Iowa House / Iowa Memorial Union

Iowa House / Iowa Memorial Union

125 N. Madison St.

The Iowa Memorial Union, or IMU, at University of Iowa opened in 1925. The building currently houses a number of student clubs and the Iowa House Hotel.

From City Guide: Iowa City by Jan Weissmiller:

If you exit the north entrance of the English-Philosophy building and cross Iowa Avenue, you can walk along a river path … that eventually leads to the Iowa House Hotel (125 North Madison Street), where John Cheever and Raymond Carver both lived while they taught at the Workshop in the fall of 1973. No biography of either of them neglects to mention the degenerate drinking they engaged in when they lived there.


Charles Wright, Donald Justice and Marvin Bell at the IMU

Charles Wright recalls his time in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the book A Community of Writers:

Monday afternoons, workshop over, a group would walk from the Quonset hut to the Student Union. To the Ping-Pong room. Don, Mark, Marvin Bell, Bill Brady, Al Lee, Wm Brown, myself, and sometimes others. This was when I first got the notion that Don’s fierce intensity was not limited to things ethereal. Did we play vigorous Ping-Pong, or what? Mark was a good player; I was all right, a journeyman; Bill Brady was all right. But Don was very good. I couldn’t beat him. Mark may have a couple times; and Marvin, who was also a good player.

Wright, Charles. “Improvisations on Donald Justice.” A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Ed. Robert Dana. Iowa City: U of Iowa, 1999. 186-92. Print.


John Cheever and Raymond Carver at the Iowa House

Cheever remarked that he could always recognize “an alcoholic line” in a writer’s work. I’m not exactly sure what he meant by this but I think I know. When we were teaching in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall semester of 1973, he and I did nothing but drink. I mean we met our classes, in a manner of speaking. But the entire time we were there—we were living in this hotel they have on campus, the Iowa House—I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters. We made trips to a liquor store twice a week in my car.

[…] He lived on the fourth floor of the hotel and I lived on the second. Our rooms were identical, right down to the same reproduction of the same painting hanging on the wall. But when we drank together, we always drank in his room. He said he was afraid to come down to drink on the second floor. He said there was always a chance of him getting mugged in the hallway!

-Raymond Carver

Simpson, Mona, and Lewis Buzbee. “Raymond Carver, The Art of Fiction No. 76.” The Paris Review, 12 June 2017, www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3059/the-art-of-fiction-no-76-raymond-carver.


Marvin Bell and Donald Justice: Iowa Memorial Union

So, I asked John Logan, what shall I do now? And he said, well, there’s something at the University of Iowa called the Writers’ Workshop. I will send a letter to the poet, who teaches there, Donald Justice, and you can go and be interviewed, and maybe you can do that. So, I took a bus — I thought, Iowa City?…That’s the wilds!…I’m not, I’m not going to drive out there — I took a bus and stayed at a hotel that doesn’t exist anymore, it was downtown. I met Donald Justice in the Iowa Memorial Union the next day, and we talked for a little while, and then … we went bowling! There used to be bowling alleys in the basement of the Union. I was accepted into the Workshop.

Bell, Marvin. “Interview,” The Writing University website

Literary Reference

Raymond Carver and Donald Justice at the Iowa House

In Iowa City, Raymond Carver lived in the Iowa House at the Iowa Memorial Union: his room was two floors above John Cheever’s room, and both of them used to spend the days and nights there, talking and drinking. Donald Justice remembered:

I’d see [Carver] around the offices quite a bit. Our paths crossed mostly in socializing, at parties. I remember a poker game in his room on the Iowa House one Sunday evening in which I lost heavily. Ray bluffed me out of a couple of hands.

Halpert, Sam. Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. University of Iowa Press, 1995


Robert Dana, Robert Lowell in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Poet Robert Dana describes his experience in the Iowa Iowa Writers’ Workshop, including his class with Robert Lowell, and eating at the Iowa Memorial Union:

In addition to Lowell’s workshop class, there was the more or less impromptu one we ourselves convened around the lunch table once or twice a week in the dingy and steaming cafeteria in the basement of the old Student Union: a kind of expanding and contracting court of complaint, a floating seminar in practical criticism, a rump parliament in literary theory, where we fed on each other’s praise and harkened to each other’s criticisms. Poems were handed around, sometimes scribbled on, lamented over. The talk was free-wheeling, unfettered, sometimes even preposterous. No telling how many bad lines and bad poems perished in those sessions. Probably not enough. But our little seminar brought us together in knowledge and ignorance and friendship.

Dana, Robert. “Far from the Ocean: Robert Lowell at Iowa, 1953.” The North American Review 282.5 (1997): 48-52. Web.


Sheba Wheeler Hosts the 2003 Catalyst Award Reception

University of Iowa President David Skorton and renowned journalist Sheba Wheeler speaks at the 2003 Catalyst Award Reception. Wheeler, 2000 UI Distinguished Alumna, was part of the Denver Post team that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for spot news coverage of the shootings at Columbine High School.

“Honoring Diversity: The 2003 Catalyst Awards Reception.” Daily Iowan, 6, Oct. 2003, pp. 2A.