Upham Hall important part of Miami University tradition

History and legend make the building a centerpiece for campus lore

By Ellen Blevens

The Arch. The hanging lantern. The location. The history.

If one single Colonial Georgian brick building on the Oxford campus could define Miami University as a whole, then Upham Hall would be it.

Miami architect and designer of several dorms and academic buildings, Charles Cellarius, once commented that Upham Hall would be a gateway between the past and the future. Walking through the arch toward Bishop Woods and Patterson Avenue would be like stepping out of the past and into the campus to come.

The plan to name the new academic building after former university president Alfred H. Upham was widely supported. President Upham had held the position of Miami president longer than any other president thus far, for 17 years.

Construction began in early 1948 on the site of Percy MacKaye’s former poet’s studio. MacKaye had been the university’s poet-in-residence during the 1920s. Miami president Ernest H. Hahne and Dean William Alderman oversaw the laying of the cornerstone one blustery morning that winter. One year later, the English, math, philosophy, and air science departments established their residence in Upham Hall. Located above the signature arch was the Alfred H. Upham Memorial Room, a meeting room for alumni and visitors to the university.
The view of the Upham Arch as seen from the HUB

Upham Hall is shaped as a “U,” with its wings framing Bishop Woods. It contains four floors of academic classrooms, an anthropological museum, and numerous faculty offices. Upham Hall also has its famous arch.

The arch of Upham Hall has become a legend on campus in more ways than one. It has been the background for scenes in the movie Little Man Tate. The arch is clearly visible from King Library and brings more emphasis to the HUB, which contains the seal of the university. The lantern that hangs from the ceiling inside the arch has become a well-known symbol for Miami University.

Perhaps the most well-known story of the Upham Arch is the legend of sweethearts kissing underneath its concrete canopy.

“In terms of tradition, the arch is one of the best known,” former university president Philip Shriver said. “There have been many a Miami merger there.”
University legend has it that if you kiss your sweetheart under the Arch, the two of you are destined to be together forever. Many Miami couples have become engaged under the shade of the Upham Arch.

Today, Upham Hall is still the center to many academic departments, including the College of Arts and Sciences. Countless numbers of students pass through its Arch daily, oblivious to the history and significance this one building contains. Tradition. Scholastics. Architecture. Upham Hall is Miami University.

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