Named for Arizona Senator Henry Ashurst, the Ashurst Building opened in 1918. Its architecture mirrors Old Main’s Richardsonian Romanesque style, with rusticated masonry created from local Moenkopi sandstone and bands of windows circling the building. Dubbed the "lost wing" of Old Main, Northern Arizona University (NAU) did not actually connect the two buildings until 1989.
Before Ashurst, the school held assemblies, graduations, and larger gatherings in the Orpheum Theater downtown. Once built, Ashurst became the main stage for all major school functions, including dances, plays, concerts, and guest lecturers. In April 1930, Lowell Observatory’s Dr. C.O. Lampland announced the discovery of Pluto in the auditorium. Many notable celebrities also performed here, including Arizona actor Andy Devine and the Von Trapp Family Singers of The Sound of Music fame.
In 1952, the College transformed the auditorium into a music hall. In 1989 NAU remodeled it a second time, creating office space for the Graduate College and the Women’s Studies Department. Though the University has expanded greatly over the years, Ashurst remains an important gathering place for recitals, lectures, and banquets.