Eastern Michigan University Historic District
Eastern Michigan University was founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School, and it became a university in 1959. The Eastern Michigan University Historic District is made up of five of the oldest buildings on campus, all built between 1896 – 1931. The historic structures are Starkweather Hall, Welsh Hall, Sherzer Hall, Pease Auditorium, and McKenny Hall. The historic area is bounded in an “L” shape by Cross Street, Washtenaw Avenue, and Forest Avenue. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. In 2009, EMU was awarded a Michigan Historic Preservation Network award for its preservation of the university historic district buildings over the previous two decades.
Backstory and Context
Welch Hall was also dedicated in 1897 (just three days after Starkweather Hall) and was designed in a Georgian Revival style. Named after the university’s first principal, Adonijah Welch, the building was used for training classes for teachers. In 1900 and 1909, additional wings were created to match the growing class sizes. The hall suffered many years of poor maintenance and neglect and was nearly demolished in the 1980s. A $2.5 million federal grant in 1985 prevented the demolition and allowed for renovations. Today, Welch Hall is home to EMU administrative offices and a highlight of campus architecture.Three other buildings are included in EMU’s Historic District. Sherzer Hall dates to 1903 and was named after William Sherzer, professor of geology and head of the Natural Sciences Department for 40 years. Pease Auditorium was completed in 1915 for $159,000 by Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls of Detroit. The auditorium has a Georgian-style façade and seats 1,600. It was named after Frederic H. Pease, a professor of music. In 1924, EMU President Charles McKenny suggested that a Student Union Hall be constructed as a social gathering place for students. McKenny Hall, with its Art Deco features, was dedicated in October 1931. 1, 2, 3, 4