75 years of Coffman Union

From the Archivist: Occasional posts related to University history

By Erik Moore

Seventy-five years ago this fall, Coffman Memorial Union opened to the campus community and public.

Coffman Memorial Union, 1940
Coffman Memorial Union, 1940. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/204066.

The union was named after President Lotus Coffman in 1939 prior to its opening. Coffman famously began the launch of the building campaign in 1936 with the words, “Someday, the University of Minnesota will have a student union as the center of its social life.”

The 1941 Gopher Yearbook. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/134846.
The 1941 Gopher Yearbook. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/134846.

The total cost for completion was estimated at $1,975,028.60. Of that, $650,000 was to be raised through private donations, including a campaign drive among faculty, students, and alumni.

Coffman Memorial Union construction, view of west façade, 1939. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/166512.
Coffman Memorial Union construction, view of west façade, 1939. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/166512.

When it opened, the student population was 20,461.

Coffman Memorial Union Terrace Restaurant, 1940. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/81310.
Coffman Memorial Union Terrace Restaurant, 1940. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/81310.

Before Coffman Union, two separate unions were maintained on the main Minneapolis campus – Nicholson Hall for men and Shevlin Hall for women.

Nicholson Hall, 1924. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/190203.
Nicholson Hall, 1924. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/190203.

 

Shevlin Hall, 1908. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/203559.
Shevlin Hall, 1908. Available at http://purl.umn.edu/203559.

See a larger exhibit devoted to Coffman Union’s 75 years from Student Unions & Activities.

—Erik Moore is the University Archivist and Co-Director of the University Digital Conservancy. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.

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