Behind the Gates

For some IU alumni, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Bloomington campus without the Sample Gates; however, the iconic landmark wasn’t constructed until 1987. The origin of the gateway is almost as old as the campus itself, but it didn’t come without a few roadblocks.

After Indiana University moved to its current location in 1883, students and faculty alike saw the need to build a gateway on Kirkwood Avenue as an entrance to campus. The classes of 1899–1902 established the Arch Fund for construction, but during the fundraising efforts, they discovered that Theodore Rose, BA 1875, was already planning to construct a gateway. The classes’ fund was instead used to purchase the chimes for the Student Building.

Rose planned to use the archways from the old University Building for his campus gates. He presented his plan in June 1904 to the IU Board of Trustees, but upon further investigation, it was found that these gothic arches would create too narrow a gate and block the entrance to campus. The gates were instead repurposed to create the Rose Well House in 1908.

Between 1932 and 1967, 10 designs for the gates were submitted, and the plan for what alumni today know as the Sample Gates was approved in 1968. However, in 1972, Benjamin H. Long, BA’26, who was responsible for funding the project, was criticized by the IU community for “wasteful alumni spending.” Disappointed, Long withdrew his financial support for the gates.

Talk of the gates died down until the 1980s when Edson Sample, MS’71, requested to fund the project in honor of his parents, Louise Waite Sample and Kimsey Ownbey Sample Sr.

Suddenly, the gateway project was taking shape, and the construction coincided with a previous plan to add landscaping, brick paths, and benches to the area. Finally in 1987, the Sample Gates were finished. At the dedication ceremony on June 13, 1987, then IU President John Ryan, MA’58, PhD’59, said, “The gates stand as a monument to those who have gone before us, to the work and vision of all who’ve helped to bring this university to greatness.”

Since their dedication in 1987, the Sample Gates have become one of the most iconic places on campus. Graduates flock there in their caps and gowns, and alumni return to get into an IU state of mind. Now, five new gateways join the list of iconic photo-ops on campus. These gateways mark the borders of IU and serve as official entry points to campus. The five new campus gateways are located at:

  • Dunn Street and the 45/46 Bypass
  • Woodlawn Avenue and 10th Street
  • Third and Union streets
  • Third Street and Indiana Avenue
  • Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue

IUPUI is also working on creating a gateway for the corner of Michigan and West streets. Thanks to a donation from alums Jefferson Shreve, BA’89, and his wife, Mary, BS’90, the Shreve Gateway will welcome all who come to campus. Composed of limestone, stainless steel, precast concrete and glass, the Shreve Gateway will mirror the composition of other campus buildings and will stand 52 feet tall.

Next time you’re visiting your Indiana home, check out the new gateways, and get ready to add to your collection of iconic Sample Gate photos.


The story behind the Sample Gates comes from the IU Archives blog post “‘A Coming In, Never a Going Out’: The Vision of the Kirkwood Gateway” by Carrie Schwier. Read more and see other blue prints: http://go.iu.edu/nQz

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Written By
Lacy Nowling Whitaker
Lacy, a Bloomington native, earned two degrees from IU Bloomington (BA'08, MA'14) and is a senior content specialist with the IU Alumni Association.