University Heights is Steeped in History
It was March, 1893 when former Madison Mayor and prominent corporate attorney, Breese J. Stevens sold his 106 acre, near west parcel of land to the University Heights Company. Popular from the start, within two months nearly half the University Heights lots had already been sold and the first house was completed by the following year. Growing along with the city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin, University Heights became a very popular location for senior University faculty members and administrators and was officially annexed by the city in 1903.
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University Heights is an Architectural Wonder
While the Heights still remains very popular with University faculty, it is today home to many diverse professionals of all ages and from all walks of life. Yet even so, University Heights retains all its magic and charm as well as its wealth of architectural diversity. Stroll through the Heights, and you walk through the timeline of architectural splendor of the early 20th century. Here are some wonderful examples of University Heights architecture, many designed by some of the most prominent architects of the era including Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Conover & Porter, Alvan E. Small and Frank Riley to name a few. Enjoy the examples below of some of the greatest turn-of-the-century architectural styles.
Hillyer House – 1895
Primarily an East Coast style, the home was built for University of Wisconsin professor of Chemistry Homer W. Hillyer. The use of shingles to side the house in a smooth, tight fashion, distinguished this style of home, popular between 1880 and 1900 from other styles that used shingles to draw attention to ornamentation as often associated with the Queen Anne style for instance. This is the only true Shingle Style home in University Heights.
The Ely House – 1896
The Ely house is nearly a perfect example of the Georgian revival style and was built in University Heights in 1986 for professor Richard T. Ely and his wife Anna. Ely was a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin where he organized the school of economics, political science and history. The home was designed by the noted Chicago architect Charles Sumner Frost.
The Jennings House – 1903
John T.W. Jennings was an architect himself, having graduated from New York University in 1877. He served as the supervising architect for the University of Wisconsin. Jennings helped design Agricultural Hall, the Horticulture building, the Agriculture Engineering building, the Dairy Barn and the Stable Barn. When he designed his own home in University Heights, he explored a style that is often called “Chicago Progressive” as it freely combines elements of modern and historical derivation.
The Kahlenberg House – 1903
Built in University Heights in 1903 for Louis Kahlenberg, professor and American pioneer in physical chemistry. Prof. Kahlenberg’s beautiful Queen Anne home represents the transition from the beautiful and ornate Queen Anne style to the more reserved revival styles that were gaining in popularity at the turn of the century. A very unusual aspect of this lovely University Heights home is the use of gothic style pointed arch windows in the top floor and the paired columns on the front porch.
The Gilmore House – 1908
Frank Lloyd Wright only built one home in Madison during his prairie style period and it was this home in University Heights for Professor Eugene A. Gilmore and his wife in 1908. Gilmore left Boston in 1902 to join the University of Wisconsin law faculty. He was appointed the Vice-Governor of the Philippine Islands in 1922 and returned to the university in 1930 where he was appointed the dean of the law school. Gilmore later served as the President of Iowa State University. University Heights is no stranger to internationally famous architects and their spectacular works. The home is physically located on the highest point of University Heights with the primary living spaces on the second floor, giving the Gilmores unparalleled views of Madison and the lakes.
The Pence House – 1909
Designed by the Madison firm of Claude and Starck, this amazing Tudor Revival home was originally built in University Heights in 1909 for University professor of railroad engineering William D. Pence and his wife. With three full floors of living space along with a full attic and full basement the Pence’s employed a house staff of two just to keep everything neat and tidy. After the Pence years the house was occupied by a fraternity (Theta Xi) but was later returned to a private University Heights residence when it was purchased in 1933 by Arlie W. Schorger and his wife, who lived there until his death in 1972. Professor Schorger was a professor of wildlife ecology and a prize-winning natural history author.
The Olin House -1911-1912
One of Madison’s most successful attorneys, John M. Olin and his wife Helen move into their new home in University Heights in 1912. Designed by the Milwaukee firm of Ferry and Clas, this brick manse looks toward beautiful Lake Mendota. Upon Olin’s death, the house and grounds were deeded to the University to be used as the President’s home in University Heights. It is a spectacular example of English Style architecture with its high peaked roofs and dormers. Olin was a tireless philanthropist and was a driving force behind the Madison Park and the Pleasure Drive Association.
The Fett House – 1913
Pharmacist George Fett was an upwardly mobile family man who, like many of his fellow University Heights neighbors, built a succession of new and larger homes in the Heights as success and family size grew. The Bungalow, one of my personal favorites, is typically much larger inside that its exterior would suggest. It is a quintessential American design typified by rounded openings, a full, welcoming front porch and massive dormers. This University Heights home is one of the largest Bungalow style homes in all of Madison.
The Morehouse House – 1936-1937
The International Style was greatly influenced by the contemporary European designs of which the Bauhaus School in Germany was a leading agent of change. Flat roofs, straight walls and minimal ornamentation punctuated with windows and doors that appear to be punched into the surface are the hallmarks of this design. Architect George F. Keck designed the home for Edward A. Morehouse and his wife Anna in 1936. Keck, who was a state Public Service Commission economist, surprised the neighborhood with what would have been a major departure into the very modern world of International style.
I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of University Heights architecture and that you will take some time to explore University Heights!
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