Saying goodbye to the JDUC

The past, present, and future of the iconic Queen’s building

Construction on the JDUC begins in May.

Queen’s bought the John Deutsch University Center (JDUC) in 1927 and named it the Queen’s Memorial Union in commemoration of students who fought and died in WWI. Since that purchase, the building has remained a fixture of Queen’s campus—housing cafeterias, clubs, coffee shops, and residence halls.

Next month, renovations will begin that, when completed, will render the JDUC we know unrecognizable. 


In its early days, Queen’s Memorial Union had a cafeteria, meeting rooms, and offices for different student societies. Most of the building was closed to women at this time—a literal boy’s club. It wasn’t until 1960, when women were granted unrestricted access to Wallace Hall, that the Memorial Union was officially open to women in its entirety. 

On Sept. 4, 1947, the building was seriously damaged by a fire. Originally constructed in 1862, it was already due for replacement. After the fire, Queen’s demolished it early to make way. 

The replacement building would be recognizable as what the JDUC looks like today. Renovations were made again in the mid-1970s, although it’s unclear exactly what year they were completed. Upon completion, the building was renamed for University President John Deutsch. Records aren’t clear if the decision to name the JDUC after him was made while he was still president in 1974 or after his death in 1976. 

Throughout the decades, the JDUC has been home to endless businesses, services, and student organizations, including The Journal, the AMS and ASUS offices, Common Ground Coffeehouse (CoGro), Queen’s Pub, a salon, a dentist, and more. 

With all these fixtures of student life in one building, the JDUC has long been a popular site for student gatherings. In a guide to Queen’s acronyms published in 2005, Emma Reilly, The Journal’s Vol. 133 copy editor, noted, “if you sit at the JDUC long enough chances are you’ll see about 67 per cent of the people you know at Queen’s”. 

Since the 1970s—either 1971 or 1976—the basement of the JDUC has been home to Queen’s on-campus club. Originally called “The Underground”, the club was renamed “Alfie’s” after Alfie Pierce, a decades-long supporter of Queen’s sports teams who passed away in 1951. For decades, Alfie’s was a hub of student entertainment. 

In the 1980s, Alfie’s served alcohol and hosted events throughout the week, with live entertainment boasted on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The club was almost too popular, according to some. One Journal article published in 1980 complained Alfie’s lines were far too long and the club couldn’t accommodate enough patrons. 

One of the other major social spaces in the JDUC is Queen’s Pub, one of Queen’s three on-campus bars. After opening in 1977 as Queen’s Pub, it was renamed “Quiet Pub” for a short period in the late 1970s and early 1980s after being banned from playing music due to noise complaints. 

Until 2010, CoGro was also housed in the JDUC. Alongside selling coffee, tea, and café food, CoGro’s time in the JDUC had it hosting several student events. Ads from the mid-aughts promoted weekly movie nights, open mics, and watch parties for HBO’s Sex and The City. 

The JDUC hosted career fairs, jazz concerts, Christmas dinners, and Superbowl parties throughout the years. Walking through the building at its most popular may have led you to something unusual—like a free fitness and health test or MuchMusic searching for their next Veejay. 

In 2005, the JDUC was scheduled to be replaced with a new student life centre that would cost the university 24 million dollars. The 2008 financial crisis and logistic issues led to the cancelation of construction in 2011. 

The JDUC was given a fresh coat of paint in 2016 with a $1.2 million revitalization project, which improved walkways and added a skylight in the main part of the building. 


After the post-2008 renovation cancellation, the JDUC remained in limbo. While the building was still used by student organizations, many of the once crowded locations began to lose traction. 

Although The Brew, a smaller coffee shop also run by CoGro, remained in the JDUC, CoGro’s main location moved with the opening of the ARC in January 2010. 

