Iowa Memorial Union

Iowa Memorial Union

Iowa Memorial Union

What You'll Find Here

  • ATM
  • Dean of Students Office
  • Hills Bank
  • IMU Event Services
  • IMU Marketing and Design
  • IMU Recovery and Renovation
  • Iowa House Hotel
  • Java Hawk Express
  • Movie Screening presented by CAB
  • Phone Charging Station
  • River Room Café
  • Student Legal Services
  • Student Organizations
  • The Hub
  • UI Museum of Art at the Iowa Memorial Union
  • Union Market
  • Vice President for Student Life
  • Water Filling Station


125 North Madison Street
Formal Name: 
Iowa Memorial Union
Boyd and Moore, Des Moines, Iowa

With the close of World War I, student unions honoring the veterans of that conflict came into vogue at large midwestern universities. The multifunction building served as a monument to students who had served in the Civil War, Spanish American War, or World War I. It became the center of social life on campus, a place for students to congregate and engage in extracurricular activities. Over the years, the Union has housed a bowling alley, a nightclub (the Silver Shadow), and faculty club. The latter organization, the Triangle Club, gave its name—and triangular light fixtures—to what is now the R. Wayne Richey Ballroom. The Main Lounge, host to performances, speeches, and dignitaries over the years (from Frank Lloyd Wright to Vladimir Horowitz and from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Howard Zinn), is still the most popular such venue on campus.
The Union’s original building consists of the Main Lounge and the three-story block facing Madison Street. It continues the brick- and-limestone Beaux-Arts Classicism of the nearby Trowbridge Hall (1918) and Chemistry Building (1922). That design included a channeled base on the first floor from which rise Doric pilasters, paired above the entrance portal and in the slightly projecting end wings. Limestone was used as detailing at the entrances, along the frieze, in quoining, and in Doric capitals. Ornate floral carving surrounding the main portal celebrates Iowa’s state flower, the Wild Prairie Rose. The original 1927 project envisioned a threefold replication of the extant east façade and a great central pavilion facing south and on axis with the north façade of the Main Library. But that was not to be. Additions in the 1950s and 1960s extended the building to the south and west, adding a new main entrance facing south, a hotel (Iowa House), and offices and meeting rooms for administration and student organizations—all in a spare Modernist style of unrelieved functionalism. The windows of the hotel wing from the 1960s merely puncture the wall—a Modernist response to the ornamented Beaux-Arts building it adjoins. The rejection of detailing of any sort and omission even of a cornice impart an austere character.


The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Iowa House and the River Room cafeteria portion of the building are most easily reached from the entrance at the southwest corner of the building. This door is reached via a short ramp and is equipped with a power door opener. A second primary entrance is located in the center of the east side of the building and is reached via a 24 foot ramp to a raised plaza. This entrance provides direct access to the Box Office and the Campus Information Center and is equipped with a power door opener. The north entrance of the building provides access to the ground floor and first floor via the elevator located in the vestibule entry.
Accessible parking spaces are located on the south side of the building. Accessible parking is also available in the IMU Parking Ramp located across Madison Street to the east.
Accessible restrooms on the second floor are located in the main corridor outside the ballroom. Accessible restrooms on the third floor are located just outside of the elevators in the central hallway. Men's and Women's accessible restrooms are also located on the ground floor in the main corridor.
The building contains several elevators which offer vertical access throughout the building.