You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan Memories: 5 major University of Michigan buildings demolished over past 100 years

By Kellie Woodhouse

To make way for the new, sometimes you have to destroy the old.

The University of Michigan is engaged in $460 million in construction and has more than a half-billion in building projects on the horizon. The school is in the midst of a building boom that shows no signs of abating.

Aside from new multimillion dollar buildings like the new $754 million C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital facility and $175 million North Quad, much of the recent and current projects are retrofits and renovations.

For example, U-M is gutting the old Mott facility and creating a new neuroscience hospital for $163 million and renovating East Quad, one of the school's largest dormitories, for $116 million this summer.

Yet in the past U-M has demolished some large buildings to make way for new construction. Here's a look at some of the university demolitions over the years:


Rendering of the former University Hall.

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

University Hall

Dating back to 1871, University Hall held an auditorium, chapel, offices and lecture halls. According to university archives, it linked two pre-existing halls and was considered the university's signature classroom building, much like Angell Hall is today. The hall was located on the edge of the Diag near State Street.

University archives suggest the design and architectural safety of the building drew sharp criticism from the public. Due to safety concerns, its dome was replaced in 1896 and during the 1910s seating capacity in the auditorium was limited because of an ailing roof. By 1924 the building was obscured by the newly built Angell Hall and during the 1930s and 40s it was used as an administrative center. University Hall was demolished in 1950.

It cost $133,023 to build, according to the U-M Bentley Historical Library.


The former Kresge Complex.

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan.

Kresge Complex

The demolition of the Kresge Complex is most recent large-scale raze by U-M.

Approved by the Board of Regents in 2009, the demolition cost $9.7 million, partially due to the removal of hazardous waste, asbestos and laboratory items. The cost also accounted for site restoration, including landscaping and sidewalks.

The complex included three research buildings, a hearing research institute, animal facility, radiation therapy center and pharmacology building. Constructed throughout the 1950s and 1960s, it was U-M's major research center during the later half of the 20th century. The complex was located at the northeast corner of Ann Street and Zina Pitcher Place,


The old University Hospital was located on Ann Street.

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

University Hospital

The old 1,140-bed University Hospital, often referred to as Old Main Hospital, is shown here in 1925, the year it was completed.

By the time it was demolished in 1989 it had undergone several additions. The hospital originally cost $3.4 million to build, according to university archives. The new hospital was built in 1986 for $285 million.


Former University of Michigan Women's Athletic Building.

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

Women's Athletic Building

The Women's Athletic building was located at the south end of Palmer Field, near Mosher-Jordan Hall. It was built in 1928 at a cost of $154,000.

Designed to house a physical education program for women, it was demolished in 1974 after regents agreed to build the Center Campus Recreation Building and North Campus Recreation Facility for a combined $7.7 million, according to university archives.


Old University Library

Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

Old University Library

Demolished just 35 years after it was completed, the library tower held the university's clock and chimes and the second floor housed its art collection.

After an 1898 addition, it could hold 200,000 books. The library was built in 1883 for $100,000 and demolished in 1918, after being declared unsafe in 1915, according to U-M archives. The library was located on the Diag.

This article has been revised to note the library was located on the Diag and not near the Central Power Plant and that East Quad is one of the largest U-M dormitories. Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Kellie, I was a guard at the Grad Library in the 1980's and there are some amazing spaces and things in that building. There is a "half-room" in the old stacks, the door is about 3 feet high, and inside were thousands of Ph.D. Thesis. In the old building in the East Asia collection floor, there were original transcripts of the WWII Japanese equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials. There used to be a direct tunnel from under the new section of the grad that led to the Art Museum. Amazing place.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

There are some pictorial books on the history of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan out. Some of the photos taken go back to the 1870s. They are great references.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

The old Econ Building stood just east of the actual diag. It was a wonderful old thing. The fire of 1981 was a vicious act that destroyed many documents and other valuable materials, as well as many great memories. Some of the profs' papers were saved by freeze drying. Here's a link to a good picture of the building:

Wystan Stevens

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Oh dear, no -- East Engineering was never torn down. It still stands where it was built in 1923, but it is now called East Hall (just as the former West Engineering is now called West Hall). The Physics-Astronomy Building was erected in 1962-63, on the site of the former Tappan School, the city of Ann Arbor's old Sixth Ward public school, that had been acquired in the 1920s by the University (and named East Hall) when a new Tappan School (now Burns Park School) was built on the former county fairgrounds (now Burns Park). Haven Hall burned down on June 6, 1950. The Economics Building burned on Christmas Eve, 1981. Both were torched by arsonists. The West Physics Building stood directly behind the Clements Library, on land that is now a greensward between Clements and the Grad Library. It caught fire while workmen were tearing it down, in 1966. Luckily, West Physics was empty when the fire started; the conflagration merely accelerated its demise. Everyone appears to have forgotten the Engineering Shops building, which was torn down for construction of the UGLI (now the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. I personally regret the loss of the 1879 Museums building (later the Romance Languages Building), which stood more or less where the addition to the Museum of Art is now. After it was demolished in 1957, the bare spot went unfilled for fifty years. The former Detroit newspaperman Kent Sagendorph, in his rollicking 1948 history of the University, noted that campus wags had referred to the tower-capped Museum, Shops and Old Library buildings as red-bricked specimens of "the Firehouse school of Architecture" or "French and Indian Renaissance." (I don't believe him -- I think he invented both of those quotations. But I'm glad he did -- they are both funny and apt!)


