Growing the Campus: 1850s - 1869

Much like for the rest of the country, the Civil War marked an important turning point in the university’s history and the development of campus. While the 1840 plan continued to guide campus planning over the next two decades, its influence became increasingly amorphous. At the same time, the visual continuity of campus slowly began to crumble as the architectural styles across campus continued to evolve. Alexander Jackson Davis’s original design featured the Gothic Revival style, which was abandoned by the 1840 plan, in favor of other classical styles, including Greek Revival and Italianate and Carpenter Gothic (Mayer, 59-60).

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This diagram from Aspirations for Excellence, by former U-M architectural historian Julia Truettner, gives a very clear chronology and accurate placement of campus buildings. Featured is the facade of the new building created by the placement of University Hall (1872) between Mason Hall (1841) and South College (1849) (Truettner, p. 113).


The view from State Street and North University Avenue in the 1860s, with the newly constructed Haven Hall in the foreground, shows the collegiate row envisioned in the 1840 plan beginning to take shape. At the same time the landscaping is maturing and a white picket fence lines the exterior of campus. A gateway at the corner of State and North University marks the main entrance to the campus.


Similarly,  the arrival of President Tappan in 1852 marked a stark change in direction for the growing school. Henry Tappan wanted the university to become one of the first and foremost research institutions in the country, with an emphasis on research and applied sciences. President Tappan was an advocate of the German style of university, believing strongly in the research component (Mayer, 28). In line with this vision, the majority of the buildings constructed during Tappan’s tenure were scientific in nature, including the Medical Building (1850), the Detroit Observatory (1854), and the Chemical laboratory (1856).


The original 40-acre campus is accurately depicted on this enlargement from an 1864 map of Ann Arbor. The completed buildings are: the nearly identical North Wing (1841) and South College (1849), the four professors’ houses (1840), the Medical Building (1850) on the east side of campus, the chemical laboratory (1856), and finally the newly completed Law Building (1863). One of the professor’s houses became the President’s House and is the only surviving building from the original campus.


Prior to the Civil War, the University of Michigan campus resembled the many other small liberal-arts campuses that spread across the country, small and classical in style. However, the war marked a stark change in universities throughout the young country. Instead, there came a shift towards larger universities, modeled after the German style of university, focused on graduate and professional education and research (Mayer, 58). Immediately following the war, the campus remained much as it had, but the ensuing decades brought drastic and unguided growth.


The image portrays a view of State Street row, looking towards campus from the intersection of North University Ave. and State St. It was likely the source used to draw the image found in the Map of a Railway Survey (1871).

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The depiction of campus in this 1866 bird’s-eye view of Ann Arbor is quite striking. It is a very accurate portrayal of the buildings, their locations, and even the placement of trees. The oblique angle of bird’s-eye views give the viewer a more lifelike sense of an area. At the same time, however, it tends to be a sanitized and idealized portrayal.


From the 1870s to the 1890s the University of Michigan campus underwent exceptional growth, far surpassing the anticipated needs of the university prior to the Civil War. Enrollment rose rapidly following the war and the university quickly outgrew the confines of the 1840 plan, growing from a small liberal arts college into a large Victorian Campus. Space was needed for growth, but the university was expanding so quickly there wasn’t time to build new facilities. Instead, existing buildings were co-opted and converted for academic use, including three of the original four professors’ houses (Mayer, 61). The only building constructed during the 1870s was the new University Hall, which was built in 1872. University Hall, in conjunction with the Law Building, later renamed Haven Hall, and South College, established the strong State Street row proposed by Alexander Jackson Davis in his original plan for campus. The latter half of the 1870s was a period of mainly remodeling and repurposing facilities on campus.


The inset illustration on the map depicts campus as it appeared in 1871, as well as a view of campus from the northeast.


This map shows campus as it appears in 1872, when the 1840 plan continued to guide the growth of the university. The map on the left shows the location of the Rumsey and Nowland farms, portions of which became the site for campus.

