- First unit, Allen-Rumsey House, constructed in 1937
- Put into use fall of 1939
- Architects: Lane, Davenport and Meyer of Detroit; Stewart-Kingscott Co. of Kalamazoo
- Contractors: H. B. Culbertson Company; Jerome A. Utley Co. of Detroit
- Cost: $181,212
- The building is an angular figure eight with two inner courts
Allen-Rumsey House, the first unit of West Quadrangle, was constructed in 1937. The architectural firm, Lane, Davenport and Meyer, of Detroit, designers of an addition to the Union, developed a residence hall plan in connection with the Union expansion. Working drawings for the first unit of the dormitory were prepared by them, and in December the Regents authorized the sale of revenue bonds in the amount of $185,000 to provide funds for equipment and construction. The building contract was awarded to the H. B. Culbertson Company on January 21, and the Buildings and Grounds Department was authorized to do the mechanical trades work. The total cost was recorded in the 1938 Financial Report as $181,212, which included land and equipment costs. The dormitory was named in commemoration of John Allen and Elisha Rumsey, reputed cofounders of the city of Ann Arbor. The dormitory provided housing for only 114 men in spacious double rooms and was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1937. Meals were provided for these residents in one of the private dining rooms of the Michigan Union.
Through the efforts of Regent Lynch and Regent Shields a proposal including a grant from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works of the federal government was acted on by the Regents by mail vote in July, 1938. The proposal contemplated the completion of the residence hall development of which Allen-Rumsey House was the first unit and the construction of another residence hall to accommodate medical students. This expansion was made possible by an outright grant of 45 per cent of the project cost by the federal government. The remaining 55 per cent of the cost was to be borne by the University through the sale of bonds. A resolution authorizing the application to the Public Works Administration was approved in July, 1938, and in August the Regents accepted the Public Works Administration grant amounting to $945,000. At the same time they authorized the sale of bonds in the amount of $1,477,000 to finance the University's share of the project. Included in this bond issue was $177,000 to cover the refunding of the outstanding bonds on Allen-Rumsey House.
The Stewart-Kingscott Company, of Kalamazoo, was selected as architect. Property facing Madison Street, Thompson Street, and Cheever Court including property facing Jefferson Street to provide a large parking lot was purchased by the University and a demolition contract was awarded in October, 1938. The major contract covering architectural trades was awarded to Jerome A. Utley Company, of Detroit, and construction started in December, 1938. Other contracts were awarded to the R. L. Spitzley Company for heating, plumbing, and ventilating, the Central Electric Company for electrical work, and the Otis Elevator Company for elevators and dumb-waiters. In total these contracts amounted to $1,241,118.
West Quadrangle, as the building was named, was completed in record time. It was ready for occupancy at the beginning of the first semester of 1939-40 except for the dining area, which was completed and ready for use at the end of the fourth week of the semester. As all the room furniture had not been received, the residents had a difficult time on arrival. Lamps were several weeks late in arriving, and for a short period beds were made up on mattresses placed on the floor. In getting to the building post office and going to the Union, with which it is connected, students had to pick their way around tradesmen who were completing work in the dining area. It was all taken in good spirit even though, as the Director of Residence Halls stated in his annual report, "these unsettled conditions produced in many students the feeling that they were transients rather than permanent residents, and consequently some of them were restless, disturbed — and disturbing — during most of the University year."
West Quadrangle is of fireproof construction with a brick exterior and with limestone trim which blends with the exterior of the Michigan Union. It has an area of 264,663 square feet, excluding Allen-Rumsey House, and the completed cost as recorded in the Financial Statement for 1941 was $1,836,041, including equipment.
The building is an angular figure eight with two inner courts. The central part contains the dining area and separates the two courts with the main entrance on Thompson Street at one end and the entrance to the Union at the other. There are four dining rooms in the central part on two floors with the kitchen below them on the grade floor. Entrance to the south court is through a handsome wrought-iron gate named in honor of Regent James Murfin. The gate was a gift from various student organizations.
Space for 818 men in one hundred single rooms, 347 double rooms, and twelve two-room suites was provided in the completed structure, which with the inclusion of Allen-Rumsey House made a total of 932 residents. The new building was divided into seven houses, officially named as follows: the dormitory on the corner of Thompson and Madison streets: Robert Mark Wenley House; the central dormitory on Thompson Street: Michigan House; the dormitory north of Michigan House: Henry Carter Adams House; the dormitory on the corner of Thompson and Jefferson streets: Chicago House; the northeast dormitory: Alfred Henry Lloyd House; the two eastern dormitories: Alexander Winchell House and George Palmer Williams House (R.P., 1936-39, p. 822).
Each house is set apart from the next by firewalls, so that there is no intercommunication between buildings except at the grade floor level. Each house has its own lounge, recreation room, study room, and suites for the resident adviser and associate adviser.
Sources: The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey; Walter A. Donnelly, Wilfred B. Shaw, and Ruth W. Gjelsness, editors; Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1958