History of Rensselaer Union
The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Union was founded on October 25, 1890 for the purpose of encouraging and promoting athletics and other student activities. At this time, students elected the first President of the Union, W.C.H. Slagle '92. Originally, with no home for the Union, students used the Old Gymnasium, located at the bottom of the Approach, as a space for Union activities.
The first official home for the Rensselaer Union was the Student Clubhouse. Beginning in 1906, students raised $3600 for this purpose. The RPI Trustees also added $10000 to help with construction. The Student Clubhouse, located on the west end of the '86 field, provided a new home for what became known as the Rensselaer Union, which oversaw the athletic, religious and social activities of the student body. It contained a billiard room, locker rooms and showers, a large reading room, a kitchen and dining room, and committee rooms. The Union's clubhouse was alive with student life activities, especially Grand Marshall events, which the Union had now abosorbed. The clubhouse also hosted the Polytechnic newspaper offices.
In 1932, a new clubhouse was erected between the Greene building and Amos Eaton and the old one razed. On the first floor was a lounge, games rooms were on the second floor, and the 3rd floor was a ballroom. However, in the 1950s, students started to find the building more and more crowded. Thus, in 1955, a proposal to build a new Union building went public. In March 1958, the student body voted with 79% in favor to raise the activity fee by $5 ($42.51 in 2017) to fund the student union.
The new Union building was completed in 1967 on the corner of 15th Street and Sage Avenue. Ample space to accomodate the needs of the entire student body was provided. It included a snack bar, a bookstore, a plethora of meeting rooms, offices, etc. The new Rensselaer Union was finally opened to students on May 1, 1967.
Today, the Rensselaer Union is a thriving hub of campus life. It sponsors club activities, campus programming, performing arts, athletics, and fitness opportunities for all members of the Rensselaer community. The Union is undoubtedy unique, and through its entire history, it has been student-run. Hopefully, the Rensselaer Union will continue to support new and exciting things at Rensselaer.
For more information about the history of the Rensselaer Union, check out the Institute Archives.