Northrop Auditorium

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Northrop Auditorium Minneapolis 1.jpg
Exterior of Northrop as seen from the Northrop Mall.
Address 84 Church St. SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota
United States
Coordinates 44°58′35″N 93°14′08″W / 44.9764°N 93.2355°W / 44.9764; -93.2355Coordinates: 44°58′35″N 93°14′08″W / 44.9764°N 93.2355°W / 44.9764; -93.2355
Owner University of Minnesota
Capacity 2,700 (pre-renovation was 4,850)
Opened 1929
Architect Clarence H. Johnston, Sr.
Stage from the fourth floor
Entrance hall

Northrop, previously known as Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium, is a stage venue at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is named for Cyrus Northrop, the university's second president. Various events are held there, including concerts, ballet performances, and lectures. The structure was built in 1929 and prior to its renovation completed in 2014, had seating for approximately 4,850 people.

It sits at the north end of Northrop Mall, a grassy area of the core campus which is lined with physics, mathematics, chemistry, and administration buildings, plus Walter Library. Coffman Memorial Union sits at the south end, opposite the auditorium, across Washington Avenue.

The auditorium had been part of Cass Gilbert's plan for Northrop Mall dating back to 1908, but it wasn't until 1922, when Cyrus Northrop died, that the university took a serious interest in building the auditorium. It was dedicated both as a memorial to Northrop and to the veterans of World War I.[1] University officials raised $665,000 in student pledges, at an average of $80 per student, in a six-month period. It took three more years of fundraising and debate over the size and form of the auditorium before the project came to full fruition. In the fall of 1926, the Greater University Corporation submitted a request to have the plans drawn up, with a cost not to exceed $1 million. Frederick Mann, chair of the School of Architecture, submitted a draft featuring a pedimented classical portico. The pediment would have required a large amount of sculptural figure carving, though, and the amount of ornamentation in the design would not have fit in with the more understated buildings on the mall. Clarence H. Johnston, Sr., the architect for the project, toned down Mann's design by making the pediment flat and turning the roof behind it into a gable. Johnston borrowed some design elements of the portico from the Low Memorial Library building at Columbia University, which was designed by McKim, Mead & White and completed in 1894. The proportions of the frieze and attic, the Ionic order, and the count of ten columns matches those from the Low Library, but the monumental gable parapet has no resemblance to the library's dome. Plans were completed in February 1928, after more debate. The inscription on the attic was not decided upon until after the building was ready for occupancy, even though Johnston had requested the inscription so it could be included in the building contract.[2]:146–150

From the time of construction until 1974, the building served as home of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (today known as the Minnesota Orchestra). The Metropolitan Opera performed there until 1986.[3] Through the 2008 season, the university's marching band regularly used the building in the fall semester. The band now rehearses at TCF Bank Stadium, though it still uses Northrop for the end of the year indoor concert.

A sizable pipe organ was installed in the building over the course of three or four years beginning in 1932. It is one of the largest organs built by Aeolian-Skinner that still exists, although the exact size seems to be in dispute. A conservative count records 81 stops, 108 ranks, and 6,963 pipes.[4]

The inscription above the main entryway to the auditorium reads: The University of Minnesota: Founded in the Faith that Men are Ennobled by Understanding; Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning and the Search for Truth; Devoted to the Instruction of Youth and the Welfare of the State. (punctuation added for clarity)

Beginning in February 2011, an extensive interior renovation began. It includes improved sight lines, state of the art acoustics and a reduction in seating to 2,700. Work was completed in April 2014. The Institute for Advanced Study at University of Minnesota and the University Honors Program have moved into the renovated building, in addition to a new cafe on the 1st floor. In October of 2013, Tim Carl and Jim Moore, architects on the project, engaged in a conversation about the process of renovating the building, retaining its historic character while making it a state-of-the art performance space.[5] In April of 2014, Provost Karen Hanson gave an address in the new building in which she spoke of the history of Northrop in the Twin Cities arts scene, and her vision for the future. Conversation with members of the audience produced a number of stories, including one about a ghost of a former stage manager.[6]

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Millett, Larry (2007). AIA Guide to the Twin Cities: The Essential Source on the Architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul. pp. 128–129. 
  2. ^ Paul Clifford Larson (10/1/1996). Minnesota Architect: The Life and Work of Clarence H. Johnston. Afton Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0-9639338-8-1.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Ulrich, Paul S. ed. "SIBMAS International Directory of Performing Arts Collections and Institutions". SIBMAS - International Association of Libraries and Museums of the Performing Arts. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  4. ^ "University of Minnesota: Northrop Auditorium". International Organ Foundation. Retrieved 2006-02-26. 
  5. ^
  6. ^

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