The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies Building

One of the most beautiful and impressive of the University buildings is the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, situated on the north side of the campus at the north end of the Mall. This building, designed to be a center for the general activities of the Graduate School, was given to the University in 1935 by the trustees of the Horace H. Rackham and Mary A. Rackham Fund, together with a generous endowment which affords graduate facilities enjoyed by few other universities (see Part VI: The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies).

The Regents accepted this gift in September, 1935, in accordance with certain terms partly indicated below (R.P., 1932-36, pp. 683-87). Included in the total benefaction, which eventually amounted to more than $10,000,000, was an appropriate site, a building to be known as the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and a substantial endowment for carrying on graduate work and research. Administration of the funds and of the building is in the charge of a Board of Governors, of which the president of the University is chairman.

The endowment fund amounts to more than $7,000,000, the income of which is used for research projects, publications, and fellowships. The income of $1,000,000 is assigned to research on arthritis. Included in the above is the sum of $1,000,000 generously provided by Mary A. Rackham, which, together with an additional $900,000 from the Horace H. Rackham and Mary A. Rackham Fund, is allotted to sociological research administered through the Institute of Human Adjustment.

The site chosen for the Graduate School comprises the two city blocks bounded by East Huron, Fletcher (formerly Twelfth), East Washington, and Thayer streets. It was necessary to remove thirty buildings before actual construction could begin. Ground was broken in May, 1936. The cornerstone was laid on October 30 of the same year, and two years later, in June, 1938, the building was formally dedicated. After presentation by Bryson D. Horton, chairman of the trustees of the fund, and acceptance on behalf of the University by President A. G. Ruthven, the building was dedicated to the two great branches of learning, the sciences and the humanities. Smith, Hinchman and Grylls were the architects; the W. E. Wood Company held the construction contract; and Pitkin and Mott, landscape architects, laid out the grounds. The total cost of the building, including equipment, amounted to $2,500,000.

The building, which is 196 by 250 feet, is constructed of Indiana limestone with a granite base course; the window and door frames are of bronze, and the roof is of copper. The floor area totals 155,410 square feet.

The main entrance, on the south side of the building, is approached by a broad terrace of granite steps with flagstone paving, and planted areas at either side. The Graduate School is on a direct line with the University Library, and the area between the two has been developed as a landscaped parkway known as the Mall. Three pairs of bronze and glass doors give access to an entrance Page  1649hall, measuring 31 by 109 feet, with a floor of green and purple-gray slate laid in a rectangular pattern. The plaster walls are painted a Pompeian red, with a black marble base and trim, and the beamed ceiling is blue-green with stenciled decorations in polychrome and gold to harmonize with the gold and bronze lighting fixtures. Tables and benches of ebonized wood with blue-green leather cushions harmonize with three pairs of blue-green bronze-studded leather doors which open into a second lobby and from there into the main lecture hall.

The lecture hall is a semicircular room 100 feet deep and 29 feet high, with a lecture platform on the north and an arcade opening into the lobby on the south, giving access to six aisles which radiate toward the platform. Approximately 1,200 seats, upholstered in terra-cotta velour, are so arranged that one may take a place without requiring the occupants of other seats to rise. The floor is carpeted in dark blue, with terra-cotta walls and ebonized wood trim, while the flat ceiling is of a lighter blue with a pattern of overlapping radiating circular bands in gold leaf and polychrome. The unique lighting system is effected through a series of small openings in the ceiling which permit cones of light to spread over the room.

The elevated stage provides a speaker's stand, seats for eighteen, stairways to a robing room below, and a control pit for the public address system. Above the stage is a motion-picture screen covered with draperies, and, completing the facilities, a projection booth with equipment for electrical amplification of lectures, reception and transmission of radio broadcasts, sound on film, record reproduction, and television and microscopic projection.

On the east side of the building, on the main floor, are the administrative offices of the Graduate School, including a large waiting room, the business office, record room, and staff rooms. On the west are offices and conference rooms, the Graduate School Board Room, and at present offices for the Institute of Public Administration, the English Language Institute, and the Institute for Human Adjustment. These rooms have painted plaster walls, wood trim, and linoleumcovered floors. Two of the offices have walnut-paneled walls, and eight are carpeted. At each end of the entrance hall are checkrooms, retiring rooms, and stairways leading to the ground-floor corridors.