Unlike the recycling of the previous decade, the 1880s were a period of new construction and rapid expansion on campus. It was during this decade, as well, that the 1840 plan’s influence on campus growth officially ended. Emphasis shifted away from the State Street row, instead focusing inward towards the Diag and the academic heart of campus, the new General Library (1883). During this time additional architectural styles were added to campus, further disrupting the visual cohesion and plan of campus. During the 1880s seven of the buildings added to campus were built in the Romanesque Revival style, including the University Museum (1880), the General Library (1883), West Physics (1889) and Tappan Hall (1894).  Whereas, as recently as the previous decade, the Carpenter Gothic style had been utilized in the construction of the Pavillion Hospital (1876) and the College of Dental Surgery (1879) (Mayer, 61).


University Hall was sited according to the 1840 plan, but was not built until 1872. Together with Mason Hall and South College, University Hall fortified the State Street row, a concept later abandoned by the university in the coming decades.

One factor that had profound impact on the development of campus throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century was the appointment of James Burrill Angell as president in 1871. President Angell did not believe in the visual importance of campus or the “bricks and mortar” of a university. Instead, he believed that more emphasis should be placed on enriching the school through its professors and academic leadership. As such, the role of campus planning fell to others during his tenure (Mayer, 60).


This 1874 view of campus from the northwest features Law Building, later renamed Haven Hall, and University Hall, built in 1872, in the foreground.


A glimpse of the State Street row at the turn of the century. The iconic row was proposed by Alexander Jackson Davis in his original campus plan for the univeristy and it would not come to complete fruition until 1872 with the addition of University Hall. 

Growing without a plan

Throughout the country, the second half of the nineteenth century was a period of “growth, creativity, dynamism, and increasing sophistication, but it was also a period of rough-and-tumble opportunism - the heyday of laissez-faire, every-man-for-himself capitalism and the great age of the individual” (Mayer, 58-59). City planning fell out of favor, with momentary needs outweighing guidance from existing plans. As cities that had outgrown their old plans discarded them and began building, buildings were constructed without consideration of a larger plan or concept for the city. Vistas were destroyed and parks were turned into construction sites (Mayer, 59). Similarly, these national trends played out on the campus level as well.

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This set of campus views in 1881 shows the immense growth of the University. University Hall, built between the North and South Wings and completed in 1872, is the most significant new building. The University Museum (1880) and Law Building (1863) join University Hall along collegiate row. The Professor’s Monument (1846) was originally located to the north of the Medical Building, but is now located near the southeast corner of Hatcher Library.


At the University of Michigan, the importance of campus planning had fallen from favor as well. President Angell chose to focus on enriching the university academically and disregarded any plans for campus development. By the 1880s the original plan for the development of campus had been discarded and the focus shifted inward towards the Diag and the heart of campus. While there were no plans guiding the growth of campus during this time, there were those on campus who saw the importance of such plans and carefully considered the siting of new buildings. In fact, with no plan to guide them, the placement of new buildings was done pragmatically, accounting for the requirements of the facility and any academic relationships to other buildings.  The General Library was placed at the heart of the original forty-acre campus, new engineering and medical facilities were added close to the Engineering College and old Medical School, respectively (Mayer, 65-66). One disadvantage of this period of rapid growth was the varying architectural styles utilized. The architectural diversity of campus meant that it would be impossible to embrace one singular style for the design of campus.


The dominant ‘collegiate row’ is clearly visible in this 1880 view. It includes the new University Hall (1872), which joined South College and Mason Hall together creating a building similar to the 1840 plan, as well as the University Museum (1880).

It would not be until the Columbian Exposition in 1893 before planning resumed its previous prestige within the nation’s collective consciousness. The world’s fair reminded people of the benefits of a planned environment and launched the City Beautiful movement across the country and across college campuses (Mayer, 59).


This wonderful birds-eye view of Ann Arbor gives one a real sense of how the area looked in 1890. It is particularly informative with its photos of several buildings and indexing of seventy-six of them throughout the city. 


This bird’s-eye view from 1890 depicts the shift away from the row on State Street as the focal point of campus. The completion of the General Library (1883) in the center of campus and the addition of engineering and physics buildings on the east and south sides transformed the campus nearer to what we know today. Note that many of the buildings began to face inward and away from the surrounding streets.

