aerial photo of Kiehle BuildingThere’s always something interesting happening in Kiehle! The Kiehle (pronounced “KEEL”) Building is both an historical and completely contemporary focal point for the campus. Built in 1910, it first served as a library and gymnasium. Today it includes Kiehle Auditorium, which is utilized by both campus and community groups as it is the largest performance venue and gathering spot on campus other than Lysaker Gymnasium. Kiehle is also home to the Development & Alumni Relations Offices, University Relations, Technology Support Services including the Computer Help Desk, Academic Technology Support Services, Media Services, UMC Printing, and UMC’s Music and Theater Programs. 

View of Kiehle Auditorium and stage    

Building Services, Offices and Points of Interest

Building Services, Offices and Points of Interest

The Kiehle Auditorium is a very distinct theater. The stage is flanked by a series of murals which were added in the 1940s as part of the Federal Work Projects Administration (WPA). They have been retained to this day as part of the building's historical legacy. Total capacity is 521 (334 on the main floor with an additional 187 seats in the balcony). Kiehle Auditorium

Kiehle Auditorium Murals: About the Artist

John Martin Socha (pronounced So - shay) was a native Minnesotan when he was commissioned by the Federal Government to execute two monumental murals for the Kiehle Building Auditorium in 1941. A nationally recognized artist of his time, his work had been exhibited and awarded heavily during the Depression Era and throughout the 1940s. He also studied with world renown Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

Well regarded by fellow Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists of the time, Socha's works have been known to be based on his interviews with pioneers, as well as his knowledge of important historic events of the region. The Kiehle Auditorium murals fall into this category, as they depict various epochs in Minnesota history, including a portrayal of what is thought to be the 1863 Land Cessation Treaty with the regional Dakota (Sioux), Winnebago, and Ojibwe tribes. The cessation map of this region, which is depicted in the east mural, would have included the area of Crookston Minnesota.

The murals were made possible through the efforts of State Art Director Clement Haupers of the Works Progress Administration. The paintings were considered the best works produced by the artist, whose murals also adorned the walls of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, the auditorium of the Winona State Teachers' College, New Ulm High School, St. Luke's Catholic Church of St. Paul, and St. Paul Park High School. Not all of those murals have survived to the present day.

Socha's work can also be found in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and many other regional institutions. As a muralist, he concentrated his efforts in Minnesota.

The murals were formally presented and accepted at the Northwest School of Agriculture graduation ceremonies on Saturday, November 7, 1942. NWSA Superintendent T. M. McCall noted the historical significance of the murals during the ceremony. Mrs. C. A. Smith of Grygla, a granddaughter of Chief Little Boy (a signer of the treaty depicted in the east mural), was present at the ceremony. Her daughter, Myrtle Smith, attended the NWSA.

Learn more about the Kiehle Auditorium Murals

Building History

Building History

The Kiehle Building was one of the first three buildings to be constructed on the campus of what is, today, the University of Minnesota, Crookston (UMC). It was completed in 1910. In 1912 the building was formally dedicated, named in honor of former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, University of Minnesota Professor and Regent, David L. Kiehle. Originally, the building held administrative offices, the library, and, on the second level, a gymnasium for the Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA).David L. Kiehle

In the early 1930s after the construction of the Knutson Gymnasium, the second level of Kiehle Building was fully converted into an auditorium and the balcony with a "modern moving pictures booth" was added.

The renowned murals by artist John Socha in the auditorium were added in the 1940s as part of the WPA. They have been retained to this day as part of the building's historical significance.

In 1968 the torch was both figuratively and literally passed from the last graduating class of the NWSA to the first graduating class of the Technical Institute. This ceremony, held in Kiehle Auditorium, signified the transition from a residential agricultural high school to a two-year technical institute directly affiliated with the University of Minnesota.

In 1971 the building was again renovated, and the Kiehle Annex was added. In 1976 the Learning Resource Center, now simply called the UMC Library, was built adjacent to the north end of the Kiehle Annex.

aerial view of Kiehle Building As a result of increased enrollment and a changing campus environment that incorporated the use of computer technology, renovation and an expansion of the entire Kiehle Building complex began again in June of 2001. The project, funded by the Minnesota Legislature in its 2000 budget, included renovation of the existing 22,000 square feet and adding about 17,000 square feet.

The primary elements included in the project were:

  • the renovation of Kiehle Auditorium and its stage;
  • remodeling the south entry to Kiehle, including accessible restrooms, lobby, access to the auditorium via an elevator, and an entry court;
  • the creation of an alumni center and relocation of University & Alumni Relations Office
  • expansion of music and theater support spaces on the second floor;
  • construction of a technology center to co-locate technology and related technology support functions into one central campus location;
  • development of a student technology center area on the second floor of the UMC Library; and
  • providing air-conditioning throughout the entire construction project space.

Note: Photo of David L. Kiehle courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Building Location Map

Building Location Map

Building Floorplans