunlight. The exterior brick is a light salmon color. The sculpture on the exterior is the work of Marshall Fredericks, of Birmingham, Michigan.
Four self-operating elevators are placed strategically to accommodate the traffic. Two are just inside the front entrance and, to the delight of student users, move in the direction desired with unusual speed — at a rate of some 550 feet per minute. They operate under collective control with an electric eye as a safety feature to retard closing on an unwary arm or leg.
Above the front entrance, just to the left of the marble, stone, and steel façade, is a huge electric clock — eleven feet in diameter — with stainless steel hands.