Hubbel Dining Hall

Creating an area on campus for student living quarters separate from academic buildings was an idea Eliel Saarinen presented in his master plan for Drake University. Along with three new dormitories, a two-story dining hall was to be constructed within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges were constructed to preserve the beauty of the site and link the dorms to the rest of campus.

Hubbell Dining Hall opened in honor of Grover Cooper Hubbell, a prominent Des Moines businessman and Drake Board Trustee, in 1954.

The first floor contained a snack shop, soda fountain and bakery along with seating for 125–175 students. This seating area could be sectioned off into four smaller dining areas for student groups and clubs to meet. The exterior of this level was made in red brick, matching the exterior of the dormitories.

Two wide birch wood staircases on the east and west sides of the building lead up to the main dining hall. The main dining hall could seat and serve 400 students at a time with two separate serving areas. Because of the provision of large glass windows, students enjoyed a spectacular view north towards the pond while they ate. To help control the climate of the room the smaller square windows opened up to allow airflow. High ceilings ranging from 8-12 feet add to the openness and engaging nature of the room.

Stuart Davis, one of America’s leading painters of the time, visited Drake in June of 1954 to meet with Eero Saarinen to select a location for his commissioned mural. Davis’ painting, entitled Allée, measures 8 x 33 feet and was a generous gift from the Gardner Cowles Foundation to Drake. During his visit to campus Davis noted about Hubbell dining hall,

“I remembered the whiteness of the room – its ceiling and walls – the black floor, the blue sky outside those huge window, and the red rectangles of the brick dormitories.”

This observation is clearly present in Davis’ creative expression of the mural. The painting is now located on the second floor of Olmsted, Drake’s student union.

In 1966 an addition to Hubbell was commissioned to expand the building to the south, moving the main dining room to the new area. This new dining hall can seat 330 students and boasts several service lines. The new addition continued the same red brick exterior of the original first level of Hubbell. Large floor to ceiling windows were also used, mimicking the original dining hall.

After the main dining hall was moved, a coffee shop/student lounge utilized Hubbell’s second floor. Hubbell’s lower level is now the home to a quick sub and pizza shop and convenience store for students.

Throughout all the changes that have taken place, Hubbell still remains a center for students to gather and an essential part of Drake’s campus.

Text by: Eric Gudmundson and Emily Nitcher