Donaldson and Meier Architects
1910; Sandstone; Memorial
Central Campus; Corner of State Street and South University Avenue
Proposals for a dignified building to be placed on campus honoring university students who had served in the Civil War was launched by an alumni group of war veterans in 1864. This “society of alumni” began a fundraising effort and although about half of the funds needed for the building were subscribed, the endeavor faltered until 1903, when it was revived in earnest. A Memorial Committee of the Alumni Association was appointed in 1904 to solicit funds for erection of a memorial building, which would be devoted to the purpose of commemorating “the names of students and members of the faculty who served or who may serve their country as soldiers and sailors in any of its wars,” as well as housing the Alumni Association, and being a gathering spot for students and faculty. The regents of the university became very active in the project, and voted substantial funds to it, as well as agreeing to provide a site on the Central Campus. At this time it was decided that in addition to its primary role as a memorial, the building would house an art gallery, as well as the Alumni Association’s offices. Construction on the War Memorial Building was begun in September 1907, and the finally named Alumni Memorial Hall was completed and dedicated in May 1910. In 1914, a large plaque designed by noted New York sculptor A. A. Weinman, was unveiled which described the purpose for which the building was dedicated. The art collections fast outgrew their space in the hall, and in 1966 the Alumni Association moved its offices out. The Museum of Art, which had been created as a separate unit in 1946, then expanded to occupy all of Alumni Memorial Hall. The dedication plaques, which were removed during a 1960’s remodeling and placed in storage, were reinstalled and rededicated in 2000. The wording of the dedication plaque indicates the building is a memorial to university men who served in the Mexican, Civil, and Spanish-American wars (all the nation’s wars between the time the university was founded and the hall erected), but the intention of the memorial hall, as specified by its founding committee, was to commemorate all university students and faculty who served their country, not only in the past, but in the present and future as well.
Plaque: “This hall erected anno domini 1909–1910 under direction of the Alumni Association by the alumni and friends of the University of Michigan is dedicated to the memory of her patriotic sons who served in three of their country’s wars, namely two in the Mexican War A.D. 1847; one thousand five hundred fourteen in the Civil War A.D. 1861–1865; four hundred twenty-six in the Spanish War A.D. 1898. A record of their names and military history is deposited in the archives of the Alumni Association. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. Lincoln at Gettysburg.”