University of Colorado Student Union

Location: Greeley
County: Weld County
Date Constructed: 1916, 1939
Built by: WPA

Description

The Student Union (now Gray Hall) is located on the original section of the University of Northern Colorado’s campus. It lies between 8th Avenue, 19th Street, 10th Avenue, and 18th Street. The building faces south onto a large lawn with scattered, mature trees. The Garden Theater, an outdoor theater designed by F.W. Ireland, Jr. and constructed in 1940, is located in the middle of the lawn. Carter Library (now Carter Hall), also designed by F.W. Ireland, Jr. and constructed in 1939, is located north of the Student Union on the opposite side of the lawn. Gunter Hall, designed by William N. Bowman and constructed in 1928, lies on the west side of the Student Union. Roudebush Cottage, constructed as a home economics laboratory in 1915 and now holding offices, lies east of the Student Union. Parking lots are located on the south side of the Student Union.

The Student Union consists of a bungalow style clubhouse constructed in 1916 and a PWA Art Deco extension constructed in 1939. The bungalow portion of the building is located on the east and the PWA section on the west. The bungalow section blends with the similarly styled Roudebush Cottage, while the PWA addition combines elements of Carter Library’s Art Deco style and Gunter Hall’s Collegiate Gothic style.

The bungalow section is irregular in plan, composed of a rectangular brick section with a stucco extension (original) at the rear. An elevator addition was added to the stucco section in 1998 for handicap accessibility. The foundation is sandstone resting on concrete footings. The brick section of the building has single level with one main room with a high ceiling. The rear stucco section has two levels and a balcony that overlooks the main room of the brick section. The bungalow has a raised, full basement. The raised basement of the stucco section is covered with brick matching the rest of the building. The stucco section is narrower that the brick portion of the building, and is set back from the brick section on the west and east.

The building is constructed of multi-hued, buff colored bricks. The roof of the brick section consists of a center side gable surrounded by a hipped roof. The hipped roof extends around the front and sides of the building; it covers a wraparound sun parlor. A chimney is located on the gable ridge. On the facade (north side) there are two dormer windows on the gable roof; a gablet is located on the hipped roof, centered above the entrance.  The gable roof of the rear stucco extension is located at a right angle to the roof of the brick section. A cross gable extends across the rear extension’s gable roof, parallel to the roof of the brick section. The roof is sheathed in asphalt shingles. The wooden rafter tails are exposed.

The primary entrance to the bungalow is centered on the north side. A flight of concrete stairs with brick balustrades leads up to the entrance. The entrance doors are wood-framed, 10-light, double doors framed by matching side lights. A transom is located above the doors and sidelights; the transom comes to a peak over the entrance and then slopes down the outer edges of the sidelights. Located on each side of the entrance are two sets of windows, each composed of three fixed, 12-light, wood-framed windows. Like the transom at the entrance, the top of the windows come to a peak at the center and then slope down to the outer edge of the windows. The windows extend across the width of the north side with brick piers separating the windows. At the basement level, there are two pairs of wood-framed, 6-over-1, sash windows on each side of the entrance. Fixed, 8-light, vertical, wood-framed windows are located on the dormers.

On the east side of the bungalow, the fenestration is similar to the north facade. On the brick portion of the building, three sets of three 12-light windows (matching those used on the facade) extend across the building, separated by brick piers. The windows have been covered with wood-framed screens. Three sets of paired, wood-framed, 6-over-1, sash windows are located on the basement level. Two fixed, wood-framed, vertical, 8-light windows are located on the gable end. On the stucco section, there are two pairs of wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash windows at the basement level. The main level has two, wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash windows. The upper level has a pair of wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash windows centered beneath the cross gable.

The stucco extension is centered on the south side of the brick portion of the building. On the south side of the brick portion west of the stucco extension, there is a single opening with three, wood-framed, 8-light fixed windows. These windows match those on the east and north sides of the brick section. At the basement level, there is a pair of wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash windows. On the south side of the brick portion of the building east of the stucco extension, there are two windows and a wooden door; the door no longer leads anywhere, and the stairs beneath it have been removed. Another door is located at the basement level on the east side; a flight of concrete steps leads down to the door. A single window is located on the east side of the basement door.

The modern elevator addition is centered on the south side of the stucco extension. The elevator addition was designed to blend with appearance of the original building. The elevator addition is covered by a gable roof. The walls are stucco. A narrow central portion contains an 8-light door framed by 4-light sidelights with a 12-light transom above. Concrete staircases are located on either side of the elevator section. The staircase on the east leads up and the staircase on the west leads down. A plain wood balustrade lines the east staircase. The exterior of the staircase is covered with brick. It is a multi-hued buff brick similar to, but not exactly matching, the brick of the original building. The east stairs lead to an entrance door located on the east side of the elevator addition. Simple round columns supported by brick piers support the northwest, southwest, and southeast corners of the roof.

