Time and Change: The Ohio Union, A Space for Students, by Students

By Avery DePaola on January 4, 2020 at 8:30 am
The Ohio Union, 1951
The Ohio State University Archives

Time and Change is a weekly series highlighting the history of some of Ohio State's storied traditions.


The Ohio Union was first opened in 1910, through local government appropriations, as a space dedicated to students at Ohio State. It was the first of its kind at any public university.

The campaign for a space dedicated to students was spearheaded by Aaron Cohn in 1908.

1910 Ohio Union
1910 Ohio Union, now Hale Hall

Only male students were permitted to regularly use the building and were charged membership fees. Ladies Day was held once a week for females to utilize the facility.  The main purpose of the building was to serve students, and as an event space for student organizations on campus.

The building was also used as a cafeteria for soldiers in World War I and as a think tank for the construction of Ohio Stadium. The building was nearly torn down in 1951 but since it was named a historic landmark, it was saved.

The building was renamed Enarson Hall and a new student union was built at a different location. Enarson Hall was later renamed Hale Hall in 2013.

In 1924, as more female students attended Ohio State, Pomerene Hall was built as a student union for women, with a 25-cent membership fee. In 1945, the women voted to allow men to utilize Pomerene Hall. The building contained a gymnasium, swimming pool, social lounges, and a dining hall.

Pomerene Hall
Pomerene Hall

In 1947, students advocated for a new student union that would allow both males and females equal access to the building. They crowdsourced funds, on their own, to make the new Ohio Union a reality.

The second Ohio Union was completed in 1951 and housed a cafeteria, formal dining room, two ballrooms, a library, a music studio, pool tables, a bowling alley, and offices reserved for student organizations.

1951 Ohio Union
Ohio Union, 1951

Uses of the Union adapted with the changing needs and wants of students, especially during the campus protests in the 1960s and 1970s. While the University was closed during the protests, the Ohio Union remained open.

Bowling alley within 1951 Ohio Union
Bowling alley within 1951 Ohio Union

In 1972, the Drake Union opened as a student union for those on West Campus and was positioned between Morrill and Lincoln Tower. It is now home to the theatre department.

Drake Union
The Drake Union

The facilities in the Ohio Union continued to deteriorate, and in 1994, plans were made to renovate the building, but the plan was struck down by students. In 2004, after overwhelming student support, the Board of Trustees moved to demolish the student union and rebuild it.

Demolition of the building finished in 2007, making way for the modern-day Ohio Union.


Remaining consistent with the original purpose of the Ohio Union, students were actively involved in the creation of the new student union. The creation of the student union fee subsidized the programming and upkeep of the new building.

Modern-day Ohio Union
Modern-day Ohio Union

In the Spring of 2010, the Ohio Union was reopened to students. It houses multiple dining halls, ballrooms, a theatre, printing center, bookstore, bank, meeting rooms, offices, and many study spaces. Renovations of Woody’s Tavern and the bookstore are ongoing.

The multi-purpose building is conducive to the needs of students and student organizations and remains the heart of the Ohio State student experience.

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