3 Campus Maps From IU’s Past

In this black-and-white photo, a male student and female student hunch over a campus map to study their whereabouts.
Finding themselves: Students study a campus map at IU Bloomington, circa 1965. (Photo courtesy IU Archives)

Ah, the first day of class . . .

Asking directions.

Wending across campus.

Charting a roundabout course to a building you only vaguely remember from orientation.

It’s a freshman’s rite of passage.

These days, though, things are so much easier. Your campus map is Google Maps. And that flummoxed feeling of being lost is quickly relieved by the definitive campus compass, your smartphone. It’s all so easy to take for granted.

So, in the spirit of reliving the glory days—when losing your way could result in stumbling serendipitously on someplace you’ve never been—let your eyes wander these three IU Bloomington maps of yesteryear.

You might just find your new favorite spot on campus.

1902

This black-and-white, hand-drawn rendering of the IU Bloomington campus features an aerial view of the campus area between Seventh Street on the north to Third Street on the south, and Indiana Avenue on the west and Forest Avenue on the East. The map legend, labeled "Plan of the Indiana State University Grounds," is located in the bottom right corner of rendering.
(Photo courtesy IU Archives)

This campus plan, the work of architect Rudolph Ulrich, was designed with a number of improvements in the hope of awakening interest in City of Bloomington officials. Wrote Ulrich in a letter to then IU President William Lowe Bryan, “… if completed, [the improvements] could be used as a public park and be a great adornment to the university and city.”

While his proposal didn’t quite come to fruition, it’s interesting nonetheless. Noteworthy is the cigar-shaped arboretum with experimental gardens across the northwest portion of the map. Elsewhere, in the woods of the southwest area of the map where the paths converge, the rendering contains a rock garden and underground passage to a rocky cave. The latter features never materialized; the arboretum was eventually developed, albeit in a different form and location on campus. In any case, it’s endlessly fascinating to imagine the IU that could have been.

1930

(Photo courtesy IU Archives)

Artist Charles Ray Binford’s hand-drawn map accentuates campus’s characteristic features: red rooftops, an abundance of greenery, and perhaps most notably, the colorful student life! Binford’s lighter approach to cartography features doodles of stick-figured students golfing, marching, and dancing, among other goings-on. There’s even a bovine on the outskirts of campus, highlighting IU’s close proximity to farmland at the time.

1939

(Photo courtesy IU Archives)

Another cartoonish take on campus, complete with squiggly snapshots of student life. Can you spot the canoeing campus commuter?


This article was originally published in the fall 2020 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By
A. Price
A resident of the Hoosier state since grade school, Alex forged a friendship with “tried and true” IU upon becoming a writer at the IU Foundation.