Madison in the Sixties – December, 1960
As the month opens, the Madison Redevelopment Authority closes any hope for public housing in the city’s first urban renewal area, the Brittingham project just east of Brittingham Park. The Madison Housing Authority had been trying all year to get the MRA to OK public housing for the residents who are about to lose their homes for the Triangle urban renewal project just across West Washington Avenue. On December 1, the MRA formally rejects the MHA’s bid – causing local leader Chester Zmudzinski, the head of Madison Neighborhood Centers, to warn that not building public housing for the residents who are displaced will have dire consequences. The month and year ends with good news for the MRA—six years after the city initiated the Brittingham project, the Urban Renewal Administration approves the final plans.
December 2—The state Supreme Court rejects the last legal challenges to the complex corporate structure of the Hilldale Shopping Center, a unique public-private partnership which UW regent (and former governor) Oscar Rennebohm devised to maximize university revenue from the farmland it owns just west of Midvale Blvd. The high court rules 6-1 that the university was not illegally engaging in private business when it gave $200,000 to a dummy non-profit corporation called Kelab Inc., which used the money to buy 33 acres in the university’s Hill Farms neighborhood. The plan, which the regents approved in May, 1958, is for Kelab to lease the land to Hilldale Inc., which is wholly owned by the University of Wisconsin Foundation. The Hilldale corporation will then construct buildings to rent to retail businesses, including F.W. Woolworth’s, Yost’s-Kessenich’s, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, and the drug store company founded by Gov. Rennebohm. The lease payments which Hilldale makes to Kelab will be turned over to the university, as will all stock dividends which Hilldale generates. A shopping center competitor, the Glendale Corporation, claimed in vain the arrangement constituted an unconstitutional public debt and set the price for the land far too low. The residential aspect of the regents’ six-hundred-acre Hill Farms development, begun in 1957, is already wildly successful; all but ten of the eight hundred lots have been sold, and 510 homes have been constructed.
At month’s end, more challenges to downtown retail – W. T. Grant, 21 S. Pinckney St., announces it will close on January 14 after thirty years on the Capitol Square and relocate to an as-yet-unnamed shopping center.
Black sharecroppers in Tennessee get a little help after the Madison Common Council overrides City Clerk A.W. Bareis and allows members of the UW Student Council on Civil Rights to raise funds on city sidewalks for the tenant farmers who have been denied credit to purchase food and clothing ever since they tried to register to vote in March. Bareis originally ruled that only registered charities can solicit on the street, and that the student plan to send the money they raised to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to support the Tennessee group did not qualify. The council disagreed, and the students raise about $300.
In other civil rights news, UW chemistry demonstrator Odell Taliaferro is re-elected president of the Madison chapter of the NAACP over Dane County social worker Marshall Colston, who is named a member at large of the executive committee. Former chapter president atty. Lloyd A Barbee is elected third vice-president.
December 7—Dean of students LeRoy Luberg, a former recruitment officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, warns students in a Daily Cardinal interview that they may be jeopardizing their professional futures by joining leftist political groups such as the Socialist Club or the Fair Play for Cuba committee. There are many campuses, he cautions, that don’t have “the level of toleration which is generally accepted here.” Luberg also says that he takes such organizational activities into account when writing letters of recommendations for government jobs that require security clearances.
December 9—The regents approve a faculty proposal to tighten admission standards for out-of-state students by requiring a top 40 percent ranking rather than the top 50. The out-of-state students come from families with more education and higher income than their in-state replacements; according to a new UW study, almost 40 percent of out-of-state men and 60 percent of out-of-state women come from households with annual income $15,000 and above, four times the rate of in-state students. And while fully half the fathers of nonresident students have a college degree, only 35 percent of the fathers of resident women and 27 percent of the fathers of resident men share that educational attainment.91
The State Industrial Commission rules that disgraced former Madison Police Chief Bruce Weatherly is entitled to more than 3500 dollars in worker’s compensation and medical fees for injuries sustained when he smashed his city squad car after drinking for several hours at the Hoffman House with his secretary in January 1959. The Police and Fire Commission fired Weatherly four months later.
A group of well-connected financiers, executives and industrialists release plans for a 350-unit apartment project for the elderly on the waterfront just east of the Edgewater Hotel. Senior Citizens of Wisconsin Inc. wants to tear down the historic Vilas and Hanks mansions at Wisconsin Ave and E Gilman St and build three eight-story apartment buildings. Construction will start as soon as financing is arranged.
Madison continues to pursue its manifest destiny to the west, as a square mile of rolling farmland on either side of Old Sauk Road, between Gammon Road and the Beltline, is sold for a massive development featuring homes, schools, churches, a shopping center and privately owned pool. The Patrick J Lucey Realty Company, which brokered the sale of three family farms to the Westaire Corporation, will handle the residential component.
Monkey see, monkey do. All the monkeys are now back at the zoo – four months after they escaped from Monkey Island at the Vilas Park facility. Most of the 36 rhesus monkeys were recaptured quickly, but several stayed footloose and fancy free. But in early December, the last two are finally trapped and brought back.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, 45th-anniversary celebrating, mask-wearing, hand-washing, socially distant WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.