Gwynn Wilson Student Union building (John Parkinson and Donald Parkinson, architects) was built in 1927 and occupied in 1928. It cost $325,000. At the dedication there was a gala banquet, with flowers, music and formal dress. The banquet was held at the Social Hall, which seated 500 people, on Saturday, March 3, 1928, at 7:30 pm. One hundred and fifty tickets were made available for students to purchase at $2 each. The Trojan Little Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Harold Roberts played at the reception, and Harold Grayson's Orchestra furnished music for the dancing. After the reception, guests were conducted through the building by the Knights and Amazons. On Friday before the event, the Daily Trojan student newspaper featured several congratulatory advertisements by local businesses, such as Scofield Twaits Engineering Construction Co. (builders); Security Materials Co. (providers of cement, sand, rock, plaster, etc.); E. K. Wood Lumber Co., and others.
This building was one of the six constructed between 1923 and 1928. The land was donated by the Board of Trustees, but the construction costs were met through the proceeds of various student activities, particularly football games. Because the football team was instrumental in providing the financial base for the building, several of its members received awards during the dedication banquet.
Since then, the interior of the building has been completely altered. The Social Hall is gone, and so is the patio. The exterior was designed by John and Donald Parkinson in North Italian Renaissance style. Typical of the style, the exterior is dotted with small carvings, depicting "whimsical pictures of college life." These terra cotta carvings were done by Adolphe of Gladding-McBean. The titles below given to the exterior carvings are approximate, as we are not sure we have identified them correctly.
Archery Astronomy Baseball Chemistry Croquet Dance Drawing Entymology Fencing Football Geography Jumping Hurdles Music Musicians Pole Jumping Racing Raquetball (?) Reading Singing (choir) Students studying Surveying Torch bearing Volleyball Wrestling
One of the carvings on the East facade features a portrait of Chancellor Rufus B. Von KleinSmid and a monkey thumbing its nose at the Chancellor. The story (whether true or not) is that the builders working on this building got tired of the Chancellor's comments and advice, and carved the monkey to show Dr. von KleinSmid what they thought of him. The man in glasses to the left of Von KleinSmid is the then Vice-President Warren Bovard.
Other interesting features of the building (which we cannot easily identify):
- Two sages over the first floor window on the north side, one holding a crystal ball, the other is holding a book.
- A bespectacled figure and a football player under the arch of the main entry.
- Images of unidentified student activities
- Gargoyles, gnomes, a goose, and dragons. There is also a dog conversing with a dragon.
- Peter Krasnow, Arch over the doorway with the image of seated Knowledge surrounded by students holding the University symbol, 1927.
- Beautiful plant-like scroll carvings around the windows of the East facade:
Southern California Alumni Review, December 1927;
The Daily Trojan, March 2, 1928;
The Trojan Family, March 1978;
Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1996.
To: Public Art at USC ||| Sculptures, reliefs, and fountains at USC
Photographs taken by Ruth Wallach, USC Libraries, in 1996, 2005, 2007.