Before Michigan’s Big House, There Was Ferry Field

For the past 85 years, Michigan’s Wolverines have been housed in Michigan Stadium,  the mother of all megastadiums that is affectionately known as “The Big House” in tribute to its monstrous (and still growing) 100,000-plus seating capacity.

But from 1906-26, Ann Arbor’s pride and joy was an architectural gem called Ferry Field, surrounded on three sides by an ornate paving brick wall and entered through a beautiful wrought iron gate designed by Albert Kahn, depicted here on the program cover for the last Michigan – Ohio State game ever to be played on the site.
To trace the brief history of Ferry Field is to witness the incredible growth of big time college football from the pre-World War I era to the Roaring Twenties.  From but 9,000 permanent seats at its opening in 1906, the stadium then added seats in groups of 6,000, 3,000, 7,000, 17,000 and finally 4,000, bringing the final capacity up to 46,000 – still not enough to meet the ever-increasing demand, as the actual crowds grew to as much as 50,000 for Ohio State games.

After many years of planning and stalling, the decision was finally made to build an entirely new home for a team that was constantly racking up victories and winning new fans.  The new 72,000 seat Michigan Stadium was first used for the opening game of 1927 against Ohio Wesleyan, and formally dedicated three weeks later against — who else? – Ohio State.

Since the Wolverines played the Buckeyes in Columbus during the even-numbered years, this 1925 game program you see here was to be the last time these teams were to meet in Ferry Field.  Nostalgia was fairly oozing out of every gate, but the memories were no better than usual for the redshirts, as the Maize and Blue racked up their 6th of 7 shutouts of the year, limiting the Buckeyes to but two completed passes in a 10-0 win. Only a field goal by Northwestern the week before stopped the Wolverines from a perfect season, and when they made the move to the Big House there would be many more glories to come.

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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