Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the historic Holmberg Hall located on the University of Oklahoma (OU) campus in Norman, Oklahoma. Students across several generations have honed their skills as performers in this building and continue to do so today. They have gone on to become singers, actors, dancers, and so much more. Former OU President, David Boren even called Holmberg Hall, “an Oklahoma treasure and a monument to the importance of fine arts.” Let’s go see if this holds true!
*All photos of Holmberg Hall were take on the University of Oklahoma Campus in Norman, Oklahoma. All other images used in this article are cited in each picture caption.
History of the Building
“The Auditorium” was built in 1918, but was later rechristened “Holmberg Hall” in 1938 to honor Fredrik Holmberg. He was the first Dean of the College of Fine Arts and a Distinguished Professor of Music. Holmberg passionately advocated for fine arts education in Oklahoma.
The architecture follows the Cherokee Gothic Style, combining classic gothic architecture with influence from the American Indian tribes of Oklahoma. “Cherokee Gothic Style” was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright after he visited the University of Oklahoma. This style can been seen in many of the buildings on campus, but this article focuses on Holmberg Hall.
Can we take a minute to admire the turreted towers and the large wooden doorways of Holmberg Hall. I mean, the picture below doesn’t do the building justice. It truly is beautiful!
I visited the University of Oklahoma campus on a Sunday afternoon during Christmas Break before the Bedlam Wrestling match, so the buildings on campus weren’t open. But after reading descriptions from the website, I would love to go back someday and see the inside of the building! I can only imagine how pretty it is 🙂
From what I’ve read online, the inside of the building is just as beautiful as the outside. An article from OU describes the inside of the building as follows:
“Crimson carpet and cream walls sweep through the lobby with statues, paintings and unique photographs that showcase the impressive history of the building. A colorful mural anchors the lobby and includes an expansive frieze depicting a number of the distinguished guests to have visited the historic hall.”University of Oklahoma Website
Wow! That sounds absolutely stunning, but there’s more to the inside of the building. The performance hall seats 677 people and is the only European-style hall in Oklahoma. (For those of you wondering what that looks like – think along the lines of a European opera house.)
Renovations & A New Name
Holmberg Hall underwent a large renovation beginning in 2002 and was completed in 2005. It cost several million dollars – $12.2 million coming from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and $5.8 million coming from university funding. The performance hall was restored, the practice rooms were renovated, and a dance wing was added to the facility. Other parts of the hall were renovated as well including the stage tower, orchestra pit, and parts of the stage. Finally, The dome ceiling was restored to its former glory.
Thanks to the large donation, the building and added facilities were renamed the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center. But many people still refer to it as Holmberg Hall because that’s what it has called for so many years. Remember, the building was christened “Holmberg Hall” in 1938!
Famous Visitors & Notable Events
Holmberg Hall has hosted several famous visitors over the years – former US President William Howard Taft, Louis Armstrong, and many more. Keep reading to see who else visited OU’s campus, when they visited, and why they came to Norman!
Former US President William Howard Taft visited the Holmberg Hall in 1920 to give the lecture “Our Place Among the Nations.” This talk was a part of the Norman Chamber of Commerce lecture series. Taft had been the 27th President of the United States from 1909-1913. So, it was pretty cool that he visited Norman for the lecture series.
Louis Armstrong, the jazz legend, visited Holmberg Hall on a few different occasions. He was invited to campus to perform his famous jazz music – I would have loved to hear him play. I bet those were some awesome performances!
Bud Wilkinson the OU football coach received the national trophy in Holmberg Hall. Wilkinson led the Sooners for seventeen years and had a winning record. The University of Oklahoma football team won the national championship in 1950, 1955, and 1956.
David L. Boren gave his acceptance speech in 1994 when becoming the University of Oklahoma’s next president. Boren had previously been a U.S. Senator. Then in a fitting end to a chapter in OU’s history, Boren returned to Holmberg Hall in 2017 to announce his plans to retire as the President of the University of Oklahoma after serving for 23 years.
Did you know that Holmberg Hall celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018?!
Holmberg Hall is an absolutely beautiful building. The architecture and attention to detail is impressive. Swing by the building if you are ever at the University of Oklahoma and while you’re near Holmberg Hall go ahead and make a stop at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art! Read my post about that museum next!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
*Please click on image captions for links to photographs.