In 2013, Alfie’s was renamed The Underground yet again as an attempt to rebrand after a bout of poor financial performance. The club had been declining in popularity since the late 80s despite multiple renovations and investments by the AMS. Throughout the rest of the 2010s, The Underground continued to operate in a deficit as it failed to draw in patrons. 

The Brew, Queen’s Pub, and The Underground have been closed since Mar. 2020, when public health guidelines forced the Winter 2020 semester online. At the time, JDUC renovations were set to begin in 2021, causing services to stay closed. Although renovations were pushed back, a combination of renovation preparations and pandemic shutdowns left the services shuttered.

Simrit Anand, ConEd ’22, works for the Student Life Center providing information to students, parents, and anyone who comes by the office at the southern entrance of the JDUC. She’s noticed the lack of people coming in and out of the building since the pandemic began. 

“It’s usually a lot busier but, because of COVID, not a lot of people have been coming in,” Anand said in an interview with The Journal. 

Anand spoke fondly about her time in the JDUC, pointing out the unique art, history, and artifacts in the building. One of her favourite features of the building is the memorial to the World Wars.

“It’s beautiful. There are tinted glass windows, and there are these really old photos of people that took part in the war,” she said. “You can tell that all the artifacts and stuff in the rooms are so old, but they’ve been kept very well.”

Even in pandemic times, there’s still life in the JDUC.

Stephanie Pederson, ArtSci ’24, works for Walkhome, which was located in the JDUC until February, when it was moved to Queen’s Center in preparation for renovations. 

Pederson’s favourite memory in the JDUC took place over a St. Patrick’s Day weekend, when her manager set up a game of water pong to pass the time. Pederson used the JDUC’s unique architecture to set up a great shot.

“We started doing trick shots at one point, and I went up to the second level and I shot it down. And I got it in. It was a really epic moment—probably the peak of my life,” Pederson said in an interview with The Journal.

Pederson spoke highly of the community within the JDUC and the positive relationship Walkhome had with others in the building.

“It’s really chill. We have music going, generally, and we’ve actually had people who work or live in the JDUC come up to us and be like, ‘What’s your playlist? This is good music.’”

Although it’s located in a separate part of campus from other residence halls, students do live in the JDUC. It’s home to the “Graduate Residence,” built in 1964. The Graduate Residence is 4-stories and houses approximately 100 students. Despite being called the Graduate Residence, since 2018, the building has exclusively housed undergraduate students. 

The JDUC residences are unique, with every room having the luxury of an attached private bathroom with a shower. Last year, these residences were used to isolate students who tested positive for COVID-19. 


After years of back-and-forth between students and the University, pandemic interruptions, and missed funding deadlines, the revitalization of the JDUC is finally set to begin. Although it holds a lot of history, it’s clear the JDUC has structural issues that need to be addressed.

“Sometimes the JDUC roof drips on us, and it’s really bad. You can actually tell how badly it’s raining by how many drips there are,” Pederson said.

Accessibility is another big concern. The JDUC’s structure and lack of accessibility features make it hard to navigate for those with mobility needs. The additions and renovations to the building over the last 160 years have also led to a somewhat confusing floor plan.

“It’s not accessible, being completely honest; it’s also incredibly confusing. I one time tried to go to the [Sexual Health and Resource Center] and I got so lost I ended up at the Room of Requirement,” Pederson said. 

Anand added the inclusion of ramps and accessibility features would make a significant positive difference.

The JDUC is clearly dated compared to newer buildings like Mitchell Hall. Despite this, Anand hopes the renovations make improvements without sacrificing the history of the building. 

“Wallace Hall is beautiful, and so is McLaughlin. Even that World War exhibit they have. I really hope they don’t get rid of those things, because they’re absolutely beautiful. I feel like they’re an integral part of the building and Queen’s community,” Anand said. 

“When you compare it to other buildings on campus like Goodes or Mitchell, it does look very old in comparison, but I’m just hoping they don’t scrap everything. That’s my biggest concern.”

The JDUC revitalization is scheduled for completion by August 2024. 

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