UMD Campus, Circa Early 1950s

The science building on the upper campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth, circa early 1950s. (News Tribune file photo)

It’s hard to imagine the current campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth as a vacant field — but that’s what it was until the late 1940s. The photo above shows the first building — first known as the “science building,” now the Chemistry Building — on what was initially UMD’s “upper campus,” an expansion from the original “lower campus” on East Fifth Street where Old Main and several other buildings were located.

The Chemistry Building was built in 1948-49 and was all by itself until 1953, when UMD’s Health and Physical Education Building — today’s Romano Gym — opened to students; read more campus history here. The photo above appears to date to the construction of that second building — looking from the construction site toward the Chemistry Building and beyond that, College Street.

Here are some zoomed-in views from the photo:

A close-up view of the science building / Chemistry Building on the UMD campus, circa early 1950s.
Homes along College Street and the Aftenro nursing home are visible in this view, along with the “Big Chester” ski jump at Chester Bowl in the distance.
Homes on the hill to the west of the UMD campus — the Brainerd and Mississippi avenues area — are visible in this view.

The science / Chemistry Building still stands on the UMD campus, though it’s now almost consumed by newer construction on all sides. Here’s an attempt at a re-creation of the original photo:

This is taken from in front of Romano Gym, looking toward the Chemistry Building — though the Humanities Building (among others) now blocks the view.

Here’s a look at the Chemistry Building from atop the Solon Campus Center — perhaps the conifer at left was one of the young trees visible in the 1950s photo:

To the east of the Chemistry Building, across University Drive, UMD’s new Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science building is under construction:

It’s slated to open in 2019. As part of the project, the labs in the original Chemistry Building are slated to be converted into classroom space.

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