West Professors’ House on South University

Professors’ House

A modest building plan for the University of Michigan campus called for the construction of six buildings, two to serve as dormitories and classrooms, and four as Professors’ Houses.

Four identical Professors’ Houses were to be completed by July of 1840. Two were located on North University and two on South University. The two-story plan included a central hall with two rooms opening off each side. The same arrangement was repeated on the second floor. Each room had a fireplace. The houses had low-pitched tin roofs. Wood houses, cisterns, and barns were provided for each.

The houses were also to be used for the storage of the Cabinet of Natural History, Library, Philosophical Apparatus, and other general purposes of the University until the main buildings could be finished.

The contracts which the Building Committee made for the erection of these houses amounted in each case to $7,712.50 or $30,850 for the four. Each house had about 4,800 square feet of floor space and measured 36 by 44 feet in size.

Sketch of the campus from a student letter


Regent’s Proceedings, January 31, 1839 p. 70

, That the Building Committee be authorized to contract for materials for erecting and furnishing four buildings for the use of the Professors of the University and to be used until the main buildings of the University be completed for the reception of the Cabinet of Natural History, Library, Philosophical Apparatus, and for other general purposes of the University; and to contract for the erecting and finishing the same; and that the said Committee cause to be prepared plans of the said buildings and submit the same to this Board with all convenient speed.

Regent’s Proceedings, March 26, 1839 p. 77

, That the Committee on University Buildings be instructed to cause the fronts of the four buildings now authorized to be erected on the University grounds, to be constructed facing inwards to the said grounds, which was laid on the table.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 13, 1839 p. 93

, That the Building Committee be instructed to give notice to Mr. Thompson that the contract between him as Superintendent of the University Building and said Committee is annulled by order of the Board of Regents.

, That the resolution heretofore adopted by the Board of Regents, appropriating a sum of money to pay office rent for the Superintendent and Building Committee, is here rescinded.

, That the Building Committee be requested to contract with Mr. Lum for the completion of the last two buildings mentioned in the contract in all respects agreeable to the specifications mentioned in the two first, at the same rate at which he has contracted to finish the said two first buildings.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 13, 1839 p. 94

, That the Building Committee be requested to obtain from the Superintendent plans and estimates for the construction of fences and out-houses for the several buildings so that the space between the two houses at each end of the lot shall be included by continuous fences, both in the front and rear, and equal lots appropriated for the use of each house.

Regent’s Proceedings, March 6, 1840 p. 125 - Report on the four Professors’ Houses

By an order of the Board of Regents of the 11th February, 1839, all further proceedings to erect the University Buildings according to the plan adopted in September, 1838, were suspended and the Building Committee by the resolution were directed to give notice to Alexander J. Davis and Issac Thompson, that the Board of Regents would put an end to the contract made with them on the 18th September, 1838, as Architect and Superintendent; and the Committee were further directed by that resolution to make a new contract with Mr. Thompson to superintend the building of four houses on the University grounds at Ann Arbor, and to proceed to erect those houses according to plans adopted by the Regents.

On the same day (February 11, 1839) the Committee also made a new contract with Mr. Thompson to superintend the building of the four houses above mentioned, the compensation to be at the rate of $1000 per annum; and by the advice of Mr. Thompson, the Committee on the 14th February last, entered into a contract with Haspier Lum, to erect and finish those houses by which they agreed to give him the sum of $7,500 for each of two of the houses to be completed finished, and the sum of $6000 for each of the other two houses to be finished except as to certain parts of the interior, amounting in all to the sum of $27,500, the houses to be finished by the first of July, 1840.

On the 4th of March last (1839), the Committee by the advice of the Superintendent, and being satisfied that it would be an improvement upon the buildings as well in respect to economy as durability, made a further contract with Mr. Lum by which he was to finish the exterior of the buildings in rough cast, or stucco, for which he was to receive the further sum of $250 for each house.

And on the 22d June (1939), the Committee made a further contract with Mr. Lum, by which he was to construct a terrace on each of the houses, for the further sum of $12.50 for each house.

