Madison in the sixties – first week of February
Urban renewal dominates the news this week in 1961, as Madison makes history when it puts the Brittingham project out for bid. The 5-acre site bounded by West Washington, Proudfit and West Main, planned for 150 units of private market rate housing in buildings of up to three stories, is the first residential urban renewal project in Wisconsin. The Housing Authority and Neighborhood Center wanted public housing there for the Greenbush residents being displaced by the Triangle urban renewal district across just West Washington, but the City Council endorsed the Redevelopment Authority’s market rate plan instead – which few Greenbush households will be able to afford. The redevelopment authority expects to choose a winning bidder in May, with construction to start in fall.
The Brittingham project is also where race and renewal have hit head-on, at the city’s only black-owned bar, Zachary Trotter’s Tuxedo Café, 763 W. Washington Ave. Actually, now the Redevelopment Authority owns it, having taken title last August in a condemnation proceeding. Trotter has been trying to relocate, but the council last summer rejected his request to transfer his liquor license to a site on S. Park St. because 14th ward Ald. Babe Rohr and hundreds of neighbors objected. The city deposited $25,300 with the court in payment for the property, which Trotter has not claimed, and in October started charging $200 a month rent for the bar and upstairs apartment, which Trotter has not paid. The redevelopment authority wants to move on, and this week gives Trotter three days to pay the $800 in back rent or vacate. It does not take any actions to help Trotter relocate. Exactly one year later, this week in 1962, the Tuxedo Café is knocked down, four months after Trotter gets a building permit for a $25,000 two-story bar and apartments at 1616 Beld Street.
Also this week in 1962, the Daily Cardinal makes history, as its board of control appoints its first sophomore editor-in-chief – Jeff Greenfield, a philosophy major from NYC, will complete the term of former editor John Kellogg, who quit to go to law school. Greenfield is currently vice-president of the Americans for Democratic Action, on the university debate team and a writer for the Wisconsin review magazine, all positions he will leave upon assuming the editorship. Greenfield was also editor of the Hillel Review, and was completely exempted from freshmen English. Greenfield’s editorship ends in April, with a likely reappointment for a full year in the fall.
Exactly three years later, this week in 1965, the newspaper is again in the news, as the UW Board of Regents beats back a right-wing attack over purported communist influence because managing editor John Gruber lives in a house with several communists, including the sons of state and national party leaders. When radio commentator Robert Seigrist reveals Gruber’s living arrangements, and keeps talking about them, powerful State Senator Jerris Leonard demands a formal investigation into whether the Daily Cardinal was following the lead of the Daily Worker. Campus groups of all stripes rush to the papers defense, including the Young Republicans and the Inter- Fraternity Council. Then the regents meet, and it’s Leonard’s demand, not Gruber’s housing, that they find appalling, denouncing what one calls a witch hunt and another equates with McCarthyism. Then they unanimously adopt a resolution praising the Cardinal, supporting freedom of the press, and denouncing guilt by association. Board president Kenneth L. Greenquist— a former state commander of the patriotic wartime veterans’ group American Legion— likens to the famed “sifting and winnowing” statement from 1894. Blustery right- wing state senator Gordon Roseleip tries to get the House Un- American Activities Committee to investigate— at the same time he demands a free subscription for all legislators— but Republican Governor Knowles, ends the controversy by endorsing the regent’s action a few days later. “This is America,” he says. “Let’s continue to have the right of free speech and free press.”
Madison High School was the city’s crowning educational achievement when it opened September 8, 1908, a sturdy Municipal Gothic structure designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Cass Gilbert. It was renamed Central High School in 1922 when the East Side High School opened, then Central- University High School on the closing of Wisconsin High in 1964. But under any name, its days are now numbered, Thanks to years of declining enrollment, an old physical plant and a very willing buyer.
For more than a year, the board of the Vocational, Technical, and Adult Schools has been after the Board of Education to turn over some of Central’s classrooms, and to make a quick decision on the building’s future. Its efforts succeed on February 7 with the school board’s 6–1 vote to close the school in June 1969. “No advantage in further delaying a decision which must ultimately be made,” says school board member Arthur “Dynie” Mansfield, reading from a five- page statement before making the momentous motion. “The indecision in this matter may be causing more trouble than the problem itself.” The veteran UW baseball coach argues that the building’s needs are so great— a new library, modern labs and science rooms, a better gym— and the downtown demographics declining so steadily, that the school is not worth modernizing, especially with the vocational school board pressing for the classrooms and land.
East side attorney and former mayoral candidate Albert McGinnis casts the lone vote against closing, precisely to protest that pressure; he says the vocational school doesn’t understand how the new eleven- county vocational school system will soon make this site obsolete as well,.
Urban renewal again leads the news in 1966, as The Federal Housing Authority approves a $2 million grant to the Bayview Foundation to build 144 units of moderate- income housing in the Triangle urban renewal district, just east of the Gay Braxton apartments on Regent St. The foundation was formed about two years ago for this endeavor, with members from Neighborhood House, the Lake Wingra Community Council, Beth Israel Center, Memorial United Church of Christ, St. James Catholic Church, the League of Women Voters, the Parent- Teacher Association, and the anti-urban renewal Madison Home Owners Association, plus three aldermen. The foundation, will pay the Madison Redevelopment Authority (MRA) just under $125,000 for the land, will also pay property taxes and will turn the project over to the city after forty years. Construction is expected to start later this summer, to be completed by next fall. Income limits will range from 5000 for one person to 9200 for a household of seven or more It was ousted redevelopment director Roger Rupnow who first proposed the project in 1964.