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Opening the Door in Madison: Bascom Hall

Tiffany Scuglik

This year marks JP Cullen’s 125th year in business!  To celebrate, we’ll be posting a monthly historic tough job that we were part of.  This week we’re sharing our work on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s famous Bascom Hall and other historic work we’ve done with the University.

Awarded Bascom Hall

Our story starts in 1925, when Mark A. Cullen (the second generation of Cullens, and the son of the original JP Cullen who founded the company) landed a contract to build an addition to the University of Wisconsin’s Bascom Hall (formerly University Hall). Ten years earlier, a fire of unknown origin destroyed the dome on Bascom, which was originally built in 1859, so the building was in need of some upgrading. 

Challenges Overcome

While working on this addition, Mark A. Cullen encountered a major challenge when the company hired to quarry the sandstone became insolvent and went out of business. Undeterred, Mark Cullen hired JP Cullen’s own stonecutters and completed the addition to the signature structure in time for the 1927 dedication. The building, which was originally envisioned as a liberal arts building, has remained a focal point on the campus and remains an iconic symbol of the university.   

Paving the Way for More Jobs in Madison

This job paved the way for the next three generations of Cullens to help shape the physical face of the State Capitol and the University.  In addition, after World War I, there was a great influx of medical school students to fulfill the need for physicians in Wisconsin.  After the first World War, however, the medical school still shared a building with the other science departments.  As each of the science departments were experiencing an increase in size, new structures had to be built to accommodate increasing enrollment in Wisconsin’s higher education. 

Service Memorial Institute

In 1925, the legislature passed a bill authorizing the University to build a Service Memorial Institute.  This building was meant to be used in conjunction with the medical school.  The surplus of rehabilitation funds for soldiers returning from the war was used to finance the structure.  JP Cullen was awarded the contract to build the Institute in 1926.  Construction was completed less than two years later on September 25, 1928.  The new structure accommodates the medical school library and offices, research and physiological laboratories, and treatment centers.  The original Service Memorial Institute is also connected to the University Hospital.

JP Cullen's dump truck on Bascom Hall in 1925|
JP Cullen’s dump truck on Bascom Hall in 1925|

From those early years working on Bascom Hall and the continuous work throughout the years on the campus, we have consistently been a part of the building of University of Wisconsin-Madison– and we are proud of it!

Check out how we got to be part of the renovation of Camp Randall Student Athlete Performance Center at UW-Madison!

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