In 1928, at the September 21 meeting of the Regents, plans for a dormitory to house 500 women, outlined by an alumni committee of which Mason Pittman Rumney ('08e) was chairman, were adopted by the Board, a scheme of financing its construction was approved, and immediate bids from contractors were authorized.
Malcolmson and Higginbotham, of Detroit, were chosen as the architects, and sketches were prepared under the Page 1725direction of Alexander L. Trout ('05, '10e) for the building, to stand just east of the Women's Athletic Field on Observatory Street.
At their meeting on April 24, the Regents approved the plan in general as follows:
Resolved, That the Regents approve in principle the plan of financing the construction of dormitories stated in a communication dated April 16, 1928, from E. J. Ottaway, President of the General Alumni Association of the University, provided that the earnings of the dormitories as estimated are satisfactory to them and in the opinion of the Regents will be sufficient to pay the expense of operation, of upkeep of the buildings and grounds, of renewal of equipment and furnishings, and to pay the principal and interest of the bonds as they mature; and further provided that plans and specifications of the buildings, character of construction, the furnishings, equipment, management, and plan of control of the dormitories meet with their approval.
(R.P., 1926-29, pp. 548-49.)
A part of the site was bought by the Detroit alumni, and the remainder was purchased by the Regents after condemnation proceedings. The project contemplated the leasing of this land to the Guardian Trust Company, of Detroit, which would finance the erection of the building and, in turn, release the contemplated property to the University.
The prospect of building such a large dormitory, however, caused a serious controversy between the landladies of Ann Arbor, their sympathizers, and the University. The landladies feared that their rooms would be left empty and their means of livelihood thus endangered. The new dormitory, which was intended to house five-hundred girls, was criticized as being too large, and the proposed site was considered "too far away from campus."
A petition signed by fourteen citizens protesting the building of the dormitory was presented to the Regents in October, 1928. A committee was approved by the mayor to study the economic effect on the city of the building of such a dormitory and in general of the continuation of the University's building plans. A committee composed of Regents Sawyer, Beal, and Clements was appointed to confer with the mayor's committee and to furnish any information available and pertinent to the subject (R.P., 1926-29, p. 842). The contracts entered into by the University and the Guardian Trust Company, of Detroit, were loaned to Frank DeVine, counsel for the citizens' movement, to be examined.
The construction contract between Pehrson Brothers of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the University was signed in the fall of 1928 for $505,821.14. The mechanical trades work was undertaken by the Plant Department. In order to satisfy both the University and the Guardian Trust Company, the cost of the building had to be reduced to $950,000, $50,000 lower than the original figure of $1,000,000, because the trust company was willing to loan only $850,000, and this sum plus $100,000 which the Detroit Alumnae Association had guaranteed to raise represented the total amount available. In order to meet the specifications, changes were made in the interior; these, however, did not change the appearance of the exterior.
Mosher-Jordan Halls, designed to accommodate 442 women, were completed and ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 1930-31 school year. A formal opening and reception were held in January, 1931. The total cost of the building, which has a floor area of 137,242 square feet, was $797,640.
The building, in accordance with the following resolution, was named in honor of the first two deans of women, Eliza M. Mosher and Myra B. Jordan:
Resolved, That the new women's dormitory project be designated as follows in Page 1726honor of the first two deans of women of the University: —
The north unit shall be designated the Eliza M. Mosher Hall in honor of Dr. Eliza M. Mosher, Dean of Women from 1896 to 1902. The south unit shall be designated the Myra B. Jordan Hall in honor of Mrs. Myra B. Jordan, Dean of Women from 1902 to 1922 and Dean Emeritus since 1922. The two units shall be jointly administered as the Mosher-Jordan Halls.
(R.P., 1929-32, p. 157.)
The location of the building has particular advantages. Situated on Observatory Street overlooking the Women's Athletic Field, it is only a six-minute walk from the main campus. The building faces east and west. The architecture is an adaptation of Collegiate Gothic, carried out in Colonial face brick, with trim of Indiana limestone. The topography of the site made possible a sunken garden on the Observatory Street side and terraces sloping to Palmer Field on the other. The building is of fireproof construction, five stories high, and is so planned that it forms two complete units or residence halls, identical in arrangement, the only difference being in arrangement of the living rooms.
Each of the dining rooms, of which there are four opening on the terraces, is on the first or ground floor, which, because the building stands on a hill, is downstairs from the main entrance. In the beginning one wing of this floor was set apart for members of the staff and another was reserved for graduate students. Later, because of the increasing enrollment, it became necessary to use this space for the housing of undergraduates.
The second floor is on a level with Observatory Street, and entrance is gained by small bridges which span the sunken garden. On the right and left of the entrances are two reception rooms, which in recent years have been used as offices by the resident directors. Each hall has a lobby, with tile floor and oak-paneled walls. Here, too, are the mail and information desks, and the elevators. There are four living rooms, two at right angles to each lobby. The first and more formal of these living rooms is several steps lower than the entrance floor so that the space intervening between it and the lobby forms a miniature stage which may be used for small dramatic productions and recitals. This first large living room has an enormous stone fireplace, soft carpets, comfortable chairs, beautiful carved tables with softly shaded lamps, and a grand piano. Along the west side is a book nook, from which French doors open on an enclosed porch. The second living room, which also has a large fireplace and casement windows on three sides, projects upon the terrace and is more informal in character. On this floor, opening from the corridors running to the center of the building, are a number of student rooms and the directors' suites.
The third, fourth, and fifth floors are devoted to student rooms. These also have casement windows, grouped in various ways, with ledges of shaded tiles. Great care has been taken to provide for convenience and quiet. Acoustical plaster was used in the corridors as well as in the living and dining rooms. Each of the upper floors has a sunroom and a kitchenette with ironing equipment. Laundries for student use are on the ground floor.
By 1953, 425 women were housed in Mosher-Jordan Halls. Increased enrollment made it necessary to increase this number by making double rooms out of singles and triples out of doubles. In addition, the staff corridor and guest rooms were taken over, thus increasing the capacity to 490 women. The work was done by the Henry deKoning Construction Page 1727Company, of Ann Arbor. Including some new furnishings for the remodeled rooms, the cost was $20,286.