For five decades, the building has been moving toward a more perfect union.

November/December 2012

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Photo: Stanford Historical Photograph Collection

Tresidder Memorial Union, home of the Bike Shop, the bustling CoHo and the campus mobile phone store, turns 50 this fall. What, there were no cell phones when you haunted Tresidder? The facility has a long history of meeting contemporary needs, whatever the era. Time magazine, reporting in 1962 about a nationwide building boom in student unions, described Tresidder as a "handsome hacienda" and a "cultural filling station." Noting the facility's circulating art library and its rooms for playing chess, the writer wondered "whether minds can meet above the din" of the bowling alley, table-tennis and billiard rooms. But critics who saw student unions as an expensive way to pamper college students groused to a shrinking audience. Tresidder was, in fact, built partly with student funds: The campaign to replace what is now Old Union began in 1947, and students paid an assessment that covered a portion of the $2.675 million cost.

Take a "one-Mississippi" to learn how to spell it.

One S, two Ds. Here's help: Tresidder is where Stanford gets its daily dose of caffeine.

The namesake left his mark in the Sierra Nevada, too.

Donald Bertrand Tresidder, '19, MD '27, Stanford's fourth president, visited Yosemite as a young man and met his future wife, Mary Curry, daughter of the national park's concessionaires. After medical school, he led Yosemite Park & Curry Company, where he oversaw construction of the Ahwahnee Hotel and Badger Pass Ski Area. He also served as president of the Stanford Board of Trustees and in 1943, after a three-year search for a new University president, his fellow trustees offered him the job. He died five years later at age 53 of a heart attack while on a business trip to New York.

The student union was always meant to be a Tree house.

Palo Alto architect William "Bill" Busse, '50, designed Tresidder's meandering shape to accommodate four huge oak trees on the site. (Only two survive.) The second-floor slab that spans the main dining area posed a construction challenge. It tapers from 4 feet thick at the columns to 8 inches at mid span. To keep it from being too heavy, the structural engineer interspersed cardboard tubes of varying diameter in the concrete. "I don't know that that was done before or since," Busse says.

Beginning in 1968, commerce by the students, for the students. 

Tresidder Coffee House opened with student managers, an ahead-of-its-time espresso machine and tables made from old nautical hatch covers that are still in heavy use. Five years later, the University brought in outside food service operators, and the first student-managed era ended. From 1980 to 1985, the ASSU held the CoHo contract, hired a manager and ran the CoHo itself. Today students run a shop in Tresidder that sells Stanford-emblazoned apparel, including the best-selling "Party With Trees" tank top.

People can hang out with the little mermaid.

The Starbucks that opened in Tresidder in August is the first full-service, company-built-and-operated one on a college campus. It features a Clover, the $11,000 crème de la coffeemaker that brews French-press-type coffee to precise tastes, one cup at a time. The Clover was invented by mechanical engineers Randy Hulett, '96, MS '97, Zander Nosler, '94, and Jorah Wyer, '94. Pieces of the first Clover and a reproduction of their technical drawings are on display.

You had to keep score with a pencil.

Bowling was near its national peak of popularity in 1962, and Tresidder's 14 lanes hosted league play. Eighteen years later, when pranksters from the Hammer & Coffin Society slipped a hoax photo and caption about a plane crash into the Stanford Daily—one mock-up read, "Tragedy Strikes Bowling Team . . . None Spared"—many students were surprised to learn the campus still had a bowling team. In the mid '80s, the bowling alley became a LOTS (Low-Overhead Time-Sharing) Computer Cluster. The space is now the Treehouse restaurant, where practically every customer has a computer in his or her pocket.

What else is gone?

The Galaxy Game, one of the first coin-operated video games (created by Bill Pitts, '68, and Hugh Tuck), which enthralled players from 1972 to 1979. The Axe, now displayed at the Arrillaga Family Sports Center. The information desk where the legendary Portia Holmes, '41, and her staff of student workers dispensed information, advice and Band-Aids to the lost, confused and slightly injured. The soundproof music-listening rooms upstairs (with their stereo equipment and 900-album collection) are now very quiet offices.

The more things change, the more the barber stays the same.

Carmelo Cogliandro moved his shop from Old Union to Tresidder in 1962. Cogliandro has cut the hair of every Stanford president since Wallace Sterling, PhD '38. (Best hair? Gerhard Casper.) His Stanford Hair clients have won Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and he's trimmed basketball-star-turned-law-student Bill Walton and actor Fred Savage, '98. Chelsea Clinton, '01, would pop in to buy shampoo. Not that Cogliandro is one to gossip: He has turned down a snip-and-tell book and a British tabloid.

When a 50-year-old dishwasher breaks, who finds the replacement parts?

Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of student unions and operations, is Tresidder's curator, lead advocate and personal shopper. Months of work have gone into the building's anniversary events, including a 1960s-themed community open house and a late-night student party in September and an ongoing photographic exhibit that spans both floors of the building. November 14 will bring a community tea with student talent.

Julie Kaufmann Lloyd, '83, remembers getting froyo at the CoPo (the Corner Pocket).

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