Dr. Paul A. Chadbourne, M.D., D.D., L.L.D., became the third chief administrator of the University of Wisconsin in the year 1867. This was a time for seeking recovery from the blight of the Civil War, a time for reorganization, new growth, and new inspiration. President Chadbourne was hailed as the man of the hour and indeed in his short years of service, 1867-1871, contributed largely to the development of this University.
Among the accomplishments recommending the Maine-born educator to his Wisconsin responsibilities were a professorship of Chemistry and Botany and the chair of Natural History, both served at Williams College, his Alma Mater; concurrent teaching appointments to Bowdoin College, Burkshire Medical Institute, and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary; two terms in the Massachusetts Senate; and scientific expeditions to Florida, Newfoundland, and Greenland. When called to Wisconsin, Dr. Chadbourne was serving the presidency of the state agricultural college at Amherst.
In all matters of educational policy, the President showed himself to be a vigorous, positive leader. A skilled diplomat, he worked harmoniously with the Faculty and the Board of Regents; a skilled orator, he found new friends for this young institution through lectures and speeches presented at normal schools, teachers institutes, and popular assemblages. No less important than his administrative talents were the long effective hours which Dr. Chadbourne devoted to teaching in his fields.
Concerted strengthening of the University Faculty was brought about during the Chadbourne administration. Departments of Law, Agriculture, and Civil Engineering were inaugurated, important additions in a rapid expansion of academic diciplines and courses of study. Instruction in the physical sciences took large steps forward and so did prospects for the University's physical plant when the 1870 Legislature provided $50,000 to construct a fourth major University building. The grant set a happy precedent for State support, but for some observers the hall it made possible symbolized unhappily the limited opportunities for young women then attending Wisconsin. Co-education was incompatible with the highest education of either sex, Dr. Chadbourne believed, and he therefore sought the building of a new, sequestered seat for Wisconsin's Female College.
Thus, in the beginning, Ladies Hall residents lived, studied, and recited in careful separation from their collegiate brothers and were admitted only rarely to mixed class instruction.
As the stones of Ladies Hall rose in 1871, President Chadbourne resigned his Wisconsin office to pursue other interests, and ultimately to serve the presidency of Williams College for nine years. Soon thereafter, Wisconsin women enjoyed greater academic opportunities, and by 1874, the full privileges of co-education were theirs.
Ladies Hall, still housing Wisconsin co-eds, but no longer serving a classroom function became Chadbourne Hall in 1901 by action of the Board of Regents. It is recorded as a delightful humor that Dean Edward A. Birge, later to become University President Birge, urged the new name not only because President Chadbourne had obtained the appropriation for the building, but because "I thought it was only fair that Dr. Chadbourne's contumacy regarding co-education should be punished by attaching his name to a building which turned out [to be] one of the main supports of co-education."
When razing operations were begun in 1957, Chadbourne Hall had echoed the life and laughter of Wisconsin's daughters for more than 80 years and had held the title of the oldest women's dormitory at any educational school in the United States.
The current Chadbourne Hall, erected upon the site of the first, opened its doors to women students in the fall of 1959. It was not for over 35 years, in 1995, when Chadbourne finally welcomed men and became a co-ed residence hall. Today, the modern campus home, under an old familiar name, opens its doors as the Chadbourne Residential College, continuing Wisconsin traditions and honoring the many contributions of an early president.
Stone from the original Chadbourne Hall remains around the first floor entrances to the new hall. Original woodworking was preserved, and has been installed in the current office of Chadbourne Residential College.