At either side of the doors to the lecture hall are monumental stairways of travertine leading to the second floor. Entrances to the elevators are on the landings of these staircases. The northern part, or rear, of the second floor is taken up by the upper part of the lecture hall, while on the south front of the building there is a high-ceilinged study hall 31 by 105 feet, with alcoves 22 by 40 feet at either end for books and periodicals. The study hall has twelve-foot wainscot of Appalachian oak, continued in a lighter shade of brown to the ceiling. The ceiling is divided by five great coffers in polychrome and gold, and from three are suspended chandeliers in antique green and gilt. These are supplemented by lamps on the study tables. The large study tables and chairs of oak harmonize with the wood wainscot. An abundance of natural light is afforded by five large windows which open toward the Mall.

The second floor has a circular foyer twenty-six feet in diameter, lighted from above. The color scheme of the foyer, dark terra-cotta red and travertine, is continued throughout the corridors which lead to the men's lounge on the east and the women's on the west. On the north wall of the foyer there is a portrait plaque in bronze, modeled by Page  1650Carleton Angell of the University Museums. The following inscription on the plaque was written by Professor John G. Winter:

    Horace H. Rackham 1858-1933
  • Poverty did not embitter him nor wealth affect the simplicity of his life and the even tenor of his way.
  • His mind moved always on a high plane, serene and noble, and his vision extended to the problems of human suffering and happiness everywhere.
  • His broad humanitarianism and his pervading wisdom remain a living force, his memory a refreshing inspiration.

The lounges, at either end of the second floor, measure 26 by 69 feet and have two alcoves, each 17 by 28 feet, for writing and music. The men's lounge is furnished in rather heavy Chippendale and Queen Anne mahogany and walnut, with modified Georgian lighting fixtures of brass and pewter. In the women's lounge the lighting fixtures are gray-green and gilt, while the furniture is lighter Chippendale and Duncan Phyfe. Near the entrance to each lounge there is a small kitchen and serving room. Completing the rooms on this floor two council or committee rooms, approximately 15 by 20 feet, adjacent to the lounges, provide for student and faculty group meetings.

The east, south, and west parts of the mezzanine floor are taken up by the upper part of the high rooms on the second floor, while the north part is devoted to eight workrooms. In addition, there are two small but perfectly appointed lecture rooms, each accommodating fifty persons. The lecture rooms are carpeted and contain theater-type chairs, light-proof shades, and projection facilities. Trusses over the lecture hall pass through the mezzanine floor, and the inside spaces between these trusses have been adapted as exhibition rooms, the two central ones of approximately 30 by 52 feet and the end ones 25 by 47 feet. The former are connected by two doors in the separating wall. Twelve-foot-wide corridors, which lead to the end rooms, provide additional space for exhibits. The exhibition rooms and corridors have linoleum-covered floors and are painted a neutral gray; the walls are of wood covered with fabric to permit the hanging of pictures.

The third floor is much smaller, with an area only about half as large as that of the lower part of the building, the south part being occupied by the upper part of the great second-floor study hall. In the center there is a small circular amphitheater, sixty feet in diameter, which seats 250 persons. A laboratory table fully equipped for demonstrations can easily be seen from all parts of the room because of the steep inclination of the seats. Behind this table is a motion-picture screen with sound equipment, controlled from a booth on the north side. The walls of the room are of an acoustical material in medium brown, banded horizontally with bronze molding. The ceiling consists of a series of concentric steps which lead to an illuminated dome.

Also on the third floor there is an assembly room 63 by 26 feet, which can be extended by pushing back the folding cloth doors of the alcoves at either end. Decorations and furnishings of all three rooms are in a Pompeian style, with yellow and gray the predominating colors.

At the east and west sides of this floor are conference rooms 28 by 36 feet, carpeted in mottled gray, and with pin-grained oak paneling. The connecting corridors between have rubber-tile floors and plaster walls painted in a neutral color. These are furnished with settees and chairs and from them doors open to a large tiled roof terrace with deck-style Page  1651furnishings. Facilities for serving tea or light refreshments are available on this floor.

A basement floor extends underneath the entire building. Two inclined ramps lead down to this floor from East Huron Street on the north, joining in a driveway under the lecture hall. This provides a sheltered automobile approach for guests at social and other functions and parking space for the administrative staff. This part of the building has insulated walls and ceiling.

From the driveway metal doors on the south open into a U-shaped corridor, and on the north wall a small passageway leads to the robing room under the lecture hall stage. Rooms for heating, ventilation, and for other mechanical equipment as well as workrooms and storage rooms open from the corridor. The ground floor houses the Michigan Historical Collections, with stacks and administrative offices. The Collections occupy six rooms. Various other laboratories and offices also are housed on this floor.