Sixty years ago this week, things look bleak for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace, there’s bad news for elderly Blacks and Jews, and out-of-state students are under fire. Stu Levitan travels back in time for tonight’s Madison in the Sixties
The Spring primary on March 7 brings double-barreled bad news for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace auditorium and exhibition hall.
In the morning, construction bids are opened for the ambitious project which the city approved in 1954, but which opponents have delayed since then through litigation and legislation. And it’s quickly evident that their plan to kill the project through economic pressures was a good one, as more than six years of inflation knocked the budget completely out of whack.
In November 1954, city voters approved $4 million in bonds for the project which the world-famous architect said would marry the city and the lake. The city parking utility later added $1.5 million, for a total budget of five and a half million, and the project finally went out to bid earlier this year.
But when bids are opened, the cost is a staggering $13 million dollars. It doesn’t help that there’s only one bidder – the Perini Corporation of Boston Massachusetts, owned by the principal owner of the Milwaukee Braves. Perini’s most recent Madison job was the City County Building in 1957, which Wright publicly disdained as “a nice cereal box.”
It’s a devastating blow to Monona Terrace, and to the political hopes of mayoral candidate Bob Nuckles, running on a platform of finishing the project started by his former boss, former Mayor Ivan Nestingen. And it’s a tremendous boon to Nuckles’ opponent, businessman and former alder Henry Reynolds, running on a platform of finishing the project off.
Reynolds, president of his family’s moving and storage company, is already in good shape; when primary votes are tallied that night, he leads the field of five with 47% of the vote, Nuckles in second place more than three thousand votes behind. Reynolds pounces.
“The people who promoted this unwise and ill-planned project should be ashamed of what they have done,” he says.
Monona Terrace is now on life support, and could not survive a Reynolds victory in the April election
A project that definitely won’t be going forward – a proposal for 120 units of affordable housing in the Burr Oaks plat off South Park Street. The housing, to be built with union funds and federal loan guarantees, would provide about 50 units for low-income families and the elderly, and the rest for union members. But the Madison Redevelopment Authority, the city’s urban renewal agency, kills the plan because it believes the development would likely create the kind of slums it is trying to eliminate.
In other housing news, nursing homes in Dane County don’t accept Black or Jewish patients, a member of the County Public Assistance Department charges, even though they complain about vacancies. Mrs. Viola Waters tells the County Board’s hospital study committee that 21 of the county’s 33 nursing homes have submitted signed statements declaring that they will only accept white patients, and the others follow that practice informally as well. And while none of the homes indicated they had religious restrictions, Waters tells the committee that many won’t accept Jews, either. Representatives of the Dane County Nursing Home Association had previously assured the committee they had no racial or religious restrictions.
Jews and Blacks also come in for special focus on campus, as the Daily Cardinal publishes a front-page story exploring the attitudes of in-state students towards their non-resident classmates. According to a Racine senior, QUOTE: “the reason why many New Yorkers, who seem to be mostly Jewish and Negroes, come here is the liberal attitude.” He cites the Socialist Club as an example that “they get away with things here that they couldn’t get away with anywhere else.” A Madison sophomore says they’re also a bit stuck up. “A large proportion of the New Yorkers are from one religious background and stick by themselves,” the student says. “The fact that they are from New York makes them feel that they are too good.”
But out of state students are not feeling too good about their housing situation – especially the non-resident coeds, who are sent scrambling after the university announces a new policy that no more than six percent of the students living in Residence Halls can be from out-of-state.
And a Republican legislator doesn’t have much use for non-resident students, either – especially the ones who came to a State Assembly hearing to oppose his resolution praising the controversial House Committee on Unamerican Activities. “When it comes to considering the opinions of the people of the state,” Rep. Nile Soik of Whitefish Bay says, “we want the legislature to know that student opposition to this proposal does not accurately reflect the opinion of the students.” According to an investigation by the State Republican party, 46 of the 58 students who registered in opposition to the resolution praising HUAC were from out-of-state – 40 of them from New York.
Even Democratic Gov. Gaylord Nelson is under fire for speaking ill of HUAC – including from members of his own party, as three of the four Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee join all seven Republicans in voting to censure Nelson for saying HUAC should be abolished. One of the Democrats reveals political cowardice is why he endorsed the censure resolution. “I’m going to be branded a Communist if I vote against this,” says Representative William Ward of New Richmond.
And on campus, beloved English Professor Helen C. White is announced as the guest speaker for the Union Forum Committee’s “Last Lecture” series, which lets distinguished faculty speak as though it were their last time in a classroom. Known around campus for her purple attire, Professor White is a two-time chair of the English Department, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and numerous honorary degrees, and was the first female president of the American Association of University Professors. A staunch foe of anti-communist demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy, White gave the main address at the rededication of the famed ‘sifting and winnowing’ plague n Bascom Hall in 1957.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, listener-supporter loving, mask-wearing, hand-washing socially distant WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan
Frank Lloyd Wright’s final iteration of Monona Terrace. Copyright 2018 by Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, All Rights Reserved, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University