Second-oldest University of Iowa residence hall coming down
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

After nearly a century of housing University of Iowa students, Quadrangle Residence Hall just saw its last resident pack up and move out.

As the spring 2016 semester came to close, so did the life of the university’s second-oldest dormitory. The two-story building, constructed on the west side of campus in 1919–20, will be razed over the summer to make way for a new College of Pharmacy building.

Keep a piece of Quad

University Housing & Dining will be selling a limited number of commemorative bricks, with proceeds going to a scholarship fund. Each brick will include a signed certificate of authenticity and a gold plaque engraved with an image of Quadrangle. To learn more, visit

The residence hall’s time has come, insists Von Stange, assistant vice president for student life and senior director of University Housing & Dining.

“Quad was an iconic building when it was built, but compared to today’s housing, it shows its age. Its narrow hallways and lack of accessibility don’t provide a welcoming environment. That said, many residents still loved living there,” he says. “Space on campus is at a premium right now, and Quad is a two-story building that takes up a lot of real estate.”

Indeed, campus construction is at its highest volume ever: Three new arts buildings are coming online in the fall of 2016, with a new children’s hospital nearly complete on the west side and a new residence hall going up on the east. It’s difficult to imagine what the campus looked like when Quadrangle was built. The university had only recently acquired land west of the Iowa River, and had plans to expand further in that direction. There was no Hillcrest, no Kinnick Stadium, and no General Hospital.

How much do you know about Quadrangle’s rich and varied history?

Black-and-white photo of Quadrangle construction
Quadrangle was originally intended to serve as barracks to house Student Army Training Corps recruits. This image, dated 1920, is courtesy of the Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs, University Archives, Department of Special Collections, UI Libraries.

Quad’s original purpose as military barracks

In an effort to grow its officer base during World War I, the U.S. War Department asked the UI to build a wooden military barracks to house training recruits in 1918. Then–UI President Walter Jessup obliged, but opted for a more permanent brick-and-limestone construction that could later serve as a dormitory for men. When the war ended before construction was complete, the building immediately became available to some 325 students. (An inner ring of rooms was added in 1925, doubling the building’s capacity and making it the largest men’s dorm in the country at the time.)

The building’s connection to the military didn’t end with World War I, however. The U.S. Navy rented the dorm during World War II to house its aviation cadets; residents included Heisman Trophy winner and UI alumnus Nile Kinnick and astronaut-turned-senator John Glenn. Facilities Maintenance staff say they periodically get requests from nostalgic veterans who wish to see their former residence one more time.

Employees serve students at the counter of the Quadrangle Grill in this 1949 photo.
At the Quadrangle Grill, shown here in an image dated 1949, residents could get a made-to-order meal or a candy bar to go. Quad also once operated a basement cafeteria for residents and a public cafeteria on the first floor. Image courtesy of the Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs, University Archives, Department of Special Collections, UI Libraries.

More than just students and military cadets

As the UI campus grew around it—including the Field House, the College of Medicine, and a football stadium and golf course—Quad was billed as “the very heart of student activities.” The men of Quadrangle took pride in their academic and physical fitness. They were known to have the highest collective GPA on campus, and a trophy case in the lounge boasted their intramural achievements.

Over the years, Quad also was home to the first residence hall government, a library, a literary society (known as the Quadranglers), a soda fountain, a short-order grill, a barber shop, a postal substation, a dance floor, a student-managed AM radio station (KWAD), and even the UI’s undergraduate advising center, which was located in the southeast wing before the Pomerantz Center opened in 2005. Until 1999, Quad also had a public cafeteria, which was known for its pecan rolls and strawberry pie and was a lunchtime staple for many UI employees and Hawkeye fans.

artist rendering of new College of Pharmacy building
A new building for the College of Pharmacy will be constructed on the site after the Quadrangle demolition is complete. Rendering courtesy of OPN Architects and S/L/A/M.

The beginning of the end

Despite its name, which was selected by vote of its first residents, the building has not been a quadrangle—with four sides of the building surrounding an open courtyard—in more than 40 years. UI residence halls became coed in 1969, but demand for student housing waned, and Quadrangle’s northeast portion suffered as it sat empty for several years. Instead of investing in expensive renovations, the university decided in 1975 to demolish that portion and focus maintenance on the remaining wings. That noted, several existing rooms in the north tower have long been unoccupied.

An uptick in enrollment in the early 2000s prompted university planners to eye the property for new residence hall development. There are even renderings and a mock-up dorm room, located on the top floor of Quad’s south tower, to demonstrate how a new west-side hall might look and feel. Although that plan didn’t come to fruition, the 10-story Petersen Residence Hall opened just to the south in 2015.

Quadrangle’s fate was sealed in 2014 when its demolition was approved by the Iowa Board of Regents to make room for a new College of Pharmacy building. That facility, slated for completion in 2020, will give the college a more modernized space for instruction and research.

Soon gone…but not forgotten

Submit a memory

Did you live in Quadrangle? Marketing staff members at University Housing & Dining are looking for stories to share periodically on social media, on the housing website, and at various events. Email memories to

Although Quad’s brick and mortar will be gone, a portion of the site will be reserved for honoring the UI’s first men’s dormitory, Stange says. The iron gates from the north and west towers will be incorporated into a commemorative plaza, to be located in the green space between the new pharmacy building and Hillcrest.

Cathy Frank Sherman, a 1977 UI graduate, of Seabrook Island, South Carolina, says she will not be sad to see Quad go. She spent her senior year there as a resident assistant, and recalls that the building seemed outdated then.

“It’s time for a new chapter,” she says. “Quad has outlived its usefulness.”