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Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197
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Historic Tour > Virtual Tour > McKenny Union

McKenny Union

McKenny Union - earlier
McKenny Union - present

McKenny Union (earlier)

McKenny Union (present)

Historical Name(s): Charles McKenny Union

Date constructed: Begun November 8, 1930 and dedicated October 24, 1931

Architect: Frank Eurich, Jr. of Burrough and Eurich, Detroit

Style of Architecture: A combination of Collegiate Gothic with Art Deco.

Original Use: A social center

Dates of renovation: 1963: eastern extension built and bookstore located in basement. 1992: further renovation.

Current Use: Student Union: social and meeting facility

National Register of Historic Places: 1984

President Charles McKenny

President Charles McKenny
President Charles McKenny  laying the cornerstone

President Charles McKenny laying the cornerstone for the Union

History: MSNC was the first teachers’ college with a social center. In 1924 President Charles McKenny proposed the idea of a Union to student leaders. That year the Alumni Association set out to raise $500,000. For the first time the university funded a building campaign by soliciting money from alumni. Later money was pledged by the Student Council and by the faculty. By 1928 the school had pledges for $350,000 but the because of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Depression, the school had only collected $130,000 in cash by 1930. Construction was begun in 1931 with a reduced, and therefore less expensive, plan. Difficulties in paying bonds on the building lead the state to take control in 1937, drawing the cost of the debts from the student programming fees.

Despite these funding difficulties the building was a pleasant structure. Architects designed McKenny in the Collegiate Gothic style that was popular throughout the Unites States at the time. This decorative style took its inspiration from European universities founded during the middle ages. Typically these buildings were built of stone or brick with stone detailing and arched windows. McKenny Union is special because it combines this tradition with Art Deco influences that were also popular in the 1920s and 1930s. As a result the central tower, a typical element of Collegiate Gothic architecture, has the strong vertical lines of Art Deco. Visually, therefore, McKenny Union fit comfortably within the college tradition, but expressed its modernity as well.

Inside, the medieval theme continued with vaulted ceilings and small decorative plaster shields. The rooms included lounges for men and women as well as a ballroom with “deep red drapes of Italian damask.” This beautiful building was named for Charles M. McKenny, president of EMU 1912-1933 and the man who first proposed the idea of a student union.

During the housing crunch of the 1950s, the third floor and basement of McKenny became student housing. Dorm rooms were set up for those who worked in the student union among others.

McKenny Union

McKenny Union - Addition

In 1963 the state allocated money for an expansion and modernization of the building. The newly updated building was opened in 1966. The renovations included an expansion to the east containing a bookstore in the basement, a grill and space for bowling and billiards. McKenny was renovated again in 1992, when the bookstore moved from the basement. The university also added space for a bank, mail center, and food venues.

Today, the barrier free facility contains 13 meeting rooms ranging from a 4,300 square foot ballroom to informal meeting rooms. 8,000 people visit McKenny everyday during the academic year. In 2001, feasibility plans were drawn up for further expansion because of this phenomenal visitation.

Location - McKenny Union


Location of McKenny Union (Click on the image for a bigger view)