The Brown Union was formed in 1903 to provide an organization to have charge of the new Rockefeller Hall, its object being “to further the social and religious life of the members of Brown University and to unite them in good fellowship.” This latter function became increasingly important as fraternities began to settle in their own houses. Then the Union became a place for fraternity and non-fraternity men to meet on common ground. The Union had a voluntary membership fee of four dollars. “College Nights at the Union” were a feature which began in 1914 and set aside Tuesday evenings for speakers, concerts, dramatic readings and a social gathering sponsored by the Brown Union and the Brown Christian Association.
The Union was also the home of the University’s dining facilities, which appear to have moved around a good deal within the building. In 1904 the Union opened a dining room for regular boarders and a lunch room for general patronage in the charge of Arthur Jefferson (Jumbo). In 1914 the dining room moved from the basement to a “large and airy apartment” on the first floor. At some time the dining room reappeared in the basement where, in 1922, it was decorated by murals of early Rhode Island history by Percy F. Albee ’22 and Stacy Tolman.
“Brown Union” referred to both the facilities of Rockefeller Hall, which provided social rooms and space for non-athletic student activities, and the organization in which Brown men, undergraduates, alumni, and faculty were eligible for membership. The Union was under the supervision of an Alumni Board of Management, which was assisted by the Student Board of Governors. After the building was renamed Faunce House, the student board was called the Faunce House Board of Governors. In 1937 the student board was reorganized to consist of the chairmen of eight activity committees, which were the Camera Club Committee, the Dance Committee, the Movie Committee, the Music Committee, the Table Tennis Committee, the Publicity Committee, the Billiard Committee, and the Bridge Committee. Under a new constitution adopted in 1950 the board grew to include twenty chairmen of the various activities and forty active associate members. As time passed the activities provided by the board changed to inexpensive movies, Saturday night dances, and coffee hours with faculty. The all male board of governors also changed, as Bear Facts announced in 1958 that membership on the board was limited to eight Brown men and two Pembrokers from each class. A new Brown Student Union, formed in 1973 to coordinate extracurricular functions and provide student services, had among its responsibilities the Film Society, Lecture Board, Concert Agency, Cultural Activities Board, and Big Mother Coffee House.