Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project

Cornelius Gabler, Architect
1955; Concrete, Brick, Glass; Memorial
North Campus; 2301 Bonisteel Boulevard

The Michigan Memorial – Phoenix Project operated the laboratory building of the same name and the former Ford Nuclear Reactor (now decommissioned) as a memorial to the 585 university alumni, students, faculty and staff members who gave their lives in World War II. It is “devoted to the peaceful, useful and beneficial applications and implications of nuclear science and technology to the welfare of the human race.” In 1947, the regents appointed a War Memorial Committee to consider establishing a war memorial in honor of students and alumni who fell in World War II, and in 1948, approved a resolution to “create a war memorial center to explore the ways and means by which the potentialities of atomic energy may become a beneficent influence in the life of man, to be known as the Phoenix Project of the University of Michigan.” A committee was then appointed to begin a fund-raising campaign which ultimately yielded more than $7.5 million for the project and construction of a building to house it. All funds came from university alumni, students, faculty and staff. The building was completed and dedicated in 1955, and included a greenhouse for radio-botanical research. A plaque identifying its memorial status was placed in the lobby (see photo) and lists the names of all university persons who died in WWII. The Ford Motor Company subsequently donated $1.5 million toward the construction of a nuclear reactor to support the work of the MM-PP, and this building was completed in 1956 as an attachment to the north end of the Phoenix Lab. The greenhouse was turned over to the Buildings and Ground Department in the 1960s, and the Ford Nuclear Reactor was later decommissioned, although the work of the MM-PP continues in other forms under the name of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute. In 2013, a modern addition replaced the greenhouse.