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“This wonderful old man, almost in his eighties, a retired minister from Peoria, Illinois, got up and looked around and he said, ‘Gentlemen. Martin Luther was born in 1497.’ Then he went through this long litany of all the tragedies and disasters of the Lutheran Church, of Christianity and everything from 1497 to 1970. And he said, ‘Gentlemen, I've got a feeling the Lutheran Church is even going to survive this!’..."

University Book Store

In 1970, the UW chancellor informed the University Book Store that its lease would not be renewed. The Memorial Library had been built around the store in the 1950s without infringing on its space. John Shaw, manager of UBS, recounted the search for a new site in an oral history recorded by Historic Madison.

He first offered to buy the University Club, tear it down, put up a new store, and put the University Club on top. He next told the chancellor he would keep the store where it was, put any number of floors on top of the existing store, and buy all the books the library committee wanted for fifty years, but the offer was turned down.

“The best offer I made was to my friend over there, Halvorsen, when he built Chadbourne Hall. We said, ‘It's insane to use one of the best business corners of the city of Madison, Park and University Avenue, for nothing but dormitories. Let us build the basement and the first two floors and put stores in here. We'll lease them out and we will lease the space ourselves and we'll help you pay for them.’” That offer was also rejected.

“Then we negotiated long and long and hard for the southeast corner of Park and University, what is now Vilas Hall. Again, that went down the tube. We tried to buy where the Church Key is now.”

“All this time, we were negotiating with the Lutheran Church. The Lutherans owned a beautiful piece of property, where our store is now. The deal was we would put up the entire building, including the chapel, put it up and pay for it and give it to you in fifty years.

“After the bomb went off when Sterling Hall blew up, everybody was pretty nervous. Probably the most nervous was J. Shaw - I was scared to death. We were ready to sign a letter of intent with the church when the bomb went off on August 27.

“We had a meeting in September 1970. Our potential landlord was the board of trustees of the South Wisconsin Synod of the Lutheran Church Pastors' Retirement Fund. Nine retired pastors, great old guys. I went to this meeting when we were going to sign the letter of intent. I listed ten reasons why we shouldn't sign the letter, all as a result of the bomb and the problems we had and all the disruption (by anti-war protestors). Then I said, ‘Now, I want us to go ahead.’

“This wonderful old man, almost in his eighties, a retired minister from Peoria, Illinois, got up and looked around and he said, ‘Gentlemen. Martin Luther was born in 1497.’ Then he went through this long litany of all the tragedies and disasters of the Lutheran Church, of Christianity and everything from 1497 to 1970. And he said, ‘Gentlemen, I've got a feeling the Lutheran Church is even going to survive this!’ Somebody said, 'I vote this unanimous,’ and bang, it was unanimous. I'll never forget that. It was a wonderful meeting. We started construction in the winter of 1970.”

Mark Gajewski