Not with a bang, but a whimper: The demolition of Ogg Hall and the demise of in loco parentis at the University of Wisconsin – Madison

November 15, 2007

View from West Dayton Street of what was once part of the structure connecting the Ogg towers. Photo taken November 12, 2007.

View from West Dayton Street of what was once part of the structure connecting the Ogg towers. Photo taken November 12, 2007.

Ogg Hall has never played a very significant role in my personal history, so when I heard it was going to be torn down as part of the Campus Master Plan that aims to change the face of the UW-Madison, I was not overcome with grief and angst. I did not mourn its passing. It did not occur to me to rush to campus and take photographs of it, to document its demise.

Until a few hours ago, I would have told you Ogg Hall didn’t even exist when I moved into Chadbourne Hall to begin my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I would have been wrong. According to a chronology on the Division of University Housing website, Ogg Hall, named for Frederic Ogg, a member of the University of Wisconsin faculty for 34 years, opened in the fall of 1965. It was the last major residence hall project to open on campus until 2006, when Newell J. Smith Hall opened on North Park Street.

We return for a while to the late 1960s:

When I moved into Chadbourne Hall, in loco parentis was still in effect, as were curfews for women. Men could stay out all night and howl at the moon if they wished, but young women who lived in dormitories, whether university-owned or private, were required to be “home” by 11 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays they were allowed to stay out until 1 a.m. If they failed to return to their dormitories by curfew, they’d find themselves locked out, forced to proffer explanations and excuses to stern housemothers, who invariably grounded them for infractions, forcing them to come “home” by 11 p.m. on weekends, too. Bed checks to make certain everyone was in on time were not infrequent occurrences.

If you planned to spend the night elsewhere, it could only be at your parent’s house – unless you had written permission from them to be elsewhere. If you weren’t going to spend the night in your dormitory room, you had to leave a card on the door providing information about where and with whom you planned to be staying, knowing full well that the housemother might check up on you make certain you really were at the place you claimed to be.

If you were flying away for the weekend to visit that Ivy League boyfriend, everyone on your floor knew where you were going and many of them wanted a detailed report when you returned. If possible, you tried to gloss over the fact that you’d stayed not at a hotel or in his dorm room, but in an approved rooming house full of other young women packed like sardines in uncomfortable bunk beds, awake most of the night complaining about the unfairness of an in loco parentis ethic that seemed to follow you everywhere, even to an all-male college.

Back then, men were only allowed on the ground floor of women’s dormitories at the University of Wisconsin. Except for once a semester on a special visiting day, even fathers were forbidden on the residential floors. Likewise, women were, of course, not allowed in men’s dormitories.

Many young women in dormitories yearned for the time when they could live off-campus, in an apartment. In the meantime, many of them gathered late at night to talk about what they’d done, what someone else had reportedly done, and what they planned to do once they had the opportunity to do so. The ones who closed their doors and hit the books missed out on those discussions about sex, the opposite sex, the absence of sex, and the promise of sex. Surely they were at a loss when there was a panty raid.


No silk sailed from 730 Chadbourne Hall when I lived there.

That’s what I remember about the Southeast Dormitories – Sellery, Witte, and, I guess, Ogg . Boys who thronged under the windows of Chadbourne Hall, yelling “Silk!” Dorm mothers who locked the exterior doors lest these rude fellows try to muscle their way into the lounge. Girls who wondered if nylon was an adequate substitute for silk. Girls who were sure sensible cotton panties weren’t what the mob wanted – or were they? Brave girls who managed to pry the screens off their dorm room windows and toss something to the mob below, even as they risked being grounded if the housemother figured out who’d dared be so provocative.

In loco parentis would vanish not all that many years later, as would many of the other rules about dormitory life. Several years later, I visited a younger friend living in Ogg Hall. His room contained his girlfriend, his dog, a miniature refrigerator, a huge stereo system, and a television with less than wonderful reception – all verboten when I lived in a dormitory.

A petit mort

But even though Ogg Hall has never played a very significant role in my personal history, during its more than 40-year lifespan, it did play a role in the lives many students who lived in its two thrusting, 13-story towers. It also played a role in the lives of some of their friends, one of whom is a friend of mine. I won’t share with you his harrowing adventures in Ogg Hall, but I will tell you he persuaded me to take some photographs of its destruction. And then I’ll tell you I don’t usually take requests: There’s always something else to do, so don’t pester me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had to pick up a book at Memorial Library on Monday, so as long as I was going to be on campus (and since I take my camera everywhere), I decided to walk over to Ogg and see what was happening. When I arrived, I could hear sounds of destruction, but I couldn’t see the source. The two buildings and the space between them are almost entirely surrounded by fences, scaffolding, and a protective canopy.

