Building the University Auditorium

View of the exterior of the University Auditorium

Submitted by Sarah Coates, University Archivist

The University Auditorium was initially proposed by UF President Albert A. Murphree in 1921. At the time, there was no one place on campus large enough to meet the university’s needs for an auditorium, and so President Murphree suggested a new multi-purpose building, which would contain administrative offices, the library, a museum, and an auditorium. The Board of Control voted to request funds from the state legislature to fund a 2,000 seat auditorium, which would be the first unit built of this new multi-purpose building.

View of the exterior of the Auditorium
View of the exterior of the Auditorium

However, the state legislature only approved $100,000 for the building, and when bids came in for the construction, the lowest bid was $171,000. The Governor told the university to start construction, and simply stop construction once the money ran out. All that was able to be built of the auditorium were the walls, roof trusses, and a composition roof.

The cornerstone for the new auditorium was laid on April 21, 1922. Construction began, and President Murphree was afraid that if they followed the Governor’s suggestion of simply stopping construction once funding ran out that the auditorium would never be completed. In 1923, the legislature gave another $38,000 for the auditorium, which allowed for a permanent roof and plaster and paint for the interior walls. The auditorium was dedicated on February 5, 1925, and the new Anderson Memorial Organ was played during the dedication ceremony.

View of the interior of the auditorium, with the Anderson Memorial Organ.
View of the interior of the auditorium, with the Anderson Memorial Organ

Over time, the auditorium fell into disrepair, as the efforts to complete the building were never realized. In the 1960s, bricks were crumbling, plaster was falling off the walls, and termites had eaten away much of the wood. UF President Stephen C. O’Connell stepped in to restore the auditorium, and the newly-restored auditorium was completed in 1977. Most of the original features of the auditorium were left intact after the restoration, including the gargoyles carved into the ceiling arches above the stage. The gargoyles, although they appear to be carved from wood, are actually made of plaster. The four gargoyles represent a cigar-smoking engineer, a football player, a musician and a scholar.

The footballer and engineer gargoyles in the auditorium
The footballer and engineer gargoyles in the auditorium

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