Allen-Rumsey House, the first unit of West Quadrangle, was constructed in 1937. The architectural firm, Lane, Davenport and Meyer, of Detroit, designers of an addition to the Union, developed a residence hall plan in connection with the Union expansion. Working drawings for the first unit of the dormitory were prepared by them, and in December the Regents authorized the sale of revenue bonds in the amount of $185,000 to provide funds for equipment and construction. The building contract was awarded to the H. B. Culbertson Company on January 21, and the Buildings and Grounds Department was authorized to do the mechanical trades work. The total cost was recorded in the 1938 Financial Report as $181,212, which included land and equipment costs. The dormitory was named in commemoration of John Allen and Elisha Rumsey, reputed cofounders of the city of Ann Arbor. The dormitory provided housing for only 114 men in spacious double rooms and was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1937. Meals were provided for these residents in one of the private dining rooms of the Michigan Union.
Through the efforts of Regent Lynch and Regent Shields a proposal including a grant from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works of the federal government was acted on by the Regents by mail vote in July, 1938. The proposal contemplated the completion of the residence hall development of which Page 1709Allen-Rumsey House was the first unit and the construction of another residence hall to accommodate medical students. This expansion was made possible by an outright grant of 45 per cent of the project cost by the federal government. The remaining 55 per cent of the cost was to be borne by the University through the sale of bonds. A resolution authorizing the application to the Public Works Administration was approved in July, 1938, and in August the Regents accepted the Public Works Administration grant amounting to $945,000. At the same time they authorized the sale of bonds in the amount of $1,477,000 to finance the University's share of the project. Included in this bond issue was $177,000 to cover the refunding of the outstanding bonds on Allen-Rumsey House.
The Stewart-Kingscott Company, of Kalamazoo, was selected as architect. Property facing Madison Street, Thompson Street, and Cheever Court including property facing Jefferson Street to provide a large parking lot was purchased by the University and a demolition contract was awarded in October, 1938. The major contract covering architectural trades was awarded to Jerome A. Utley Company, of Detroit, and construction started in December, 1938. Other contracts were awarded to the R. L. Spitzley Company for heating, plumbing, and ventilating, the Central Electric Company for electrical work, and the Otis Elevator Company for elevators and dumb-waiters. In total these contracts amounted to $1,241,118.
West Quadrangle, as the building was named, was completed in record time. It was ready for occupancy at the beginning of the first semester of 1939-40 except for the dining area, which was completed and ready for use at the end of the fourth week of the semester. As all the room furniture had not been received, the residents had a difficult time on arrival. Lamps were several weeks late in arriving, and for a short period beds were made up on mattresses placed on the floor. In getting to the building post office and going to the Union, with which it is connected, students had to pick their way around tradesmen who were completing work in the dining area. It was all taken in good spirit even though, as the Director of Residence Halls stated in his annual report, "these unsettled conditions produced in many students the feeling that they were transients rather than permanent residents, and consequently some of them were restless, disturbed — and disturbing — during most of the University year."
West Quadrangle is of fireproof construction with a brick exterior and with limestone trim which blends with the exterior of the Michigan Union. It has an area of 264,663 square feet, excluding Allen-Rumsey House, and the completed cost as recorded in the Financial Statement for 1941 was $1,836,041, including equipment.
The building is an angular figure eight with two inner courts. The central part contains the dining area and separates the two courts with the main entrance on Thompson Street at one end and the entrance to the Union at the other. There are four dining rooms in the central part on two floors with the kitchen below them on the grade floor. Entrance to the south court is through a handsome wrought-iron gate named in honor of Regent James Murfin. The gate was a gift from various student organizations.
Space for 818 men in one hundred single rooms, 347 double rooms, and twelve two-room suites was provided in the completed structure, which with the inclusion of Allen-Rumsey House made a total of 932 residents. The new building was divided into seven houses, officially named as follows: the dormitory on the corner of Thompson and Madison Page 1710streets: Robert Mark Wenley House; the central dormitory on Thompson Street: Michigan House; the dormitory north of Michigan House: Henry Carter Adams House; the dormitory on the corner of Thompson and Jefferson streets: Chicago House; the northeast dormitory: Alfred Henry Lloyd House; the two eastern dormitories: Alexander Winchell House and George Palmer Williams House (R.P., 1936-39, p. 822).
Each house is set apart from the next by fire walls, so that there is no intercommunication between buildings except at the grade floor level. Each house has its own lounge, recreation room, study room, and suites for the resident adviser and associate adviser.
In 1952 the Donald Joel Brown Memorial Room, a beautiful library and music room in Lloyd House was dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Meyer M. Brown as a memorial to their son, Donald Joel Brown, a freshman, who lost his life in an accident while returning to the University after the Easter holidays. Other public rooms include the Louis A. Strauss Memorial Library, which contains the library of the late Professor Louis A. Strauss, a radio station and studio, the West Quadrangle Council room, and a sending and receiving shortwave radio station.
House libraries were established in Wenley, Allen-Rumsey, Michigan, Winchell, and Adams houses through the contributions of the Elmira University of Michigan Club to a Residence Halls Library Fund. This project has received the highest commendation from the students and staff.
In 1953 permanent alterations were made to the building with the conversion of twenty-five single rooms to doubles, eighty-two double rooms to triple rooms, and arranging the suites for three instead of two students. With this expansion the total capacity of West Quadrangle, including Allen-Rumsey House, is 1,048. Henry W. deKoning Construction Company, of Ann Arbor, undertook the alterations at a cost of $40,884. Additional furnishings cost $17,225.
In the fall of 1954, with increasing enrollment, demands for housing for women made it necessary to use one of the houses of West Quadrangle for women. Chicago House was selected for its physical location with respect to the other houses and because the least number of returning residents would be effected. The women were well received by the male population, and before the year was out it became necessary for the girls to take turns in the four dining rooms. Late in the spring of 1955 it was decided that women would occupy Chicago House again for the first semester only of the coming school year. It was expected that the addition to Couzens Hall under construction would be ready for occupancy at the beginning of the second semester and that the girls in Chicago House would then be transferred back into women's housing.
Needless to say the moving of women into the sanctuaries of West Quadrangle men caused some consternation in the beginning. The University of Chicago alumni, who in preceding years had pledged themselves to contribute toward the cost of this unit, were considerably disturbed, for their goal had been to place young men from Chicago in this house. After considerable correspondence, long distance calls, and a visit with those most interested in Chicago by the Dean of Students and the Manager of Service Enterprises their whole-hearted co-operation was obtained. It was pointed out to them that this move was only temporary and that Chicago House would again house men as soon as the Couzens Hall addition was completed. Over a period of a few years the Chicago University of Michigan Dormitory Fund Page 1711accumulated $28,636 for the express purpose of aiding in the cost of construction of Chicago House, and it was named in recognition and acknowledgment of their contributions.
West Quadrangle, as did all men's residence halls, played an important part in the war effort. Late in the spring of 1942 a contract was negotiated with the federal government for quartering the Advance R.O.T.C. in Allen-Rumsey House. In the meantime another contract for West Quadrangle facilities was negotiated with the Navy Department, and 1,300 Navy enlistees moved in during the first week of July. The Navy continued its contract for the complete use of the facilities until the fall term of 1944, when two of the houses were returned to the University for civilian use. In January another house was allocated to civilians, and on March 1 two additional houses were vacated by the Navy. The contract was terminated on June 30, 1946, and West Quadrangle again became a residence hall for civilians in its entirety.