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Campus Life

Todd Union earns historic designation

Constructed in 1930 on the University of Rochester’s River Campus, Todd Union is a Georgian Revival style building designed by architectural firm Gordon & Kaelber. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The Georgian Revival Building, constructed in 1930, was a student center and the birthplace of the University of Rochester’s Gay Liberation Front.

Recognized as a “key site associated with Rochester’s LGBTQ+ history,” the University of Rochester’s Todd Union has been recommended by New York State’s Board for Historic Preservation to be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced the board’s approval of Todd Union and 12 other sites to be included on the registries. Significantly, inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places makes these properties eligible for various public preservation programs, grants, and services.

Constructed in 1930 on the University’s River Campus, Todd Union is a Georgian Revival style building designed by Rochester architectural firm Gordon & Kaelber. It was originally built to be a campus activity hub and included dining, social, shopping, barber, game, and club facilities for students, which were only men at the time of construction. Todd Union has an early and significant association with the University of Rochester’s Gay Liberation Front (UR GLF), an organization that worked to advance the gay liberation movement on campus and in the city of Rochester in the 1970s. Based out of an office in Todd Union, the UR GLF directly paved the way for numerous Rochester-based LGBTQ+ organizations that continue their work and advocacy more than 50 years later.

Two people seated at a table outdoors with a table drape that reads "gay liberation front" while a person seen from behind peruses at materials on the table.
An information table set up by the Gay Liberation Front on the University of Rochester’s Eastman Quadrangle in 1970. (Photo by Anthony Boccaccio ’71)

Today, the two-and-one-half-story Todd Union retains many of its original features, such as historic staircases, doors, fireplaces, wainscoting, window and door trim, and the post office boxes in the basement.

Inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places involves a lengthy process. Todd Union was nominated by a team of Rochester faculty, staff, and an alumnus and student. Planning and Project Management (PPM) in University Facilities & Services led the effort in partnership with the Landmark Society of Western New York. Contributions to the application came from Col E. Raimond, the director of LGBTQ Life; Gerald Gamm, a professor of political science and of history; and Melissa Mead, the John M. and Barbara Keil University Archivist and Rochester Collections Librarian.

Having been approved by the New York State Historic Preservation Officer, Todd Union will be listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and reviewed by the National Park Service for inclusion in the National Register. The Park Service makes its decision within 45 days.

Read more

Old newspaper classifieds section with a circled entry that reads Forty years out

In 2013, the Rochester Review chronicled the work of the pioneers in Rochester’s Gay Liberation Front.

Black and white archival photo of Todd Union from 1930.Course of history

While the Oak Hill Country Club is today located in nearby Pittsford, the course was originally built on what is now the River Campus—and its first tee was where Todd Union stands.

Crop of the masthead for The Empty Closet periodical with a stamp nearby that reads News from the front lines of the AIDS fight

Founded by University of Rochester students in 1971, the Empty Closet is one of the oldest continuously published LGBT papers in the United States.


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