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 nameCyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium
Address84 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0281
LocationNorthrop Mall, University of Minnesota
OwnerBoard of Regents of the University of Minnesota
OperatorUniversity of Minnesota Tickets and Events
Capacity2,692 (2014–present)
4,847 (1929–2011)
168 (Best Buy Theater)
Broke groundApril 30, 1928 (1928-04-30)
OpenedOctober 22, 1929 (1929-10-22)
April 4, 2014 (2014-04-04) (grand reopening)
Renovated2006 (exterior)
2011-2014 (interior)
Construction cost$1.2 million (1929)
$21 million (2006 exterior restoration)
$88.2 million (2011-2014 interior renovation)
ArchitectClarence H. Johnston, Sr. (1929)
HGA (2014)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (1929-1974)
Weisman Art Museum (1934-1993)
University of Minnesota Marching Band (1929-2009)
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 in honor of Cyrus Northrop, the university's second president. Various events are held within the building, including concerts, ballet performances, lectures, and graduations.

Northrop anchors the north end of Northrop Mall, a grassy area at the center of campus that is bordered by the university's 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

Northrop Auditorium was built between 1928 and 1929 as part of a major university expansion project. 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.[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. The Greater University Corporation finally submitted a request to have the plans drawn up in the fall of 1926, with a cost not to exceed $1 million.

Frederick Mann, chair of the university's School of Architecture, submitted a building concept that featured a classical portico with pediment. However, the amount of ornamentation and sculptural carving required for the design would have exceeded cost limits and appeared incongruous with the more understated buildings on the sides of the mall. Project architect Clarence H. Johnston, Sr. thus toned down Mann's design by making the pediment flat and by turning the roof behind it into a gable. Johnston borrowed some design elements from the portico of the Low Memorial Library at Columbia University for the revised design. The proportions of the frieze and attic, the Ionic order, and the count of ten columns matched those from the Low Library, but the monumental gable parapet had no resemblance to the library's dome. Plans were completed in February 1928, after much 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.[2]: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."

Northrop's grand opening occurred on October 22, 1929 with a performance by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. The celebration continued with a performance by the Boston Symphony on October 30 and the "Alumni and State Program" on November 15.

A sizable pipe organ was installed in the building between 1932 and 1936. With 6,982 pipes comprising 108 ranks and 81 speaking stops, it is the third largest extant organ built by the Aeolian-Skinner company in the United States.[3] The organ was removed from the building in 2011, but was restored and reinstalled between 2016 and 2017. The organ's return was celebrated with a pair of inaugural concerts on October 12 and 13, 2018.

Memorial Hall

Several organizations have been based at Northrop over the course of its history. The building housed the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra from the time of construction until 1974. The Metropolitan Opera performed at Northrop until 1986. The University of Minnesota Marching Band regularly used the building for practice until 2009.[4] The Weisman Art Museum was located within Northrop until a separate building was built in 1993.

After eighty years of continuous use and timely decay, Northrop was in dire need of rehabilitation by the 2010s. Planning for an extensive interior renovation began in February 2011. 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.[5] The renovation reduced seating in the main theater from 4,847 to 2,692 and greatly improved sight lines and acoustics. The new design allowed for a second theater space with seating for 168 to be added on the fourth floor.[6] Offices for the University Honors Program and Institute for Advanced Study, a backstage rehearsal studio, and a main floor cafe were also included in the new design. Important design features such as the proscenium arch and historic columns were preserved as part of the project. Memorial Hall, the building's historic lobby, received a full restoration.

Northrop reopened to the public on April 4, 2014. During the grand reopening celebration, university provost Karen Hanson delivered a speech addressing the history of Northrop and her vision for the future. Conversation with members of the audience produced a number of stories, including one about the ghost of a former stage manager.[7] The American Ballet Theatre subsequently rechristened the stage with a performance of Giselle. Since then, Northrop has continued to serve as a center for art, entertainment, and various university functions. Dance performances and university graduations are held in the building regularly. Lectures and concerts are also common. It further serves as a popular study space for students during the day.

Northrop was formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property to the Northrop Mall Historic District in January 2018.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Notable concerts[edit]

Other notable events[edit]

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 (January 1, 1996). Minnesota Architect: The Life and Work of Clarence H. Johnston. Afton Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0-9639338-8-1.
  3. ^ "University of Minnesota: Northrop Auditorium". International Organ Foundation. Retrieved 2006-02-26.
  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. ^
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links[edit]