Science Hall Fire Chute

Kay Domine MA'71 and Bill Goodrich '83, MS'91

When I was in grad school from 1969 to 1971, my friends and I used to go up to the fourth floor of the old Science Hall and slide down the outside fire escape pipe. I know that Science Hall still exists, but do students still take that ride?


The Science Hall fire chute was a forbidden thrill for many UW students up until the early 1980s, when it was replaced with large escape stairways in the two rear corner towers. The fire chute zig-zagged down the west façade of the north wing, a vertical drop of approximately 50 feet. Adventurous students would climb to the third floor and jump into the spiral metal tunnel, sliding in the dark to the courtyard below. According to Clarence W. Olmstead, author of Science Hall: The First Century, Madison-area schoolchildren also loved to slide down the Science Hall fire chute on Saturdays. They would race up the stairs and innocently ask, “Where is the Geology Museum?” if caught by faculty. Occasionally, a pail of water poured down the chute behind them would dampen their seats but not their spirits.