The Library

As the university continued to grow throughout the nineteenth century, so to did the university’s need for a general library. Leading up to this point, the library’s holdings had been housed in Haven Hall and the Law School, until funding could be approved for a new building. After much debate over the siting and a competition to select the architects, the architectural firm Ware and Van Brunt won the commission. In 1883 the General Library was built in the Romanesque Revival style at the center of campus. The placement of the library at the heart of the original forty acres was the first derivation from the 1840 campus plan, turning the external focus of campus away from State Street Row and inward towards the Diag and the academic core of the university (Mayer, 64).


By 1880, the library became so crowded it caused “great inconvenience and discomfort to both students and faculty." The legislature earmarked $100,000 for a new library and art gallery building completed in 1883. The new library held around 44,000 volumes, with a capacity of 80,000 (Duderstadt p.44). The color on this plan does not accurately reflect how the library appeared when completed.

The General Library featured a rounded reading at the north end of the building, while the southern and rectangular end housed the stacks. Another notable feature of the library was the presence of two towers, one which housed a set of bells donated by E.C. Hegeler, J.J. Hagerman, and Andrew Dickson White (Mayer, 65). By the early part of the twentieth century, the library had outgrown its home and was demolished in 1918 to make way for the new General Library, which was built on the same spot. The new General Library, later renamed the Harlan Hatcher Library, opened in 1920 and to this day the library continues to sit at the academic heart of campus.


The 1883 General Library was sited near the center of the campus, facing onto what would eventually become central open space. The siting was appropriate, but was not anticipated in the 1840 plan.

Cobb Plan (1898)

Henry Ives Cobb was first approached in 1895 about designing a new art building for the University of Michigan. However, after examining the layout of the existing campus Cobb determined that it would be impossible to design such a building without first knowing where the new building would be built. Additionally, Cobb felt that in order to determine the site of the building, he would need to take into consideration the entire campus (Mayer, p. 68). So a plan of the existing campus, seen below, was drawn up and sent to Cobb. He drew two different designs for the new art building, and the drawings were used to raise funds for the art building. In the process, though, Cobb was authorized by the regents to create a new proposal for the organization of campus (Mayer, p. 69).


This map of the university, drawn specifically for Henry Ives Cobb, gave Cobb an up-to-date and accurate map of campus to help site Alumni Memorial Hall. The university hired Cobb to create architectural drawings for it and was eventually asked to prepare a plan for campus. This map of the campus, as it existed in 1897, was prepared in conjunction with H. I. Cobb’s effort to develop a master plan. The disorganized pattern of building placement of the latter part of the nineteenth-century is evident in this drawing (Mayer, 70).

When Cobb delivered his master plan to the regents, there were three distinct deviations from previous ones, including the most recent from 1840. Cobb’s plan was the first to deal with the entire 40 acres as a whole, rather than dividing it into zones, which had been done in the past. Secondly, Cobb introduced the idea of a central open square whose main access was via North University Avenue, much like Ingalls Mall today. Additionally, Cobb wanted all the buildings surrounding the central open space to have a second inward-facing orientation as well (Mayer, 70). Sadly, Cobb’s spaces were not well defined and the Diag became de-emphasized. His idea for a northern entrance to the Diag did eventually allow for the expansion and inclusion of Ingalls Mall as part of Central Campus.


Cobb's master plan for campus includes both existing and proposed buildings. In his plan for the university, the key buildings went from focusing on the State Street row towards an inward-oriented quadrangle that became the current Diag. This plan was never enacted.

Lorch Plan (1907) and the Diag

As the university continued to grow beyond State Street Row, without any set plan or real organization, the regents created the Committee on Location of Buildings in 1907.  The new committee was to accommodate the siting of the new Alumni Memorial Hall and other buildings. The committee was composed of regents, faculty, and architects. Emil Lorch, though an architecture professor at the time, was not selected to be part of the committee, but instead served as secretary (Mayer, p. 80).

In 1907, before the committee met, Lorch drew up a plan for campus and presented it to the group, but the plan was never submitted to the regents and therefore was never formally adopted. While his proposal was never official used, it did strongly influenced subsequent plans, including the siting and design of several buildings, such as the West Engineering and Kraus buildings. Additionally, concepts defined by Lorch are evident in every campus plan prepared since, including the creation of a new mall, which became Ingalls Mall (Mayer, 80-82).


The map on the left outlines Lorch’s proposed changes to campus, with existing buildings shaded in dark and and proposed buildings shaded in with lines. The map on the right shows the existing buildings in 1906, some of which Lorch planned to remove to make way for other buildings on his proposed map of campus.

Emil Lorch drew these artistic renderings of campus in 1906. Lorch’s proposal had three distinguishing features. After Cobb’s de-emphasis of the Diag, Lorch highlighted the historical and functional importance of the Diag and suggested lining it with trees to further strengthen its permanence. He, also, advocated a central mall on the same axis as the library, even extending it over North University and placing the proposed Hill Auditorium at the northern terminus of this mall. The third element of Lorch’s plan was the creation of a central shady square at the heart of the campus (Mayer, p. 82).

One of the downsides of Lorch’s plan was that it only dealt with the 40 acres and did not adequately address the areas outside the original campus. Additionally, other members of the committee objected to Lorch’s placement of Hill Auditorium and it was due to the conflict that Lorch’s plan was not submitted to the regents until the fall of 1911 (Mayer, p. 82).



Sketch showing Dean Lorch's proposal for re-siting Hill Auditorium to the central axis of the Ingalls mall.


Richard Rummell’s 1907 view of campus is from the perspective of one looking from the top of the yet unbuilt Michigan Union. From this perspective, the viewer can see every building on campus. Collegiate, or State Street, row is at the forefront, and yet the growth of campus away from State St. is also evident. Alumni Memorial Hall, now the U-M Museum of Art, figures prominently, yet its depiction comes from an earlier plan that wasn’t used. The building itself wasn’t completed until 1910. U-M architecture professor William LeBaron Jenney, credited with the first skyscraper, designed the University Museum (1880) situated next door. It was placed in accordance with the 1840 plan and mirrors the placement of Haven Hall, also referred to as the Law Building (1863), on the opposite end of University Hall. A striking element here is the number of mature trees, the result of the intense planting efforts led by Prof. A.D. White before the Civil War.

The Burton Plan (1921) and Expansion in the 1920s

During the early decades of the twentieth century campus continued to grow, first under President Harry Burns Hutchins (1909-1920) and later President Marion Leroy Burton (1920- 1925). None of the previous plans could have anticipated the building boom that took place in the 1920’s under President Marion Leroy Burton and it became increasingly more apparent that a new plan was needed to codify the expansion.



Newly arrived President Burton worked with a special committee of three regents in 1920 to create a building plan showing the University's needs. This map was part of the university's 1921 request to the legislature. The Burton plan would shape campus development for the next thirty years (Mayer, p. 193).


This map of campus orients the north to the left and notes buildings that are fireproof or non-fireproof, under plan or construction, and planned for the future construction. The map was likely created just after the Burton Plan (1921) and contains many of the same suggested buildings.

Burton accomplished much during his very brief tenure at the university, including reinstating a visual order to campus and integrating the new official master planning function into the administrative structure. With the creation of the Comprehensive Building Program, all plans now had to receive approval from the regents, so Burton’s in 1921 was the first to be formally adopted and implemented since the 1840 plan (Mayer, 101-102).


This hand-drawn map of the current, under construction, and future buildings on campus in 1923 is a draft version for At One Glance, the University of Michigan and its Needs. It illustrates the financial needs and future planning of campus and provides background information for current and future buildings. The 1921 Burton plan influenced this stage of campus expansion.


The regents used this map of campus from 1923 as part of a formal request of $7,277,000 from the Michigan legislature. It highlights currents buildings, those under construction, and those the university hoped to obtain funding to build. In requesting these funds, the plan highlighted the rationale and price for each building the university hoped to construct. Only $3,800,000 was approved (Mayer, p. 99).

The Burton plan dramatically expanded campus beyond the original 40 acres given by the Ann Arbor Land Company. It defined the mall concept for the northern expansion, proposed a strongly defined central open space and the use of walking paths to link various parts of campus. It also saw the Beaux Art style spread widely across the campus (p. 102). Unfortunately, President Burton died unexpectedly in 1925, but his plan effectively continued to guide development until the 1950s.


The university hired the landscape architecture firm Pitkin and Mott in 1923 to assist with campus planning and create landscape plans for the Clements Library (1923) and other new buildings on campus. One especially interesting feature of this plan is the diagonal mall connecting the Central Campus to the University Hospital, then under construction. It would open in 1925. Just north of the center of the diagonal is a proposed outdoor theater built into the steep contours of the "cat hole." The scope of this campus plan expands beyond the original central 40 acres (Mayer, 179).


