Recalling pleasant things and taking the time to dwell on them.
SUI Red Brick Campus – The Golden Age Of The State University of Iowa.
Recently, while doing some research on the University of Iowa Digital Library website, I ran across a very intriguing campus map from the past…
On this campus map – which I’m proposing was drawn up in the 1970’s – the map’s creator typed in a phrase that grabbed my attention…
Location of The Red Brick Campus of the University of Iowa from 1865 to 1894.
It’s that title – The Red Brick Campus – that has sent me on a five-month journey, digging deeper into the facts behind this colorful phrase. So, allow me if you will, to now take you back in our time capsule to 1895 and The SUI Red Brick Campus…
Let’s begin our study with this beautiful sepia-tone photo of the SUI campus taken from the west side of the Iowa River around 1895. You’ll notice (below) that I’ve placed some reference numbers on the photo so we can align the major SUI buildings with the Red Brick Campus Map (also below).
Obviously, the name – The SUI Red Brick Campus – comes from the fact that nearly all of the twelve buildings on the 1895 SUI campus, save Old Capitol, were constructed using red brick. Sadly, most of the photographs of these classic structures were shot in black-and-white or sepia tones, leaving us to only imagine the amazing shades of red that must have dominated the SUI campus at the turn of the 20th century.
Only those few buildings that appeared on colorized penny postcards of the day, or Calvin Hall, which still stands today, offer us a glimpse at the red brick of these stately SUI buildings – all built between 1861 and 1894.
Here’s Sylvanus Johnson, Iowa City’s first brickmaker. Johnson was a Connecticut native who worked in his father’s brickyard before moving to Iowa in 1839. I like to call him Mr. Red Brick since it was his brickyard in Outlot 24 (at the corner of Burlington and Gilbert Streets) that made much of the building material used in the earliest days of The Red Brick Campus. His first bricks were made on April 15, 1840 and went into the construction of a boot store on Iowa Avenue just west of Dubuque Street. Click here to read more.
Another prominent brick maker of the day, Dennis P. Greeley, worked at a kiln on the north side of town and was a fireman at the Old Stone Capitol. In a September 1856 letter to Issac A. Wetherby – Iowa City’s famed photographer – Greeley reported that his friend would be amazed at the change in the city since his last visit, writing…
There are a great many Brick buildings going up this season – the place has altered very much.
Before I walk you through the list of all twelve buildings of The Red Brick Campus, allow me here, on these two maps – 1839 city street map (above left) and 1868 artist’s map (above right) – to show you the same area of land represented on our 1895 campus map. On these early maps, you’ll find the first four buildings of the SUI campus – three of which were red brick buildings. #1Old Capitol (1840) made of limestone, #2Mechanics Academy (1842) located two blocks east of University/Capitol Square, #3South Hall (1861), and #4North Hall (1865).
So now, allow me to introduce you to the buildings of the State University of Iowa in 1895 – The SUI Red Brick Campus. If you click on the picture or follow the “click here” link, you’ll discover more of the interesting story behind each of these classic structures. I hope you will enjoy our SUI Red Brick Campus Tour!
In 1900, new University president, George MacLean (1899-1911) picked up on President Charles Schaeffer’s ideas of a modernized campus and proposed a dramatic “New University” plan to eliminate all of the existing buildings surrounding Old Capitol, replacing them with three fine buildings similar in size and style to the new Liberal Arts Building (1898). In a letter to the president of the University of Oklahoma, MacLean wrote:
The overwhelming majority of universities have hodge podge buildings which are dropped here and there like ostrich eggs in the sand . . . at great cost, we are rescuing this university from these defects.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.