I took a series of photos from the West Johnson Street side of the Ogg Hall complex, but few of them showed much destruction. Curtains fluttering out of windows in now-vacant rooms were one of the few signs of neglect and abandonment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I walked around to the West Dayton Street side of the complex to take a few more photos and encountered a friendly construction worker. At first, we talked through the chain link fence. He told me that there would be no exciting implosion: Verboten. Likewise, there would be no giant cranes swinging giant balls into the buildings to knock them down: Verboten. Instead, the demolition crew would use jackhammers and start their work on the top floors. Instead of a quick or dramatic death, Ogg Hall would be whittled away from the top by jackhammers. Not much drama.

But what were the sounds I’d heard but couldn’t see? Well, if I promised to be careful and not venture too far, he’d let me in to see what was happening. It was, of course, an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

The sounds were emanating from the space between the two buildings that once included a structure connecting the two towers. It had to be demolished first, to make way for the equipment necessary to demolish the towers. You’ll see some of the eerie scenes created by this phase of the demolition in my Ogg Hall Part 1 set on Flickr.

How long is all this going to take? I asked. Probably won’t be finished until April 2008 said the construction worker. Can I come back later for an update? I asked. Sure, he said and be sure to tell me when you post some of your photographs on the Internet so I can tell my girlfriend to have a look at them. It’s a deal. See you later.

Claire November 17, 2007 at 2:36 am

there was no silk that fell from 730 Chadbourne when i lived there in 2001 and 2002…there may or may not have been a lot of shouting…but no silk throwing.

Stankinator Rex March 7, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Last Saturday I was in Madison, taking my son to a MathCounts competition held on the campus.

It had been my first time back in several years and a few years ago a friend told me how he’d heard Ogg Hall was slated for demolition. I was hoping the twin towers of Ogg would still be there.

After my son’s contest we strolled State Street as I had in days of old and then we walked past the Union, dropping my laptop bag in the free lockers at the University Book Store along the way, and then walked the thick hardwater ice on the Lakeshore Path toward my last campus residence at Adams Hall. From there we walked toward the Engineering campus and then on toward Ogg Hall, completing le grande quadrilateral.

In August of 1982 I moved into 964 Ogg East as a transferring sophomore. My roommate was a senior and near-graduating astrophysicist. Other interesting characters lived on the ninth floor of Ogg East and there were women below us on eight that made up the other half of Page House.

For three years Ogg was my home. My strategy for that tenure was to accumulate enough seniority to guarantee a Lakeshore dorm single room when the time came.

The first year at Ogg was pretty tame. Several parties in rooms and the Page House den on the ninth floor. I met my first college girlfriend (and a friend to this day) who lived in Ogg West.

A friend from the first year at Ogg was my roommate for my second ‘tour of duty’ at 960 Ogg East. That was not the expected year of happiness it appeared to be on paper the previous Spring.

By my third year in Ogg enough of the guys I’d started there with had moved to housing off campus on rickety places on Johnson that appeared to stand in defiance of the laws of physics and residential architecture.

My roommate that third year was from Racine, Wisconsin, a neighboring town to my hometown of Kenosha. Many other new faces brought a freshness to the ninth floor and they were a cast of characters. One guy whose real name was Dave and whose nickname was Speedo (not for the swimsuit but for his ability to hold his throat open and toss down a mug of beer in impressive time) had moved a section of a real bar from his hometown into his room. He had a length of the bar and the bit of corner past its end. Real pukka bar top and cushioned edge pad. Three or four stools made it feel like home. If my classes finished early for the day (and Speedo’s hadn’t yet started) I would pop in for a drink with Speedo who was always a jolly barkeep and offered beer for the appropriate donation.

Speedo’s roommate Ron was another character. He stands out in my memory for two events: walking into my room on Move In Day 1984 with plenty of the newbies and their folks in our midst while he was clearing sloshed and drinking what might have been his eighth beer of the new day. On the second occasion Ron asked me to accompany him to the Union one night in what turned out to be a dope deal with some shifty looking Jamaican in full-tilt Rastaffarian mode.

I finished up my days in Ogg Hall in May of 1985. I spent that summer as a construction laborer at a mall that was going up in Longmont, Colorado. That Fall I returned to Madison and took up residence in a single room in Adams Hall’s Winslow-Faville where I took up with a new cast of characters and left Madison a year and a half later.

The passing of Ogg Hall hit me pretty hard last Saturday. I kissed my son’s mother in a stairwell in Ogg East one night and that stairwell will soon pass as our marriage has and all other things will

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