1950 – 1960

Preceding the 1950s, it was undeniable that America was coming into its prime, even to those across the pond in England. “The United States stand at this moment at the summit of the world,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the cusp of the Second World War’s end in August 1945. Such a statement could not be more fitting. The Nation earned its spot as the world’s top military power and its economy was booming. Often distinguished by poodle skirts and pony tails, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, as well as lively dances such as the jitterbug and twist, the 1950s represented peace and prosperity. Such a positive trend in American society paralleled the persistence and success of Findorff.

During this time in history, the United States more than doubled its Gross National Product, much due to government spending. Specifically, capital was placed into the construction of many educational institutions, of which Findorff benefited, with the 1950s experiencing the first wave of baby boomers. Kicking off the decade, Findorff constructed the Mendota School in 1950. Later in 1958, the Company also contracted with the Madison Metropolitan School District for the construction of five new schools.

Similar contracts were also in higher education, specifically those with the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Regarded as one of the City’s most-important institutions, the University selected Findorff to build the Commerce Building. Known today as the Social Sciences Building, it was the University’s first purely classroom facility since the 1930s. Its construction posed challenging as excavation was required on a steep-sloping site and there was a shortage of building materials. Nevertheless, the project completed ahead of schedule in February 1955.

A few years later, Findorff was again hired by the University, but this time for the first high-rise building on campus, Chadbourne Hall. This 11-story facility, constructed of reinforced steel and concrete faced with brick, was also the first campus dormitory with an elevator. While heralding the new age, the project also had a link to the past. Findorff salvaged sandstone from the walls of the original 1870 Chadbourne Hall to reuse in the new building’s entryway.

Findorff also led construction efforts for the beginning of a new community at the University. Located on the north side of campus, not far from Lake Mendota’s shoreline, the Company constructed the 100-unit development called Eagle Heights, the first housing project for married students. Despite treacherous weather, the project team met its deadline of initial occupancy by September, less than 11 months after contracts were signed. The following June, Findorff started construction on three additional dormitories, which welcomed 812 students in the fall of 1959.

Although Findorff’s staff was well engaged with the construction of considerable education work, the Company also took on several private-sector jobs. Approaching the decade’s end, Findorff started what would become a long-standing relationship with CUNA Mutual, constructing its first building on Madison’s west side in 1959. Additionally, three decades after Findorff constructed MG&E’s offices on the Capitol Square, the Company built MG&E’s large turbine and boiler addition in the low-lands between E. Washington Avenue and Lake Monona. This particular project may have been one of the most difficult jobs Findorff faced in the 1950s as there were several technical engineering challenges and soil conditions requiring deep pilings.

Findorff certainly achieved much success throughout the 1950s and like the rest of the country, was entering its prime as a leading contractor in Wisconsin. Not only did the Company earn contracts for various projects, but it also exemplified its concern for the welfare of its staff. Starting in 1954, the Company began requiring workers to wear hardhats, which was 17 years prior to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcing this requirement. Such initiatives proved that Findorff has set the bar for quality craftsmanship and safety in the construction industry, which carried well into Findorff’s future years.

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Notable Projects

  • 7UP Plant and Addition
  • Babcock Hall at UW-Madison
  • Biochemistry Addition at UW-Madison
  • Brooklyn School
  • Central High School
  • Clark’s Service Station
  • CUNA Mutual Insurance Building
  • Dane County Parking Ramp
  • Democrat Printing Co.
  • Eagle Heights at UW-Madison
  • Education Engineering Building at UW-Madison
  • Frautschi Residence
  • Fitzpatrick Lumber Co. Office
  • Glendale School
  • Grain Storage Building at UW-Madison
  • Jacobson School
  • J.H. Findorff & Son Retail Store
  • Hill Crest Apartments
  • Intern Resident Dormitory at UW-Madison
  • Lakeshore Apartments
  • Madison Gas & Electric’s Turbine and Boiler Addition
  • Memorial Union Addition at UW-Madison
  • St. Joseph’s Chapel at Edgewood College
  • Social Sciences Building at UW-Madison
  • Stoughton Hospital
  • Truax Field Air Division Headquarters and Dormitories
  • UW Hospital (first named General Hospital)
  • Wisconsin National Guard Armory Building