Architect's Sketch for the West Quadrangle
In the summer of 1938 a grant from the Public Works Administration in the amount of $945,000 was received to complete the residence hall development of which Allen-Rumsey House was the first unit. Bonds were sold to provide the University’s share of $1,477,000, 55% of the project.
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.
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 was 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.”
The building was an angular figure eight with two inner courts. The central part contained the dining area and separated the two courts with the main entrance on Thompson Street at one end and the entrance to the Union at the other. There were four dining rooms in the central part on two floors with the kitchen below them on the grade floor. Entrance to the south court was through a handsome wrought-iron gate named in honor of Regent James Murfin. The gate was a gift from various student organizations.
West Quadrangle was of fireproof construction with a brick exterior and with limestone trim which blended with the exterior of the Michigan Union. It had 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.
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 streets: 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 (Regent's Proceedings, 1936-39, p. 822).
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, was 1,048.
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 women 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 women in Chicago House would then be transferred back into women’s housing.
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.
Francis C. Shiel (The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, p. 1708)
Each house was set apart from the next by fire walls, so that there was no intercommunication between buildings except at the grade floor level. Each house had its own lounge, recreation room, study room, and suites for the resident adviser and associate adviser.