On the west side of the stucco extension, there are three, wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash windows at the basement level. A single wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash window is located on the main level. A pair of wood-framed, 6-over-1 sash windows is located on the upper level beneath the cross gable. The PWA portion of the building was attached to the west side of the brick portion of the bungalow completely covering the original west side of the brick section.

The PWA addition is irregular in plan. It consists of four sections: 1) a two-story, gable-roofed  section that connects the bungalow to the main portion of the PWA addition; 2) a two-story, hipped-roof  rectangular section that is attached to the west side of the connector; 3) a flat-roofed, rectangular ballroom that extends to the south of section #2; 4) a two-story, flat-roofed  rectangular tower that is the tallest building segment; and 5) a single story, flat-roofed section with chamfered corners extending to the west. The PWA addition is constructed of multi-hued buff brick similar to that used in the construction of the bungalow. The foundation is concrete.

The connector section (#1) is two-storied, but shorter than the bungalow and section #2 that it connects. On the north side, this connector has two openings on the ground level; the original windows have been removed and the openings paneled over; a door has also been placed in the westernmost opening. Two pairs of 6-over-6 wood framed windows are located on the upper level. A 6-light section has been removed from two of the windows and window air-conditioner units have been installed. On the south side, the openings on the ground level have also been boarded over and an emergency generator placed in front of the openings. On the upper level, there are two pairs of wood-framed, 6-over-6 windows.

On section #2, there are two, 16-light, metal-framed casement windows framing two pairs of 12-light casement windows on the ground level.  On the upper level, two 20-light metal casement windows frame a band of three, 20-light casement windows. Two brick buttresses that extend from the foundation to the top of the upper level windows separate the grouped windows from the single windows located on either side. On the west side of this section there is a single, tall, rectangular opening filled with glass blocks on the ground floor and a 10-light casement window on the upper floor.

The ballroom is attached to the south side of section #2. It is as tall as the two-story sections of the building but has only a single level on the interior. The defining feature of the ballroom are the rows of tall windows extending across the west and east sides. There are five openings on the west side. The windows are fixed with wood-frames; the upper portions have 42- lights and arches that come to a point at the top.   A double row of header bricks decorates the top of the window openings. Beneath the arched window opening, three of the openings hold 32-light, metal-framed casement windows and two of the openings hold double, wood-framed, 15-light doors. The window/door openings are set within tall, rectangular, slightly recessed sections of brick. A row of decorative bricks composed of header bricks set in a variety of patterns to form square shapes runs along the top of the recessed rectangles. A row of recessed header bricks interspersed with stretcher bricks runs beneath the row of decorative brick squares. This same combination of bricks is also used at the cornice. Four brick buttresses separate the window/door openings. The openings and brick work on the east side follow the same pattern as the west side except that there are six openings and five buttresses. None of the openings on the east side hold doors; all hold wood-framed 42-light windows above, and metal, 32-light casement windows below. The south wall follows the same pattern with two window openings separated by two brick buttresses.

The tower section is located at the intersection of sections #2, #3, and #5. On the south side, the tower is set back from section #2. On the ground floor, there are double wooden doors. An arched transom is located above the entrance. Two rows of header bricks are located above the arched opening. A 20-light, metal-framed, casement window is located on the upper floor. A decorative brick spandrel panel is located above the window. Brick buttresses frame the door and window openings. The cornice is decorated by a row of stretcher bricks alternating with recessed header bricks beneath a row of header bricks. The cornice pattern is continued on the other sides of the tower. On the west side of the tower, north of section #5, is a vertical opening filled with glass blocks that extends the height of two stories. A brick buttress is located to the north of the opening. South of section #5, the tower extends higher. On the upper level there is a narrow, vertical band of glass blocks with a narrow door located beneath. This door leads to a roof deck on a single-story extension set at the junction of the tower and section #5. The openings are framed by brick buttresses. On the south side of the tower, there is a 15-light window on the lower level and a 12-light window on the upper floor. Brick buttresses frame the window openings.

On the north side of section #5, there are three window openings. Each contains a 4-light casement window surrounded by glass blocks. Four brick buttresses separate the window openings. The chamfered corner at the northwest corner of the building contains metal, non-original, double doors with a transom of glass blocks above. A decorated brick spandrel panel is located above the glass blocks. On the west side, a horizontal opening filled with glass blocks extends across the wall. Two casement windows are set within the glass blocks. Brick buttresses are set at an angle on the corners. On the chamfered corner on the southwest, there is an opening filled with glass block with a single casement window set in the middle. On the south side, there are two horizontal openings filled with glass blocks. Metal, non-original double doors are set within the glass blocks of the westernmost opening. A metal casement window is set within the glass blocks of the other opening. Two brick buttresses separate the openings. A small brick extension, shorter that the rest of this section, is located between the glass block window and the tower section. The extension contains a door with a transom above and two fixed light windows.