On the 13th July (1839) the Board of Regents passed an order directing the Committee to contract with Mr. Lum to finish the interior of all the houses upon the terms and in the manner specified in the original contract, and in pursuance thereof, the Committee entered into such contract. The result of these contracts is that Mr. Lum is to be paid the sum of $7,712.50 for each house, amounting in all to $30,850.

The University of Michigan Campus by Jasper Cropsey - 1855

Professors’ Houses on South University facing the center of the Campus
From the Jasper Cropsey Painting

University of Michigan Campus from the northeast across the “Cathole”

Professors’ Houses facing North University

Professors’ House

Facing North and South University

Professors’ House facing the center of campus
(This is the west house on North University)

Professors who lived in the west Professors’ House on South University

ca. 1841-1846
Joseph Whiting

The Reverend Joseph Whiting was Principal of the University branch at Niles. In August of 1841 he was named professor of Greek and Latin. Professor Whiting and Professor Williams constituted the faculty in 1841 when classes began. Professor Whiting died just before the first class graduated in 1845. Mrs. Whiting continued living in the house until May, 1846, when she left for Buffalo.

Regent’s Proceedings, September 1844, p. 292

, That the Executive Committee be authorized to obtain insurance upon the University Buildings at Ann Arbor, and to erect such temporary barns, sheds, and other fixtures in and about the Professors’ Houses as they shall deem just and expedient at the expense of this Board, and report thereon to this Board.

Regent’s Proceedings, August 5, 1845 p. 318

, That the family of the late Professor Whiting be authorized to occupy the building in which they now reside, until the commencement of the third term now next ensuing, free from rent or other charges.

ca. 1846-1851
 John Agnew

John H. Agnew, (Dickinson ‘23) succeeded Professor Whiting as Professor of Greek and Latin. In 1851, Professors Agnew, Whedon and Williams were dismissed for no expressed reason. That same year, the new Board of Regents invited the three professors to rejoin the University. Professor Williams accepted and remained the rest of his life. Professors Agnew and Whedon declined.

Regent’s Proceedings, January 7, 1847 p. 358

Resolved, That the Board will consider themselves under obligations to meet the expenses of all repairs necessary for the preservation of the freehold from injury induced by decay of materials and weather, excepting stoves, and such like unavoidable uses, but that the expenses growing out of all incidental injury from the use of the buildings, such as breaking of glass, shutters and damage done by occupants, or alterations and accommodations for their convenience and taste be met by the Professors.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 18, 1848 p. 399

Rev. Mr. Allen presented an account and claim of S. B. Noble against the University for fruit trees and shrubbery furnished professor Whiting and prayed payment for the same or leave to remove the trees.

Resolved, that the sum of $20 per year for the three succeeding years be appropriated for the purchase of and planting of fruit trees in the gardens attached to the dwelling houses of the University Grounds and that the Superintendent of Grounds carry this resolution into effect.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 18, 1848 p. 400

On motion of Mr. Taylor it was ordered that the Superintendent be directed to cause door bells to be put on the Professors’ Houses.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 9, 1849 p. 416

Resolved, That the Executive Committee be instructed to report at our next Annual Meeting upon the propriety of increasing the salary of the non-resident Professors to an amount, according to their respective salaries, equal to the value of house rent provided for the resident Professors and if they report favorably, that they define the amount.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 17, 1849 p. 421

Resolved, That it be referred to the Executive Committee to inquire into and report tomorrow morning on the expediency and probable cost of erecting stables for the Professors’ Houses.

Regent’s Proceedings, July 18, 1849 p. 422

On the subject of allowing rent to non-resident Professors, recommending the payment of $50 per term to each for the time they shall be respectively actually engaged in the duties of their Professorships. And, that the same committee contract for the erection of a wood-house to each of the buildings on the University lands at Ann Arbor, agreeable to the plan furnished by Mr. Thompson. And that the same Committee be authorized to contract for a cistern to each of the houses, and to dig another well when they deem it expedient.

From 1841 to 1852, a faculty committee governed the University. The new state constitution of 1850 established two important changes. First was the popular election of the Board of Regents, one from each of the judicial districts, which then numbered eight. The Board was separated from the superintendent of public instruction and the legislature, giving the University Constitutional Autonomy. The constitution also required the Regents to appoint a president.