Madison in the Sixties – the first week of June, 1961
Two months after businessman Henry Reynolds was elected mayor on a platform of killing the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace civic center, the Auditorium Committee dominated by his appointees votes to do just that. With pro-Monona Terrace members appointed by former mayor Ivan Nestingen now in the minority, Reynolds and his appointees vote 6-3 to terminate the contract with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and start from scratch.
Although the sharpest attacks on the project have involved criticism of Wright’s politics, lifestyle and business practices, Reynolds and his allies on the committee argue exclusively that the project as designed is just too expensive. The 1956 contract between the Foundation and the city set a limit of five and a half million dollars for the project which would combine an auditorium, exhibition hall, art gallery and community center; but when construction bids went out earlier this year, the only bid that was returned was for more than twice the budget. “What the city wants is a Cadillac auditorium for a Ford price,” observed Ald. Richard Kopp.
It’s unlikely this is the end of Monona Terrace – William Wesley Peters, lead architect for the Foundation, calls the city’s attempt to terminate the contract invalid, and says he’ll take the city to arbitration.
In urban renewal news, the Madison Redevelopment Authority votes for the immediate eviction of the only Black bar-owner in Madison, Zachary Trotter, proprietor of Trotter’s Tuxedo Café, 763 W. Washington Avenue. The MRA wants to tear down the building as part of the Brittingham Urban Renewal Area, and last summer took the property by condemnation. But Trotter, who lives above the bar with his wife Maxine, refuses to move or pay rent, because the city council has twice rejected his attempts to relocate to the South Park Street area due to neighborhood concerns. Trotter’s attorney, Maurice Pasch, says his client will vacate by August 1 if the MRA forgives the outstanding rent, but the MRA rejects the offer and proceeds with the eviction action.
But the week is not a total loss for Attorney Pasch – Democratic governor Gaylord Nelson appoints him to the UW Board of Regents, replacing former Republican governor Oscar Rennebohm. It was Rennebohm, a pharmacist who founded the drug store chain that bears his name, who devised the UW’s very successful foray into urban planning, the Hill Farms Neighborhood and Hilldale Shopping Center. Pasch is a former aide to US Senator Robert M La Follette Jr and counsel to the Federal Communications Commission and National Recovery Administration under president Roosevelt and past president of Madison’s Temple Beth El.
The House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenas UW History Professor William Appleman Williams and graduate student Martin Sklar as part of its investigation into the Fund for Social Analysis. Both men have received grants from the Fund, which supports research into Marxist theory and analysis. Williams, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, recently signed an ad calling for the House committee to be abolished. Sklar is a founder of the UW Socialist Club and the influential journal Studies on the Left.
The UW makes civil rights news as well, when a student from Milwaukee is one of seven Freedom Riders arrested minutes after arriving at the Trailways bus depot in Jackson Mississippi and entering the wrong section of a segregated waiting room. James Walhstrom, 24, a senior from Milwaukee, and four other whites and two Negroes are sentenced to four months in jail after a quick conviction of breaching the peace. Although Judge James Spencer suspended two months of the imprisonment on the recommendation of city prosecutor Jack Travis, it is the harshest sentence of the 65 other Freedom Riders arrested in the Mississippi capitol over the past twelve days. Travis warns that he’ll seek the full four-month sentence for future Freedom Riders, whom he said were in Jackson “for the purpose of creating trouble.”
In a not unrelated development, Madison attorney Lloyd A Barbee, president of the state NAACP, calls for a mass rally for human rights at the State Capitol to support bills creating a fair housing law and strengthening fair employment practices.
Vilas Towers, the high-rise retirement housing project planned for a large lakeside lot next to the Edgewater Hotel, has applied for a low-interest loan from the Federal Housing Administration. The developer, Senior Citizens Inc., says federal financing will let residents reduce their down payments from 100% to 40% percent. Construction is expected to start in fall on the 3 12-story towers on the former Vilas property bounded by Wisconsin Avenue, E. Gilman St and Lake Mendota.
On the recommendation of the Madison Parks Commission, traffic flow through Vilas Park is reversed, from clockwise to counter-clockwise. The change is designed to route afternoon home-bound traffic away from the busy beach area, and route morning work-bound traffic past the beach when it is used less.
Five veteran Madison policemen are removed from their regular daytime shifts and assigned to fill-in duty for loafing on the job. Police chief Wilbur Emery says the patrolmen’s poor work records “do not justify the filing of formal neglect of duty charges against them at this time,” but calls the transfers “a disciplinary move to get these men who are loafing on the job to do the work they were hired to do.” Although Emery denied there was a quota system tracking how many tickets officers issued, Patrol Capt. Norman Ehle acknowledges “the men who are giving the best service will be assigned to the regular beats.”
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, vaccine-taking, pledge-driving WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan
Image – Frank Lloyd Wright’s final rendering of Monona Terrace, finished on February 15, 1959, seven weeks before his death. COPYRIGHT 2018 © FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT FOUNDATION, SCOTTSDALE, AZ. ALL RIGHTS
RESERVED. THE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT FOUNDATION ARCHIVES (THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, AVERY ARCHITECTURAL & FINE ARTS LIBRARY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK)