University Hall

University Hall facing State Street

University Hall was the first building on the University of Michigan campus funded through direct appropriations by the legislature. It was a connecting link between Mason Hall and South College, which became known as the North* and South Wing. James Angell laid the cornerstone of University Hall on a visit to Ann Arbor before he became president.

Law Building (left) Mason Hall (center) South College (right) Medical Building (left rear)

"At a meeting of the Board of Regents held April 5, 1843, it was moved “that the college edifice now in use at Ann Arbor, and known as the Main Building, shall henceforth be called the Mason Hall.” In 1871 when this building was incorporated into the University Hall it became know as the North Wing. At the instance of the Sarah Caswell Angell chapter of the D. A. R., this long forgotten name was revived by a second action of the Regents at a meeting held August 5, 1913. (Michigan Alumnus, 8/1914, p. 587)
Plaque placed on the North Wing
Presented by the Daughters of the American Revolution June 24, 1914

Law Building (left) Mason Hall (center) and South College (right)
University Hall was set between Mason Hall and South College

University Hall under construction
From the corner of State & South University

University Hall facing State Street
University Hall facing the Diag

University Hall provided a chapel on the north side of the main floor seating 550, the President’s Office on the south side with a waiting room for ladies at the east, an auditorium on the second floor seating 3000, (1700 on the main floor and 1300 in the elliptical gallery), eleven lecture rooms and offices for the Regents, the faculty and the steward. (U of M Encyclopedic Survey pg. 1624)

There was much criticism of University Hall. There were objections to making it part of the two original buildings, the construction materials (stucco over brick), the dome and the “pepper boxes” ornamenting the roof.

“Sophomores in the grass”

Note the “pepper boxes” ornamenting the roof

In 1879 the Regents ordered the removal of “the two circular corner turrets and the two turrets at the base of the dome,” and provided for the finishing of “the said corners and said sides in conformity with the style of said dome.” They also ordered the removal of the balustrade that bordered the roofs of the two wings.

University Hall with “pepper boxes” removed

University Hall between domes 1896

University Hall with short dome and balustrades removed

In the spring of 1899 the small room for “Nydia” was cut away and replaced by a bay window.

Small room added in 1876

For Randolph Roger's “Nydia”

Bay window replaced the small room
in 1899

The Auditorium of University Hall

The acoustics of the University Hall Auditorium were excellent. At the same time the dome was being reconstructed, the incline of the floor of the auditorium was lowered twenty-two and one-half inches, and the benches were replaced by opera chairs.

University Hall Auditorium with Benches
University Hall Auditorium with Opera Chairs
A Concert in the University Hall Auditorium - The first May Festival was held in the spring of 1894.

Commencement in University Hall Auditorium

In the late 1870’s great interest developed in music, both in the community and in the University. In the spring of 1879 a Messiah Club was formed by singers from several of the church choirs. The Club became known as the Ann Arbor Choral Union. The University Musical Society was organized in 1880 to serve as an administrative organization to stimulate musical taste in the University and the Ann Arbor Community.

Professor Henry Frieze is credited with the promotion of musical organizations in connection with the University. He was a skilled musician and wished to share his love of music with students and citizens of Ann Arbor. It was largely through his efforts that the Choral Union and the University Musical Society were formed.

Henry Frieze

In 1894 the Columbian Organ, built by Farrand and Votey, of Detroit, and valued at $25,000, which had been used in Festival Hall during the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago, was purchased by the University Musical Society and installed in University Hall.

The organ was dedicated on December 4, 1894, to the memory of Henry Simmons Frieze. It represented the highest achievement of the organ builder’s art, and was one of the first great organs to be operated entirely by electricity.

After the organ was installed a series of vesper services were held twice a week. One hundred sang in the choir.

Henry Simmons Frieze Memorial Organ

Choral Rehearsal in University Hall Auditorium

University Hall - Sketch by Wilfred Shaw