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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 is located.

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.

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We welcome your story ideas, letters, photos, notable events, achievements, obituaries and/or memorium.

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