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

You are correct about East Engineering, now East Hall still standing as well as West Engineering now West Hall. The Meteorology and Oceanic Science Department was located on the top floor of East Engin and the weather station was on the roof on the SW corner of the building with it's 100 foot high wind (anemometer) tower located there. Many of us students along with some of professors were up there the day of the April 1974 tornado outbreak, which spared Ann Arbor.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Don't forget West Physics which was next to the President's residence (I believe it burned down). East Engin(eering) located on what was once East University was torn down to make way for the new Physics building. Haven Hall burned down in 1952(?).


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

"...University Hall held an auditorium, chapel..." Don't suppose any of the new buildings going up will include a chapel....or mosque...or.....


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Three more that didn't get a mention are: Children's Psychiatric Hospital, Clinical Faculty Office Bldg. (old interns quarters) and the Turner Clinic (part of Kellogg Eye Ctr).

Mark Chou

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

"...renovating East Quad, the school's largest dormitory, for $116 million this summer." I don't think East Quad is U-M's largest residence hall. I'm pretty sure it's Bursley Hall on North Campus.

Kellie Woodhouse

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

Yes. You are correct. I've revised the text.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

I wish they had before and after pictures. What was there and what is there now. Wow. Those towers are so Ann Arbor. I guess Ann Arbor loved its towers because those towers are identical to the ones at the Childrens Science Center now. Thanks for the history. As for the hospital? I remember them building the new one and demolishing the old one as the new one was added and additions too. That thing is huge now.

Eric S

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

The location of the old University Library is completely wrong: It was where the Hatcher library is now. In fact, the central portion of the old Graduate Library stacks still stand on University Library foundations, with what is now the "old stacks" built around it. There's an odd little crawlspace among those foundations that is fun to look into if you know where to look. That's also why there are level changes within the old stacks. For supporting info, see, and also Those are indeed power plant chimneys in the photo background, but not for the current power plant. The original campus power plant was right on the diag, near the West Engineering Building. The new Power Plant was built in the early 1910's, in part for expansion, in part to get the power plant out past the edge of Campus, and partly to locate it where a rail spur (now removed) could run straight to it for coal deliveries. Like Chip Reed, I'm surprised that the author didn't mention the Waterman/Barbour Gymnasium complex.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

Oh, yeah, Waterman for registration! What a nightmare that was. The whole U went through there. People were lined up by name, six or eight across, the line running out of the building and on down toward the old econ bldg. You stood and stood and stood. You carried with you your "railroad tickets," big sheets perforated into cards. As you went through the building, winding all over the place, you kept coming to people who would tear off a card or two that pertained to their object, and on you went. Eventually, you would get rewarded by being allowed to enter the gym, where you got in line and negotiated your classes. I really mean, negotiated them. Once in a while you would be sent to another building for a permission or waiver, and run back. Very intersting, but a nightmare. TGFC! (Thank goodness for computers.) I have always considered Waterman as an early computer. I was sorry to see it go.

Kellie Woodhouse

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Indeed, thanks for pointing this out. It's been reflected in the text. Also, that bit about the crawlspace is interesting. The Waterman Gym was certainly a major demolition, but for this piece I limited the examples to five, leaving out quite a few other projects. Those who want more information on Waterman can look here: Thanks for reading and bringing such an fun level of detail to the comments. A few adventurers may now venture to Hatcher to look for that crawlspace...

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Don't forget the Pharmacology building, which was demolished in 1958. And of course the Economics building which was a case of arson on Christmas Eve in 1980.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

To 1bit. The Frieze was not originally a U of M building. It was the public high school. The buildings in the article were all U of M buildings from the beginning I believe. Yes, the university certainly supports the building trade and some of the buildings were not all that attractive but some were and it is too bad that we have to demolish ones like the old university library. What a grand structure. In addition there are times when the new building so SO ugly the new business school.

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

The Ross Business School is a pretty hilarious example, but remember, it is meant to be a "wow" space and to attract people easily impressed by big spaces, e.g. folks with MBAs and an eye on their first million. Never mind, that the building is totally inefficient and lacks basis aesthetic principals.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Kellie, how about the Frieze building which was torn down to build North Quad recently?


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

Doesn't count? Why? She didn't put any rules about who built the building torn down.

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

The Frieze building was originally the A2 High school so it doesn't count.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 10:56 a.m.

And where is the "atta boy!" for the university spending all that construction money locally, hiring local labor, etc. etc.? If it were not for the University building programs, there would be precious little major construction in Ann Arbor.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

I guess it is the Ann Arbor version of the stimulus bill but it still contributes to tuition increases at a time that UM is becoming inaccessable to everyone but the rich or those willing to get into lifelong debt.

Chip Reed

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

Other building include Waterman and Barbour gyms. They were on the Diag and torn down in the 70's. My friend Gerhard Schlanzky salvaged the hardwood floor from one of them for his loft in the New Old Brick, above the Star Bar, now also long gone.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

The was a big void on that end of the Diag when Waterman gym was torn down, for many years.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

What happened to the hardwood?