Interior

The main level of the bungalow included a sun parlor, a large meeting room, and cloak rooms. The meeting room featured a large fireplace surrounded in green tile on the east wall. Wood paneling covers the lower portion of the walls. The tall ceiling features rows of decorative beams. On the south, a balcony overlooks the main floor. Today, the main room is occupied by University Parking Services. The main room retains its original finishings, high ceiling, and open plan. Drop fluorescent lights have been attached to the ceiling beams. The basement of the bungalow originally contained kitchens, showers, dressing rooms, and the grotto (a space for dancing and other gatherings). Currently, the university’s telecommunications system occupies the basement. The two-story rear extension of the bungalow contained a dining room on the main level and a suite of rooms for the matron above. The dining room retains its original wood paneling and built-ins and is now used as a meeting room. The rooms upstairs are used for office and storage space.

The PWA addition was connected to the bungalow through interior connections on the basement and main levels. The grotto in the basement of the bungalow was expanded into the new addition. The ballroom, Bru-Inn, lobby lounge and grotto were on the main level of the PWA addition. The ballroom (now a gymnasium) measures 60’ x 100’. It has a maple floor. The ceiling is celotex with vaulting around the tops of the windows. The celotex was chosen for its ability to diffuse sound better, providing good acoustics for musical performances in the room. A raised stage was built at the south end of the ballroom for use by bands. The original ceiling and floor are intact; the stage has been removed. The ballroom currently functions as a gymnasium and is used for sport and exercise science classes. The grotto is now a classroom spaced used by dance classes. The Norton Theater is located in the former Bru-Inn space.

The upper floor of the PWA addition included a rumpus room, lounge with a balcony overlooking the ballroom, and an apartment for a caretaker. Today the university police department is located in the rumpus room and lounge area. The balcony has been removed, but there is still a window overlooking the ballroom. The apartment has been converted to dressing rooms for the theater.

Significance

The Student Union, constructed between 1913 and 1916 and expanded between 1938 and 1939 with a grant from the Public Works Administration (PWA), is being nominated under the New Deal Resources on Colorado’s Eastern Plains Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF). The Student Union meets the registration requirements of two property types delineated in the MPDF: Educational Buildings (subtype: College and University Buildings) and Recreation and Cultural Resources.

The Student Union meets Criterion A in the area of Politics/Government for its association with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislative agenda to rescue the United States from the Great Depression.  This agenda included the creation of an unprecedented number of policies, programs, and agencies—all with the greater goal of stimulating the devastated economy. The PWA program was a pump-primer, designed to stimulate the economy through construction projects. The Student Union presents an important record of New Deal construction programs in eastern Colorado and the extensive assistance the Colorado State College of Education received from the PWA to remake its campus during the 1930s.

Additionally, the Student Union meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Entertainment/Recreation. The Student Union was the center of social life for the students of the Colorado State College of Education from the completion of the original clubhouse in 1916 until the construction of a new student center in 1965.  Events held in the Student Union included teas, mixers, dances, and banquets. It was also a place where students could gather to dine, play games, read magazines, listen to music, or simply hang out with other students. In June 1939, the Greeley Tribune reported, the “Colorado State College of Education is proud of the Student Union project and . . . the place in campus life which it is to fill as a social welfare center and recreational building for the student body it serves.”

The Student Union also meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Education. From the time the Clubhouse opened in 1916, it was the primary location for student clubs to meet. This included many academic organizations. It was also important in the history of the college as the first building constructed specifically for women. With the construction of the PWA addition in 1939, the building could accommodate a greater range of social and recreational functions. The college considered the socializing carried on in the Student Union part of creating well-rounded education for its future teachers: “Designed primarily for a place for students to spend leisure hours in proper surroundings and to provide an opportunity for the fullest development of social life and personal development, the new unit complies in every respect. It will enable the college to do more in the way of fitting the prospective teacher to take part in the manifold social activities which face the teacher in the community” (September 26, 1939). The Clubhouse and its later expansion into the Student Union are both examples of the college working to control the environment in which students gathered for recreation.

