Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


University Center Building

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Institution Name: Spalding University
Original/Historic Place Name: The Columbia Building
Location on Campus: 824 S. Fourth St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1925-1926original construction Nolan, Thomas J.
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: Bedford limestone; brick
Roof: none specified
ca. 1926-1929other (Knights of Columbus Hall)
ca. 1929other (used by Louisville orchestra)
ca. 1929-1960other (Golden Glove Boxing gym)
ca. 1936other (service club for WWII personnell)
ca. 1960-present (2007)student union
ca. 1960-present (2007)gymnasium
ca. 1960-present (2007)dining hall
ca. 1960-present (2007)administration

Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

In 1963 Spalding University purchased the former Columbia Building and has used this structure for administrative, recreational, athletic, religious, and cultural events. Many of these programs, such as lectures by Buckminster Fuller, Helen Caldicott, M.D., and many others, have been open to the public.

This graceful and useful structure was designed by Louisville architect Thomas J. Nolan in 1925 in a classic style in accordance with Vignola. The external walls are of Bedford limestone with buff brick trim. Interior floors and staircases are marble. The Knights of Columbus commissioned this building to serve as a center for their many activities. Thus, the structure housed an auditorium, gymnasium, bowling alley, ballroom, cafeteria, and numerous meeting rooms.

After the economic depression of 1929, the Knights of Columbus could not maintain this elegant building, so it was used by other groups. During World War II it was a Service Club for military personnel. It was also used by the Louisville Orchestra in that group's early days. Perhaps the best-known use of the gymnasium in the building was its housing of Golden Gloves Boxing events during the 1950's. It was here that Louisville high-schooler Cassius Clay (now Mohammed Ali) began to practice. When Ali won the gold medal for boxing in the 1960 Olympics, Cassius Clay visited Spalding to show his prize to Librarian Sister James Ellen Huff, SCN, his former supervisor.

For the past forty years this structure has served Spalding University and the civic community well. Of particular significance is the auditorium, which seats about 1,000 people in its main floor and balcony. The Spalding Auditorium has splendid acoustics and is considered the best non-union theatre in the Louisville area. This theatre needs renovation, but its fine proscenium arch stage and raked auditorium floor, among other features, make it well worth refurbishing.

I. Bibliographic sources:
II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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Last update: November 2006