Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Building History

After World War I ended, there was an interest on campus in raising a memorial to Iowa Staters who died in that war. There was talk about a bronze plaque or a gateway arch, but an outspoken group headed by the editor of the student paper lobbied for a living memorial - a building that would provide service to the college and preserve the memory of those that were lost.

Students successfully rallied support on campus and then widened their campaign to alumni. In order to achieve the goal of putting up a building when the state could not make the money available, the planning group realized that they would have to form as a non-for-profit corporation. State entities in the 1920’s were not allowed to borrow or bond for capital improvements. The Memorial Union corporation was established in 1922 to see the project through.

By 1925, enough pledges were collected to begin construction. A site was selected, title to the land obtained, a mortgage negotiated, an architect and contractor hired and the groundbreaking date was set for April 26, 1927. The Memorial Union opened in September 1928, with final construction details continuing until early the next year.

Gold Star Hall, at the north entrance, serves as the memorial. When the building opened, the names of Iowa Staters lost in World War 1 were inscribed. In later years, names from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia and the Global War on Terrorism (Iraq) were added.

In the Memorial Union's 80+ year history, eleven additions have gone on to all sides of the original structure, the most recent opening in the spring of 2008. Each addition has allowed the MU to update its services to meet the needs of the Iowa State University community.

Building Additions and Renovations

  • 1928; The Memorial Union officially opens on September 23. Iowa State's enrollment at this time is approximately 4,000.

  • 1939: With the aid of student fees, the first south addition begins. This addition includes the South Ballroom, more space in the Commons, and six bowling lanes.

  • 1948-49: The second addition begins with construction of a multi-story wing in the southeast corner. The newly constructed wing includes a dish room adjoining the main kitchen along with meeting rooms on the upper floors. A third addition is also started during this time which includes a south terrace that houses eight more bowling lanes.

  • 1950-53: A fourth addition that includes the construction of the northwest wing and west terrace begins. Air conditioning is added to the building for the first time.

  • 1957-58: The fifth addition covered the south terrace, providing space for the Book Store and the Sun Room above it.

  • 1964-65: The sixth addition consists of the northeast wing of the building, including the Pioneer Room along with smaller meeting rooms on the third floor, the Cardinal and Campanile Rooms, student office space, and a craft center.

  • 1966-67: The parking ramp to the east of the building makes up the seventh addition.

  • 1972-74: The eighth addition begins which consists of the first phase of the southeast wing construction, connecting the parking ramp to the building.

  • 1977-78: The ninth addition includes the second phase of the southeast wing construction.

  • 1992: The University Book Store undergoes an extensive renovation.

  • 1995-96: The first floor of the Memorial Union is completely renovate to convert the cafeteria into a food court. The renovation includes an updated main kitchen as well as student office spaces north of the main hallway. A tenth addition to the building is constructed and includes a utilities unit on the north/courtyard side of the southeast addition.

  • 2006-08: Construction of the eleventh addition includes expansion of the University Book Store, the MU Market & Cafe, and the Soults Family Visitor Center. The second floor also undergoes significant renovations, including restoration of the Great Hall and South Ballroom, relocation of the Main Desk, and the establishment of the Multicultural Center.

In December of 1920, students and faculty pledge nearly $325,000 to go toward construction of the MU.
In December of 1920, students and faculty pledge nearly $325,000 to go toward construction of the MU.
The Memorial Union first opened on September 23, 1928.
The Memorial Union first opened on September 23, 1928.
The first south addition in 1939 included the South Ballroom, more space in the Commons, and 6 bowling lanes.
The first south addition in 1939 included the South Ballroom, more space in the Commons, and 6 bowling lanes.
The 1948-49 addition included a multi-story wing on the southeast corner of the building.
The 1948-49 addition included a multi-story wing on the southeast corner of the building.
The 1948-49 addition also included a south terrace and 8 more bowling lanes.
The 1948-49 addition also included a south terrace and 8 more bowling lanes.
The fourth addition to the building in 1950-53 included the construction of the northwest wing and the west terrace.
The fourth addition to the building in 1950-53 included the construction of the northwest wing and the west terrace.
The fourth addition to the building in 1950-53 included the construction of the northwest wing and the west terrace.
The fourth addition to the building in 1950-53 included the construction of the northwest wing and the west terrace.
The University Book Store was added in the 1957-1958 addition.
The University Book Store was added in the 1957-1958 addition.
Construction of the northeast wing in 1964 included the Pioneer Room, the Cardinal and Campanile Rooms, and student office space.
Construction of the northeast wing in 1964 included the Pioneer Room, the Cardinal and Campanile Rooms, and student office space.
Construction of the northeast wing in 1964 included the Pioneer Room, the Cardinal and Campanile Rooms, and student office space.
Construction of the northeast wing in 1964 included the Pioneer Room, the Cardinal and Campanile Rooms, and student office space.
The parking ramp was constructed in 1967.
The parking ramp was constructed in 1967.
The eighth addition consisted of the first phase of the southeast wing, connecting the parking ramp to the building.
The eighth addition consisted of the first phase of the southeast wing, connecting the parking ramp to the building.
The second phase of the southeast wing construction is completed in 1978.
The second phase of the southeast wing construction is completed in 1978.
The eleventh addition took place in 2006-08 and included additional space for the University Book Store, the MU Market & Cafe, and the Soults Family Visitor Center.
The eleventh addition took place in 2006-08 and included additional space for the University Book Store, the MU Market & Cafe, and the Soults Family Visitor Center.
Click Image to Zoom
© 2017 Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved.