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Posted on Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 5:46 a.m.

Landmark Stockwell Hall re-opening as co-ed residence with a $39.6-million makeover

By Juliana Keeping

The University of Michigan's largest all-female dorm is going co-ed.

On Sept. 4, Stockwell Hall will re-open as a co-ed residence hall, revealing $39.6 million of renovations and infrastructure upgrades. It will house 402 students, eight fewer than previously.


Built in 1940 for $1 million, the dorm at Observatory and North University Court is named after Madelon Louisa Stockwell, who in 1870 was the first female student at U-M. Stockwell Hall's original Tudor Revival architecture, with its wood-paneled lounge and two distinct fireplaces, leaded windows and interesting brick work, remain as they always have been, said Peter Logan, director of housing communications.

Pauline Walters lived in Stockwell for three years, from 1947 to 1950, when there was one telephone per floor and the girls adhered to strict curfews enforced by watchful housemothers.

Walters still feels a strong connection with Stockwell, where she met many lifelong friends. But she said she understands the switch to co-ed as an economic decision. Demand for all-women dorms has waned.

"I can't imagine being young and having to deal with men around the place," Walters said. "Of course, I'm 80 years old. People today, I just sort of shudder and think, 'Well, that's their parents' problem, not mine.' With Stockwell, it's a matter of economics." 

Freshmen will no longer live in the dorm. It is now open only to students who are at least in their sophomore year.

The cost of a single room at U-M dorms is $10,650 this year. Those living in double rooms will pay $8.924.

The six-story brick structure has been closed for renovations since May 2008. Work will be complete in August. 

The biggest physical change to the buliding is the addition of a 2,000-square foot, multi-level rotunda. It is where the building's cafeteria, on the lower level, and a courtyard, at street level, used to be. The rotunda includes meeting spaces, performance space, a lounge with a kitchen and a laundry area

Students at Stockwell, as well as nearby Alice Lloyd, Couzens and Mosher-Jorden halls, will use cafeteria services at the Hill Dining Center, which was completed in 2008, Logan said.

Stockwell's infrastructure has been totally made over, with new air conditioning, heating, ventilation and fire detection and suppression systems. Other improvements include new wired and wireless high-speed network access and voice and data cable. All floor bathrooms have been renovated to provide more privacy. A kitchenette and two lounges have been added to each floor.

The Stockwell Hall work is among the latest renovation projects to be completed with the $300 million Residential Life Initiatives program, which began in 2004.

The switch to co-ed is a move that reflects the wishes of students, Logan said. The university held meetings and polled students, alumni and key faculty and staff to test the waters for the change.

"The vast majority of the students who responded to our surveys and questions said a co-ed population would be desirable," Logan said, adding requests for all-female housing have vastly declined.

University Housing doesn't receive money from the general fund; its primary source of funding comes from the students' room and board, Logan said.

"We need to be good stewards of our resources, because the primary funding comes from the students, and consequently, we need to respond to what the students want from the residential experience."

Quite a few Stockwell alumni who were polled hoped it would stay an all-female residence, he said.

U-M Business School grad Ali Blauer lived in Stockwell in 2002. She said that while she was disappointed to learn she'd be living in an all-women dorm, she ended up loving the experience.

"I think a lot of people wouldn't choose it, but once you're in the situation it's not as bad as it sounds," she said. "It feels like you're at camp and with a bunch of your friends all the time."

Remaining all-female residences on campus include Helen Newberry House, which houses 110 students; Betsy Barbour, 120 students; Martha Cook, 145 students, including graduates; and Henderson House, a co-op that houses 30 sophomore-through-graduate students.

A rendering shows the rotunda for the renovated Stockwell Hall.

Juliana Keeping, University of Michigan reporter, can be reached at or (734) 623-2528.


Liz Rohan

Thu, Dec 17, 2009 : 8:59 a.m.

