The Martha Cook Building first housed women students in 1915 after New York lawyer William W. Cook (1880), a Michigan alumnus, donated the building. New York architects York and Sawyer designed this building as well as the University Law Quadrangle, one of Cook's later donations. In honor of his mother, Martha Walford Cook, William Cook began donating funds in 1911 for the construction of a women's dormitory on campus. It was a significant emblem of the University’s commitment to attracting women to campus and was the first women’s dorm at Michigan.
The building's exterior is designed in the popular Collegiate Gothic mode. Above the main entrance is a statue of Portia, described as “Shakespeare’s most intellectual woman.” The interior of the building was designed by the Hayden Company of New York and is meant to recall Gothic and early Renaissance times. The furnishings in the main rooms are from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.
There are two female statues in the main hallway, one is a full-size replica of the “Venus de Milo” and the other is “Edwina” which was created by one of the building’s alumni. In the Red Room is a portrait of Martha Wolford Cook (1828-1909) painted by Henry Caro Delvaille. While in the Gold Room, over the Angell fireplace is a bust of William Cook. Also located in the Gold Room is Mr. Cook’s specially commissioned Steinway from 1913.
Samuel Parsons, a prominent landscape architect and long-time superintendent of Central Park, designed the garden in 1921. Paul Sutterman’s statue “Eve,” which is located on the north end of the garden, was a fiftieth anniversary gift from the building’s alumnae.