1960 – 1970

The golden age from the 1950s filtered into the following decade. Although this next chapter in history was when both America and Findorff experienced some of their best times, both also experienced some of their most challenging times.

In 1961, a milestone era was defined by two noteworthy leaders. Not only was the charismatic John F. Kennedy elected the United States’ 35th President, but also 30-year employee Harold Hastings was named Findorff’s third President. As Hastings succeeded Milton Findorff, this was the first time that a member of the Findorff family did not hold such a leadership position. Nevertheless, Hastings maintained the Company’s strong foundation in Madison. While the Nation was experiencing the British Invasion of The Beatles and 400,000 people trekked to upstate New York for Woodstock, Findorff played a significant part in the booming construction taking place it its own backyard despite various hardships.

As the Company continued its efforts for expansion, the 1960s proved to be a financially complicated time. In 1963, Milton Findorff, now Chairman of the Board, observed that “the volume of business was good, but profits have not kept pace.” To Milton, this new decade was a “profitless prosperity” due to challenges with securing capital. Additionally, the Company faced local labor shortages. However, recognizing such difficulties did not prevent Findorff from living up to its unfaltering reputation for high-quality craftsmanship. Harold, along with Milton, led Findorff onward, surging past these early hurdles of the 1960s.

Continuing its long-term relationship with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Findorff was contracted once again for another housing project on the University’s campus. In 1963, construction started on the original Ogg Hall, which was once a male-only dormitory and the home to 960 students. Construction was completed in 1965. Shortly afterward, Findorff built the 10-story Henry-Gilman apartments for private student housing. A large addition was also constructed onto Lowell Hall, a private high-rise dormitory for women.

Although Findorff was heavily involved in the construction of various housing facilities on the University’s campus, the Company took on a unique project that would become one of its most challenging endeavors. In an effort to accommodate more guests at Camp Randall Stadium, Findorff was contracted by the University to construct a cantilevered balcony on the facility’s west side. Findorff waited only one day after the Badgers 1965 football season ended to start construction.

The addition literally grew by the numbers. Seating sections spanned from 28 to 38 feet in length, each weighing four tons. Five heavy-duty cranes were required to install 744 rows weighing an astounding 2,700 tons. Additionally, 1,550 tons of reinforced steel and 300 tons of structural steel were used in construction. This was not only challenging due to the excessive weights, but also challenging due to the extreme heights construction crews faced. The balcony’s highest point was one-and-a-half times higher than the tallest building on Madison’s Capitol Square.

Upon completion, two freight cars of lumber, 200 freight cars of cement, as well as 3,500 truckloads of sand and gravel were used. The impressive numbers turned the facility into the Nation’s fourth-largest collegiate stadium with the addition of over 13,000 seats. Completed just in time for the University’s 1966 home opener against Iowa State- which the Badgers won – the Stadium welcomed 4,000 musicians from 51 high schools under the direction of The Music Man Meredith Wilson to mark this celebratory event.

In addition to constructing many projects on the University’s campus, Findorff also transformed much of Madison itself. After years of litigation, the Company broke ground in 1961 on the City’s west side for Wisconsin’s largest single construction contract to date, the Hill Farms State Office Building, Research Laboratory, and Power Plant. Totaling 300,000 square feet across five buildings and housing 2,000 workers, the contract was for $12.7 million – making the value in today’s dollars over $100 million.

During that same year, Findorff started construction on the Hilldale Shopping Center, a centerpiece for an ambitious 38-acre neighborhood plan. The following fall, Findorff kicked off a trend in high-rise construction. The Company constructed the eight-story Park Towers apartment building, which was the west side’s largest residential building at the time. As the decade came to a close, Findorff built the circular Pyare Square building. This 13-story facility was 167 feet in height and the tallest commercial building in Madison outside of downtown.

As Findorff was building much of Madison’s west side, the Company was once again upgrading the City’s Capitol Square. In 1964, Findorff constructed a 10-story office building and 285-car parking ramp for Anchor Savings and Loan. This project required an innovative installation of curtain-wall windows that attracted a representative from Mitsubishi of Tokyo to witness the work. The following year, the executive office building known today as Thirty on the Square was completed.

The 1960s also represented growth for several of the Company’s longstanding relationships. In 1964, Findorff built additions for East High School and CUNA Mutual. Three years later, the Company remodeled the old Northwestern Railroad Depot on South Blair Street into the headquarters for Madison Gas & Electric, as well as a large addition for Oscar Mayer.

As the Company was taking advantage of Madison’s construction boom, it continued to support its local community. In 1964, Findorff reached over 400 employees and became the largest firm to hit 100 percent participation in the United Givers Campaign. This program was the precursor to United Way and has been a significant part of the Company’s voluntary initiatives. In 2014 alone, over $162,000 was raised through Findorff’s corporate gift, employee pledges, and various activities to support United Way and those in need throughout Dane County.

As the 1960s approached its end, Findorff and Madison experienced notable changes. Not only did the City witness a sign of the times with liberal-folk songs being sung by Bob Dylan at the Orpheum Theatre, and protests atop the footsteps of various University buildings, but also new construction was transforming the City.

As Findorff’s leadership welcomed Harold Hastings – the 30-year employee – it also went through a significant loss. In September 1967, Milton passed away and was carried to rest by pallbearers from each employment group, ranging from laborers to superintendents. Undoubtedly, Milton left behind a legacy with big shoes to fill, and his last position as Findorff’s Chairman was vacant for the rest of the decade. However, as there was much estimating to do, Gerhard “Gerd” Zoller joined the Company’s estimating department that following year and in due time would be instrumental in leading Findorff’s various construction endeavors.

In spring of 1969, several new projects were underway including another CUNA Mutual expansion, an office tower for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and several headquarters for insurance companies. All in all, the Company concluded the decade with over 300 projects, but it was not about to rest.

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Notable Projects

  • Administration Building at UW-Madison
  • Agriculture Live Science Library
  • Alpha Epsilon Phi
  • Anchor Savings and Loan Office and Parking Ramp
  • Arenz Shoe Co.
  • Attic Angels Nursing Home
  • Bancroft Dairy Addition
  • Bethel Lutheran Church Addition
  • Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
  • Camp Randall Cantilevered Balcony at UW-Madison
  • CUNA Mutual Addition
  • East High School Addition
  • Farrington Daniels Chemistry Building
  • Genetics Building at UW-Madison
  • Havey Electric Warehouse
  • Harry Steenbock Memorial Library
  • Henry-Gilman Apartments at UW-Madison
  • Hilldale Shopping Center
  • Hill Farms State Office Building, Research Laboratory, and Power Plant
  • Lowell Hall Addition at UW-Madison
  • Madison Gas & Electric Headquarters
  • National Guardian Life Insurance Co. Headquarters
  • Oscar Mayer Additions
  • Park Towers
  • Pyare Square Building
  • State Historical Society Library Addition
  • William S. Middleton Medical Library
  • Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Office