Northrop Auditorium

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Northrop Auditorium
Grande Dame of the Twin Cities
Heart of the University of Minnesota
Northrop Auditorium Minneapolis 1.jpg
Northrop as seen from Northrop Mall
Full name Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium
Address 84 Church Street Southeast
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0281
Location Northrop Mall, University of Minnesota
Owner Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota
Operator University of Minnesota Tickets and Events
Capacity 2,700 (2014-Present)
4,850 (1929-2011)
168 (Best Buy Theater)
Broke ground April 30, 1928 (1928-04-30)
Opened October 22, 1929 (1929-10-22)
April 4, 2014 (2014-04-04) (Grand Re-opening)
Renovated 2006 (exterior), 2011-2014 (interior)
Closed 2011-2014
Construction cost $1.2 million (Original)
($16.7 million in 2016 dollars[1])
$21 million (2006 exterior renovation)
($30.9 million in 2016 dollars[1])
$88.2 million (2011-2014 interior renovation)
($93.9 million in 2016 dollars[1])

Clarence H. Johnston, Sr.

Tim Carl (2014 renovation)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (1929-1974)
Metropolitan Opera (1945-1986)
Venue Website

Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium (commonly known as Northrop Auditorium or simply Northrop) is a performing arts venue at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is named for Cyrus Northrop, the university's second president. Various events are held within the building, 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.

The building sits at the north end of Northrop Mall, a grassy area at the center of the university which is lined with physics, mathematics, chemistry, and administration buildings, plus Walter Library. Coffman Memorial Union sits at the south end of the mall, opposite Northrop across Washington Avenue.


Carlson Family Stage

An 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 serious interest in the project. Northrop Auditorium was dedicated both as a memorial to Cyrus Northrop and to the veterans of World War I.[2] 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 university's School of Architecture, submitted a draft featuring a classical pedimented 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 sides of 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 be included in the building contract.[3]:146–150

The inscription 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."

Memorial Hall

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.[4] Through the 2008 season, the university's marching band regularly used the building during the fall semester. The band now rehearses at TCF Bank Stadium, though it still uses Northrop for its annual 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.[5]

In February 2011, after years of functioning poorly, an extensive interior renovation began. Architects Tim Carl and Jim Moore of HGA engaged in a conversation in October 2013 about the process of renovating the building, which required retaining its historic character while making it a state-of-the art performance space.[6] The renovation reduced seating in the main theater to 2,700 and greatly improved sight lines and acoustics. A second theater space with seating for 168 was added on the fourth floor.[7] After work was completed in April 2014, the Institute for Advanced Study at University of Minnesota and the University Honors Program moved into the building, and a new cafe opened on the main floor. When the building reopened, Provost Karen Hanson delivered an address 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.[8]

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017. 
  2. ^ Millett, Larry (2007). AIA Guide to the Twin Cities: The Essential Source on the Architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul. pp. 128–129. 
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "University of Minnesota: Northrop Auditorium". International Organ Foundation. Retrieved 2006-02-26.  External link in |work= (help)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Nelson, Rick (March 29, 2014). "After renovation, Northrop Auditorium is ready to dance again". Star Tribune. Star Tribune Media Company LLC. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  8. ^

External links[edit]