Kickin’ It Old School

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Heritage

Emily Pokorny

The groundbreaking for the new Visual and Theatre Arts Center, a long awaited addition to campus, has been set for next spring.  In the face of this tangible sign of change, now is perhaps the best time to reflect on how the campus came to be, and how it has grown and been altered in the past.

In 1881, Governor Washburn offered the 55 acre estate, then known as the Edgewood Villa, to several potential recipients.  According to Phoenix from the Fire: A History of Edgewood College, written by Mary Paynter, O.P., the city of Madison, the state of Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin all refused the gift.  At the time, everyone regarded Edgewood as being too remote from Madison; ironically Madison eventually spread out to meet and envelop the land Washburn gifted to the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters.

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The sisters built several schools here, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the actual Edgewood College camps became a reality.  In 1952, the college was still located in the high school building.  Sr. Mary Nona McGreal, O.P., president of Edgewood College, was instrumental in its growth, drawing up an ambitious Campus Master Plan in 1955 that included a new dormitory, fine arts building, and gym.  The first official college building was the Mazzuchelli Biological Station built in 1956.  In the next nine years, new buildings were completed  across campus, creating a true sense of a college community.  Regina, DeRicci, and Weber were among the new additions.

Changes continued as time went on.  The Rosewood and Siena Apartments were constructed in 1973 to provide additional housing for the Dominican sisters of the school, an activities center was attached to DeRicci Hall, and the library in the basement of Regina was expanded to what is now the Washburn Heritage Room.  Due to a decrease in attendance, Marshall Hall was not used as a residence hall in 1985; some men actually lived in the all-female Regina Hall that year.  The library gained its own building after a grant from the Oscar Rennenbohm Foundation allowed construction to begin in 1990.

In the early 1990s, a new residence hall, the first since Weber was built in 1965, was originally planned to be built near Marshall Hall.  The plan was met with resistance from neighbors, an occurrence that is not uncommon today as Edgewood tries to expand within the confines of its gates.  Th new dormitory, Marie Stephen Reges Hall, affectionately named Stevie Hall, opened in 1994 in a different location than originally expected.

Other major additions soon followed.  According to Phoenix from the Fire, “the Sonderegger Science Center and the adjoining parking ramp were constructed in 1997-99, and the $10 million facility became the nation’s first to offer kindergarten through college science education.”

The new millennium brought a need for additional student housing as enrollment increased.  In the September 26, 2003 edition of On the Edge, Jessica Benton Cooney and Emily Mills wrote that “for the first time, the Residence Life staff had to limit who could return for the fall semester.”  Much controversy surrounded the building of a new hall as the college worked to negotiate with the neighbors who strongly objected to allowing 198 more students to live in a building so close to their homes.  Conversation and debate carried on for several years until Dominican Hall was finally opened in the fall of 2007.

Almost as interesting as the buildings that still remain today are those torn down or that never came to be.  In 1968, plans for an observatory were drawn up but then rejected.  Before the location of Dominican Hall was chosen, plans were originally made to add on suites to Regina Hall.  As the winter 2003 edition of the college magazine explained, the plans were halted due to the discovery of a Native American burial mound in the spot of the proposed addition.  An activities center once stood where Predolin now exists.

Not without trials, the campus has changed in both small and big ways since it began to take shape in the 1950s.  The result is our tiny campus nestled on the shores of Lake Wingra.

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