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Updated 12:15 PM June 6, 2005




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Historic hall set a standard

Related story:
Regents approve Mosher-Jordan renovation>

When Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall was built in 1930 it, like others of its era, was developed as a housing facility for women.

Three quarters of a century earlier, president Henry Tappan had eliminated housing from campus, saying the University should not be in the business of providing residences to students. In the early 20th century, however, there was great concern that the off-campus housing situation was not safe for women, resulting in the reintroduction of campus residences.
Mosher-Jordan as it appeared in 1930. (Photo courtesy University Planner's Office)

As a result, the privately funded Helen Newberry, Martha Cook, Betsy Barbour and Couzens halls were built during a 10-year period from 1915-25. Mosher-Jordan—named for the first and second deans of women, Eliza Mosher and Myra Jordan—was the first major residential facility to be built in a campaign that came to be known as the Alumni Dorm Project. Alumni sought to identify the kind of housing needed and the location of the first facility, and to find funding.

The chosen location was overlooking Palmer Field—at the time, the athletic field for women. A new field house for women recently had been built at the field. The site also was close to the Michigan League, which was the center of women's activities at the University. The Board of Regents already owned some of the land but the bulk was purchased by alumni donations.

The plan was not without controversy. When the Alumni Association first proposed a campus housing facility for women in 1927, community members were up in arms, saying the University was going to take away their income from the rental of rooms. Even so, regents agreed to proceed with the project. Three years later, Mosher-Jordan Hall was opened and the predicted financial ruin for community boarding houses never happened.

At its opening Mosher-Jordan was considered a model for excellence in dormitory design and would be the example for subsequent housing facilities on campus, among them Stockwell and East and West Quad. Its design, by Malcomson & Higginbotham of Detroit, is characterized by the then-popular Collegiate Gothic style, expressed in red brick with limestone accents and a slate roof.

Its long, narrow profile accommodated what essentially were two separate but identical houses. The contractor was Pehrson Brothers of Minneapolis, with the mechanical, electrical and ventilation work done by the University's Plant Department.

After the historic opening of the housing facility, Elizabeth DeVol, '30, and Dorothy Ann Shulz, '27, wrote in the Michigan Alumnus: "Mosher-Jordan Halls has not only contributed to the bettering of housing conditions for women on the campus, but it is giving the idea of loyalty to Michigan to a larger number of women.

"The Halls really are only new in a material sense, for their personality has been on campus since 1886 [the year the Dean of Women's position was created and Eliza Mosher appointed]."

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