I lived in Stockwell in the late 1980s. I honestly felt that the all girls vibe made it kind of creepy and that I was living in a 1960s novel set at Bryn Mawr. But I absolutely loved the building and felt on the other hand like a lived in a kind of palace/paradise. I went to see the renovation and was surprised at how emotional I felt. It was like a dream when a familiar dwelling is made magical. Although beautiful, I think this kind of upgrade is also extravagant "in this economy." I'd feel differently if I didn't know that one of the reasons tuition is going up at colleges like U of M--A2 is to pay for students' so-called needs for upgraded living quarters (and I am a college professor). I noticed that simply taking down the Depression era drapery that flanked the windows in the 1980s brightened up the place now. Cost 0$.


Fri, Aug 7, 2009 : 10:04 a.m.

Using 2% of revenue from room/board doesn't cover cost of $40m bond. UM Housing website says about 9,700 students reside in its halls. If everyone lives in doubles @$8,924/year, that's $86.5m/year. 2% of that is $2m/year. A $40m bond @ 4% for 40 yrs = $2m/year, so the entire "Funding for Residential Life" would be wiped out by the Stockwell bond. I don't think mgmt would spend everything on one project, so there must be different funding sources (like the Enron-style "internal re-allocations" and "cost-savings").

Fred Posner

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 9:45 p.m.

Also, thank you very much for getting the answer.

Fred Posner

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 9:43 p.m.

I'm at a loss... although it seems that perhaps general tax funds did not go into the funding of the revenue, the report of all 40 million coming from fees assessed by the University to students would in my mind still be... public money. If they can afford to put $40 million dollars into a renovation, I'm certain that they are grossly overcharging students. $40 million is an amazing figure. How many students could that give full rides to college? If we say college cost is $85,000 for a 4 year education at a public school (it's less in reality), then $20 million could full ride more than 250 people to college. That would leave another $20 million for restorations. When the city is talking about taxing the income of workers and residents, one has to wonder if the University of Michigan is leading by example. This truly is a time to stretch a dollar and a student living in a heated dorm room without wifi can survive, and others would thrive under worse conditions. This isn't a vacation after all; it's an education. I for one would rather education be more economical and affordable. If UM can bank over $40 million from housing fees, I believe they can return $40 million to the state general fund.


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 5:38 p.m.

As a parent of a UM college student, the renovation of dorm rooms on the UM campus has been long overdue. East Quad still functions like it did in the 1940's (except that it's coed now). Not enough electrical outlets. No wireless internet. No airconditioning. Tired, small, unattractive rooms and uncomfortable bedding. Bath/shower rooms perfect for germ spreading illnesses. The only thing it has going for it, is location. Providing excellent housing options for students who pay the cost of the rent should be a top priority. I applaud the UM for updating the dorm rooms in order to provide safe, secure, modern housing for its students.

Juliana Keeping

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 1:03 p.m.

Fred, Here is an answer from Peter Logan, the director of housing communications, via e-mail: "As to the question from your reader, none of the costs for Stockwells renovation or operation come from public funds. Its a percentage of room and board revenue and equity in Housing properties that fund the debt program for the Residential Life Initiatives." Thanks for asking Fred, -Juliana

Juliana Keeping

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 11:25 a.m.

Hi Fred. Great question. I've also posed it to U-M official and will share his answer when he gets back to me. Meanwhile, here is how they explained the funding: Funding for the Residential Life Initiatives has come from a portion -- 2 percent - of room and board revenue and from University Housing internal re-allocations and cost savings. University Housing is a financially self-supporting auxiliary unit.


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 10:54 a.m.

Pretty amazing they continue to pour money into bricks and mortor while on line learning continues to outpace these type of wonder the cost of education is beyond the reach of middle class parents who have saved and planned for their childrens college education and still can't afford an big ten ivy league wanna be like u-m


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 9:04 a.m.

I think the changes to stockwell are great it looks so much different then it did in 2001 when I stayed there my freshman year


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 9:03 a.m.

It is quite amazing really, in the last so many years, observing much tearing down followed by the construction of these wondrous, often massive structures. Obviously very expensive projects these hulking behemoths. I often think the U of M must be oozing money, in stark contrast to everyone else.

Fred Posner

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 6:07 a.m.

How much of this $40 million restoration was public funds?