Fifty Years on Bonfire Hill
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 3, 2007
It was after the war had ended, when the majority of UNH students were
former soldiers here on the GI bill, before the university got its first
official student center.
The year was 1947 and the structure was an old USO building trucked in
pieces from Ayer, Mass., and reassembled on Bonfire Hill, the site selected
by the Board of Trustees after the first choice on Main Street across from
New Hampshire Hall was nixed.
Not everyone was happy about giving up Bonfire Hill, where the students
held pep rallies and celebrated into the night after winning sporting events.
But having a place to grab a bite to eat, play ping pong or just talk with
friends soon outweighed any concerns and for the next 10 years, the recreation
center formed the heart of student activities on campus.
The Notch, as it became known after President Harold Stoke offered a $25
prize to the person who came up with a new name for the center, had two
offices where student organizations could meet, a snack bar, a lobby and
a large function room.
Ten years later, on Oct. 12, 1957, during Homecoming, the brand new Student
Memorial Building was dedicated. This month, the MUB celebrates its 50th
anniversary with a week long celebration, Oct., 12 – 19.
UNH Archives photo
The $1.35 million building honoring former students who had served in
WWII officially opened two months later on Dec. 7. The Manchester Union
Leader had seven stories on the opening in its Dec. 6 edition.
Ronald Gourley of Cambridge, Mass., was chosen over 12 other architects
to design the four-story ceremony building that originally included a dining
room, ballroom, several game and meeting rooms, a lounge and the War Memorial
Room, dedicated to veterans. The lower level housed a radio station and
offices for the school newspaper, year book and student government. Plans
also called for the MUB to serve as a conference center for the public
as well as the university.
Gourley’s modernistic design featured a multicolored stained glass
window that formed the entire southeast wall where the War Memorial Room
Fundraising had started out slowly years earlier. In 1955, the groundbreaking
was held after a home football game and finally, in December 1958, the
contemporary building was complete finished.
The busiest area was the coffee shop and the cafeteria where food was
served from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Strafford Room was equipped with a production
booth and a portable stage and had an outdoor terrace for dancing.
There have been two additions to the building, bringing it to its current
89,000-square feet: the Granite State Room was added some time in the 60s
and in 1995, the bookstore, theaters and lobby were built.
Fifty years later, the MUB is still the focal point for student activity.
The anniversary celebration will include carnival events, a ‘70s
musical revue, comedians, live music, a hypnotist and a week of movies
through the decades.
For a list of activities go to www.unhmub.com/fiftieth.