IMU houses more than cozy chairs
Apr. 9, 2012
The Indiana Memorial Union can seem like a labyrinth, but there’s much more mystery and history riddled within the Union’s walls than its confusing passageways.
The next time you’re standing in line at Starbucks, consider that about 50 years ago, you would have been ordering a cappuccino from the Biddle Hotel’s front desk. Or the next time you’re warming yourself by the “Fire of Hospitality” in the south lounge, think about how it’s been burning since 1939.
The Union is full of secrets, and Thomas Simmons, IMU associate director, is one of its keepers. These are just a few of them.
1. KP Williams Dining Room
Named for the distinguished mathematics professor and founder of IU’s formal ROTC program, the Kenneth Powers Williams Dining Room is nestled within the Union’s third floor. Because it is so tiny and compact, the room’s antique table seats only 10 guests.
2. Federal Room
Hidden behind a nondescript, closed door is the Federal Room, an ornate colonial dining room and parlor. Instead of wallpaper, the parlor is lined with woodblock prints of French origin that depict early scenes of American history. On the wall hangs the “Unfinished Portrait.” It is a painting of Mary Burnet, who is known for her contributions to the art movement in Indiana during the early 1900’s, Simmons said. She received an honorary master’s degree from IU in 1933.
3. The buried rifle range
Directly beneath Dunn Meadow Café is the now dormant rifle range of the IMU, complete with a gun vault and targets. It was formerly used by students, especially those in the ROTC.
4. Alumni Hall dressing rooms
In the 1930s and ‘40s, this was the home of IU’s theatrical performances (before the
Auditorium was built). The stage in Alumni Hall is just the front door to the maze of outdated dressing rooms and neglected stairwells.
5. Memorial Room
The room outside Starbucks, which many students surely mistake for a chapel, hosts the two oldest artifacts in the building: two stained glass windows, one of which dates back to 1920 and was donated from Hoosier novelist Booth Tarkington’s home. At the heart of the Memorial Room is the Golden Book that records the names of the men and women of IU who served in the wars of the Republic.
The Student Activities Tower eighth floor
The eighth floor of the Student Activities Tower, the summit of the Union only accessible via stairs, is home to the Fletchall Room and the Bryan Room. The Union Board used to conduct meetings in the Fletchall Room in the 1930s, but they can now be rented out to any student organization willing to make the trek.