In Your Backyard: A LOOK BACK IN TIME

University apartments 1960'sSubmitted by Bryn Scriver, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Lakeshore Nature Preserve

Not all that long ago, in the narrow stretch of woods just north of Lake Mendota Drive, as many as 300 graduate students and their families lived in wall tents perched on platforms along the hillside. 

Each summer between 1912 and 1962, these “tent colonists” erected temporary homes (cobbled together from canvas, tar paper, wooden frames, and bug screens) to create a unique housing community known as “Camp Gallistella”. The university tent colony came complete with mayor, recreation director, constable, and sanitary commissioner. The camp even put out its own occasional newspaper. 

Albert Gallistel, superintendent of the department of buildings and grounds, and his wife Eleanor, served as on-site supervisors. Each summer they moved to a cottage at the east end of the Colony.

The tent colony came to an end in 1962 with the construction of the Eagle Heights Apartments, which became the year-round alternative to this former summer colony. If you look carefully, you may be able to see remnants of the piers, water pump station, gardens, or latrines that once existed here.