This aerial photo shows the Michigan campus from the east as it appeared in 1923. Angell Hall, the Clements Library, the East Engineering Building, Randall Laboratory, and the East Medical Building are all in various stages of construction.


This view of campus looks towards the northwest. The nearly completed Clements Library is visible in the foreground, with the new General Library building (1920), and Angell Hall under construction in the background.


Despite Angell Hall's large size, its construction represents only part of the original design, which also included a campanile in the central courtyard. (Mayer, Fig. 5.17, p. 99).

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This plan by Pitkin and Mott, accompanying the 1925 legislative building request, shows refinements to the 1921 plan, including a more definitive plan for the Law Quadrangle, the development of housing for women around the periphery of Palmer Field, and a campanile on the axis of Ingalls Mall just south of Washington Street. The stars indicate privately funded projects (Mayer Fig. 5.23, p. 107).

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An updated Pitkin and Mott plan from 1926. The diagonal fill lines represent proposed buildings. Of particular note is the Women's League Building, which would open in 1929.


Bukovsky’s colorful view of campus in 1933 shows the recently completed Michigan League (1929), Law Quadrangle (1924 and 1933), Angell Hall (1924), University Museum (1928), and C.C. Little Science Building (1925). University Hall is clearly visible behind Angell Hall and was not torn down until 1950.


Student Berta Knudson’s 1936 pictorial map of campus exudes a light-hearted tone with the BMOC (Big Man on Campus) and BWOC (Big Woman on Campus) as a skeleton and ghost respectively, winter sports in the Arb, and couples necking at the “Necumenical Evenings.” Humor aside, the map depicts an accurate placement of buildings in 1936, even if the portrayal of their facades is not quite faithful.

The Proposed Music School

One of the projects that President Burton championed during his tenure was the raising of funds for a bell tower. Unfortunately, he died before the tower was constructed and it was decided that the tower would be built as a memorial to him. Working with Albert Kahn’s firm, it was Eliel Saarinen who first proposed placing the tower at the terminus of the mall and between the League and a proposed music school, to be built behind Hill Auditorium. When it came time for the final design, Saarinen was unavailable, due to other obligations, and Albert Kahn and Associates drew up the final plan (Mayer, 114).



Famed architect Eliel Saarinen created this design for the Burton Tower at Albert Kahn's request. He proposed the tower's location in the center of the mall, south of Washington St. and connected to the School of Music (proposed), as well as an expanded Women's League building. The present Burton Tower is based on Saarinen's design (Mayer, p. 114).

Kahn proposed a complex attached to Hill Auditorium, including the bell tower, and a music building. However, the university could adopt only parts of the plan. As the university did not own the proposed land, it had to be re-sited to just northeast of Hill Auditorium. Additionally, the proposed music school was eliminated as the funding went instead to the construction of the memorial tower with the promise of including music classrooms. Due to limited funding the height of the tower was reduced as well.


This view of the proposed music building, bell tower, and Hill Auditorium, with a new facade, was one of the designs put forward by Albert Kahn Associates.


Albert Kahn Associates designed new music buildings to attach to the north side of Hill Auditorium and the bell tower. However, only the bell tower was completed (Mayer, p. 114-5). Albert Kahn Associates was also responsible for designing the Newberry and Barbour Residence Halls, Randall Lab, Ruthven Museums Buildings, Hill Auditorium, Kraus Natural Science Building, Clements Library, C.C. Little Science Building, Angell Hall, and Hatcher Graduate Library.

1943 Plan

The rapid and unguided expansion of the 1920s demonstrated the growing need for a new plan to oversee the development of campus. With the outbreak of the Second World War construction efforts ceased, giving the university the opportunity to re-examine its changing needs and devise a plan for the postwar era. Two plans were created during the span of the war, one in 1941 and the other in 1943. Both were updates to Burton’s plan and those of Pitkin and Mott, and reflected the changing priorities and conditions of the University, including the increase in the student population between 1910-1920. The 1943 plan sited many of the projects in the postwar era and continued to guide planning throughout the 1950s (Mayer, 1118-120).