The Student Union meets Criterion C in the area of Architecture as a distinctive building on the historic campus of the University of Northern Colorado. The original clubhouse with its bungalow design reflects the popularity of the Arts & Crafts movement in the 1910s. The domestic associations of this style were appropriate for a building intended for the use of the college’s female students. The Student Union expansion was designed by F.W. Ireland, Jr., who was responsible for all the new buildings constructed on the campus during the 1930s. It is a good example of a PWA sponsored project. Since the goal of the PWA program was to put money in the economy through the hiring of construction professionals and the purchasing of construction materials, PWA projects typically are more elaborate and polished than buildings constructed through the work relief efforts of other New Deal agencies. PWA projects also used higher quality materials and employed more decorative features in their design. The Student Union building is in the Art Deco style, a style commonly used for PWA projects, but also incorporates elements of the Collegiate Gothic style. This reflects its location on a college campus and an effort to blend with an adjacent College Gothic style building. The Art Deco style is evident in the building horizontal emphasis, angular lines, set-backs, and use of bands of glass block. The Collegiate Gothic influence is seen in the use of simple brick buttresses and tall, arched window openings.

The period of significance begins in 1916 with the completion of the Clubhouse and ends in 1965 when the Student Union was replaced with a new student center. The significant dates of 1916 and 1939 represent the dates when the Clubhouse was completed and when the PWA addition was completed, and the building renamed the Student Union.

Historical Background

The Student Union, constructed between 1913 and 1916 and expanded between 1938 and 1939 with a grant from the Public Works Administration (PWA), is being nominated under the New Deal Resources on Colorado’s Eastern Plains Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF). The Student Union meets the registration requirements of two property types delineated in the MPDF: Educational Buildings (subtype: College and University Buildings) and Recreation and Cultural Resources.

The Student Union meets Criterion A in the area of Politics/Government for its association with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislative agenda to rescue the United States from the Great Depression.  This agenda included the creation of an unprecedented number of policies, programs, and agencies—all with the greater goal of stimulating the devastated economy. The PWA program was a pump-primer, designed to stimulate the economy through construction projects. The Student Union presents an important record of New Deal construction programs in eastern Colorado and the extensive assistance the Colorado State College of Education received from the PWA to remake its campus during the 1930s.

Additionally, the Student Union meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Entertainment/Recreation. The Student Union was the center of social life for the students of the Colorado State College of Education from the completion of the original clubhouse in 1916 until the construction of a new student center in 1965.  Events held in the Student Union included teas, mixers, dances, and banquets. It was also a place where students could gather to dine, play games, read magazines, listen to music, or simply hang out with other students. In June 1939, the Greeley Tribune reported, the “Colorado State College of Education is proud of the Student Union project and . . . the place in campus life which it is to fill as a social welfare center and recreational building for the student body it serves.”

The Student Union also meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Education. From the time the Clubhouse opened in 1916, it was the primary location for student clubs to meet. This included many academic organizations. It was also important in the history of the college as the first building constructed specifically for women. With the construction of the PWA addition in 1939, the building could accommodate a greater range of social and recreational functions. The college considered the socializing carried on in the Student Union part of creating well-rounded education for its future teachers: “Designed primarily for a place for students to spend leisure hours in proper surroundings and to provide an opportunity for the fullest development of social life and personal development, the new unit complies in every respect. It will enable the college to do more in the way of fitting the prospective teacher to take part in the manifold social activities which face the teacher in the community” (September 26, 1939). The Clubhouse and its later expansion into the Student Union are both examples of the college working to control the environment in which students gathered for recreation.

The Student Union meets Criterion C in the area of Architecture as a distinctive building on the historic campus of the University of Northern Colorado. The original clubhouse with its bungalow design reflects the popularity of the Arts & Crafts movement in the 1910s. The domestic associations of this style were appropriate for a building intended for the use of the college’s female students. The Student Union expansion was designed by F.W. Ireland, Jr., who was responsible for all the new buildings constructed on the campus during the 1930s. It is a good example of a PWA sponsored project. Since the goal of the PWA program was to put money in the economy through the hiring of construction professionals and the purchasing of construction materials, PWA projects typically are more elaborate and polished than buildings constructed through the work relief efforts of other New Deal agencies. PWA projects also used higher quality materials and employed more decorative features in their design. The Student Union building is in the Art Deco style, a style commonly used for PWA projects, but also incorporates elements of the Collegiate Gothic style. This reflects its location on a college campus and an effort to blend with an adjacent College Gothic style building. The Art Deco style is evident in the building horizontal emphasis, angular lines, set-backs, and use of bands of glass block. The Collegiate Gothic influence is seen in the use of simple brick buttresses and tall, arched window openings.

The period of significance begins in 1916 with the completion of the Clubhouse and ends in 1965 when the Student Union was replaced with a new student center. The significant dates of 1916 and 1939 represent the dates when the Clubhouse was completed and when the PWA addition was completed, and the building renamed the Student Union.

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