Northrop Field rediscovered

From the Archivist: Occasional posts related to University history

By Erin George

Northrop Field ticket booth, 1957.
Northrop Field ticket booth, 1957.

University and college campuses appear to be in an almost continual state of renewal and change. New students join the campus community, new programs enhance the curriculum, and new buildings rise on the campus landscape. And sometimes remnants of an earlier campus setting are rediscovered.

Northrop Field was dedicated November 4, 1899 as the first on-campus outdoor athletic facility at the University of Minnesota. The dedication event included a faculty procession, brief speeches by Minneapolis Mayor James Gray and University President Cyrus Northrop, and a football game pitting Minnesota against Northwestern University (final score: Northwestern 11 and Minnesota 5).

Cover of Northrop Field Dedication program, November 4, 1899.
Cover of Northrop Field Dedication program, November 4, 1899.
Inside page of Northrop Field Dedication program featuring a photo of Cyrus Northrop (University President 1884-1911).
Inside page of Northrop Field Dedication program featuring a photo of Cyrus Northrop (University President 1884-1911).

The November 5, 1899 Minneapolis Tribune reported that President Northrop “had little ambition for his name to be used commonly, but in so far as the choice of the name by the student body represented the love and respect of the students for himself, it was appreciated by him as a high honor.” The Tribune also noted that “not less than 3,000” people were in attendance for the dedication event and the “new athletic field…is in every aspect perfectly adapted to the requirements of an athletic area.”

Three years later, plans were announced to enlarge Northrop Field.

December 22, 1902 issue of Minnesota Alumni Weekly detailing expansion of Northrop Field and featuring a site drawing by Barry Dibble (Class of 1903), http://hdl.handle.net/11299/52982
December 22, 1902 issue of Minnesota Alumni Weekly detailing expansion of Northrop Field and featuring a site drawing by Barry Dibble (Class of 1903), http://hdl.handle.net/11299/52982.

The Northrop Field grandstand and brick wall were prominent features of the campus.

Northrop Field captured during a football game between the University of Chicago and Minnesota in 1907 (final score: Chicago 18 and Minnesota 12).
Northrop Field captured during a football game between the University of Chicago and Minnesota in 1907 (final score: Chicago 18 and Minnesota 12).
Postcard of Northrop Field entrance gates, circa 1906.
Postcard of Northrop Field entrance gates, circa 1906.
Campus view showing Northrop Filed and its brick wall and entrance gates, circa 1906. The Armory is pictured to the left.
Campus view showing Northrop Filed and its brick wall and entrance gates, circa 1906. The Armory is pictured to the left.

Northrop Field was home to the University of Minnesota football team until 1924, when Memorial Stadium opened on the corner of Oak and University, the site now occupied by the McNarama Alumni Center and the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. During their time playing at Northrop Field, Minnesota football teams won a national championship and reigned as their conference champion or co-champion eight times.

The football team moved their games to Memorial Stadium while Northrop Field continued to be used as their practice facility. Northrop Field also served as a venue for baseball games and tennis matches.

Baseball game in Northrop Field on the cover of the April 20, 1940 issue of the Minnesota Alumni Weekly magazine available at http://hdl.handle.net/11299/54093.
Baseball game in Northrop Field on the cover of the April 20, 1940 issue of the Minnesota Alumni Weekly magazine available at http://hdl.handle.net/11299/54093.

As the University prepared for a wave of students to hit in the late 1960s, the landscape on the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth campuses was changing. The changes included the razing of Northrop Field and its facilities in1959 to make way for the Architecture Building, now known as Rapson Hall

Northrop Field gates and ticket booth, 1957.
Northrop Field gates and ticket booth, 1957.

Another piece of the Northrop Field story was shared with our staff by a University alumnus and ardent Gopher football fan who said that sections of the Northrop Field wall were still standing on campus. Using photographs in our collections and the Campus History Maps tool on our website, we identified possible locations for the remaining sections of the wall. And on a recent walk across campus, we rediscovered one pillar from the Northrop Field wall near The Armory.

A remnant of a Northrop Field pillar at the southwest corner of the Armory.

A remnant of the Northrop Field wall and pillar at the southwest corner of the Armory.
Remnants of the Northrop Field wall and pillar at the southwest corner of the Armory.

As new and refurbished facilities were woven into the fabric of the Twin Cities campus, the remnants of Northrop Field may have been obscured by the changes around them, but those remnants continue holding a place for Northrop Field as a prominent piece of the University of Minnesota campus history.

Goldy with wordmark

 

 

 

 

Erin George is the University Archives Research Services Archivist. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.

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