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Stagg Field / Mansueto Library

West Stands of Stagg Field at the northeast corner of 57th Street and Ellis Avenue. Today, the Mansueto Library is on this site. Then photo courtesy Special Collections Research Center. Now photo by Joel Wintermantle.

The block extending from 56th to 57th Streets and from Ellis to University Avenues has a formidable history. It first housed a football field, built in 1893 and renamed Stagg Field in 1913. Stagg Field served as the home field for the University’s powerhouse Big Ten conference football team, the Maroons.

By 1942, the football program had been discontinued, and the site became well known for scientific rather than athletic achievements. Enrico Fermi and his colleagues created the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in a squash court beneath the stands, beginning the Atomic Age.

Stagg Field was demolished in 1957, and the Joseph Regenstein Library, which opened in 1970, stands on much of the former Stagg Field site. Known for its unique dome reading room and book-retrieving robots, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library opened in 2011 on the southwest corner of the site. Both libraries provide unparalleled research opportunities for students and faculty.