The University Building and Grounds Department created this detailed and very accurate blueprint plan to show the current campus, proposed buildings, and prospective property for campus expansion. Note the placement of music, fine arts, and theatre buildings near Hill Auditorium with the campanile and clock tower in the middle of the square in Ingalls Mall (Mayer p. 92).


This 1929 map of the central campus area provides a straightforward depiction of campus. Just as interesting is the identification of nearby businesses.


In this 1937 aerial view, both the old and new are visible in this aerial photograph of campus. University Hall, the Museum's Buildings, old Mason Hall, and others are still visible. The Burton Memorial Tower was completed in 1936 and an elevator or crane is visible in front of it.


Of note in this aerial photograph from the 1930s is the Law Quadrangle in its final stages of construction. Recently completed buildings include the University Museum (1928), Women's League (1929), Lorch Hall (1929), and University Elementary School (1929).


These concise comparative maps illustrate the growth of campus from 1840 to 1940 and include student enrollment figures. The largest increase in student population during that period occurred between 1910-1920.


In 1943, the University submitted a report to the governor of Michigan, outlining the University’s needs for expansion. This plan is a variation of the map submitted as part of that report. It is a compilation and update of the Burton and Pitkin and Mott plans of campus, and this revised version guided post-war campus growth for the next 10 years. It is color-coded to distinguish buildings by discipline and diagonal lines denote existing buildings (Mayer, p. 118).


This aerial photo shows the central 40 acres from the west as it appeared in 1942. It is a blend of the twentieth- century buildings, such as Angell Hall, the library, and the Natural Sciences buildings, with older nineteenth- century buildings, such as University Hall, Haven Hall, Barbour and Waterman Gymnasiums, and the Engineering Shops Building. (Mayer, Fig. 5.34, p. 119).


This map was originally published as part of the University of Michigan Plant and Personnel Protection Organization during the early years of World War II by the War Board Plant and Personnel Protection Committee. They were responsible for creating and managing the university's emergency protection and coordinating with the local Civil Defence Councils.


This 1949 aerial photograph gives an extensive view of most all of campus. Alice Lloyd Hall and Business Administration Building are in final stages of construction. The Administration Building (LSA) was completed in 1948. In the foreground where there are currently houses, construction would soon begin on South Quadrangle dormitory (1951).

1963 Plan

In the 1960s the University anticipated the student body growing to around 40,000 students. With this in mind, the university understood that a new plan that looked to the future would be necessary. Johnson, Johnson, and Roy were hired as consultants and in turn were given a list of requirements for the new plan. It made the campus beautiful and orderly while maintaining easy circulation of pedestrians and vehicles. Most importantly the new plan had to be flexible enough to meet the future needs of the growing university (Mayer, 132). The plan, developed in consultation with Johnson, Johnson, and Roy, introduced the concept of "framework planning."  There was less emphasis on architectural styles and more on community interface, walkways, open space, road systems, parking systems, etc. This new style of framework planning became a pioneering effort for campus planning across the country (Mayer, 133).


Johnson, Johnson, and Roy created the 1963 Central Campus Plan in close partnership with U-M faculty and planning staff. The group constructed a groundbreaking holistic or "framework" approach which developed concepts to be systematically applied to the planning process. The plan guided growth for the next twenty-five years (Mayer, p.133).

The new plan also looked beyond the original forty-acres and included the development of North Campus. Eero Saarinen, son of Eliel Saarinen, developed a master plan for North Campus, but only the design for the Earl V. Moore School of Music was used (Duderstadt, p. 275). The principles set forth by the 1963 plan and the ideas behind it are still influential, making the campus of today.

North campus plan designed by Eero Saaranin

Eero Saarinen designed this 3-D model in 1954, as part of his master plan for North Campus, which was not adopted. However, the design for the Earl V. Moore School of Music (1963) was used (Duderstadt, p. 275). Saarinen is known for designing the General Motors Technical Center, Bell Labs, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport.


Campus Areas of the University of Michigan shows campus in the throes of its postwar growth with, “an anticipated growth . . . to 40,000 students.” Much of the building expansion would be on North Campus which in 1960 already had several lab buildings, the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project which encompassed the Ford Nuclear Reactor (1957), Northwood Terrace, and a library storage building.

Creating a Campus

Wall Maps