Thursday, October 18, 2018

Corvallis Buildings Circa 1920

Between 1910 and 1930, Benton County's population increased from 10,663 to 16,555 or by 55 percent. Corvallis experienced even more rapid growth, with the population increasing by 67 percent over this same period. One reason for the faster growth in Corvallis was the expansion of Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) noted in the last post.

In a scenario now familiar to city residents, the expansion led to a building boom.  At least 7 new apartment buildings were constructed between 1920 and 1926, including the Wilder Apartments at 963 NW Jackson Street and the Beaver Apartments on north Second Street. 

Wilder Apartments, Corvallis, OR
Beaver Apartments, Corvallis, Oregon
The Beaver Apartments used the steam produced by the neighboring laundry to heat the apartments.

The building boom was especially pronounced in 1921 and 1923, with a total of 234 new residences constructed including that at 540 NW 14th  Street (known as the Becker House). 
Becker House, Corvallis, OR
The construction extended the city expanded northward and westward, including into the College Hill area with houses such as the Gilkey house at 136 NW 30th.

Gilkey House, Corvallis, OR
The business district expanded as well, with 19 additional commercial buildings constructed in 1922 alone.  Before most commercial activity was located along Second Street; in the circa 1920 era, businesses located on Third and Fourth Streets as well. Two photographs show the extent of this development. The first shows Madison Avenue looking east from Fourth Street Intersection in 1926 and the second, of Third Street in 1930, shows the Cress Building built in 1926. 

Madison Ave., Corvallis, Oregon
Third Street, Corvallis, Ore.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Oregon State University #Circa1920

A week ago fall-quarter classes started at Oregon State University.  Today's students return to a campus that is quite different from that of the early 1900s.  In 1907, when Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) hired William Jasper Kerr as its new president, the campus consisted of 13 buildings on 225 acres, including
·         the Administration Building (later known as Benton Hall and now renamed Community Hall) built in 1884;
·         Mechanical Hall (later known as Apperson Hall and since remodeling as Kearney Hall) built in 1899-1900 to replace an earlier building which burned;
·         Alpha Hall, the first dorm, built in 1889 on the site where Gilkey Hall now stands;
·         the Octagonal Barn built in 1889 and enlarged in 1893 and since torn down;
·         the Station Building (now Women's Center) built in 1892 to house the Agricultural Experiment Station;
·         Cauthorn Hall (now Fairbanks) built in 1892 as a dorm;
·         a gym and armory in an 1898 building now housing the Valley Gymnastics Center.
·         Agricultural Hall, built in 1902, became Science Hall in 1909, then Education Hall (1940) and now Furman Hall (2012). 
·         Waldo Hall (1907) housed dorm rooms for women students and home economics classes.
Forty faculty members taught 1,300 students.

Kerr began making changes to convert the college to one of national stature:  raising admission standards, eliminating high school level classes, organizing the academic programs into colleges and adding courses in forestry, mining, pharmacy and education, and hiring more faculty with doctoral degrees.  The number of students rose to 3,077 in 1920 and to 3,347 in 1930. The number of faculty increased to 180 by 1930.

With 2.5 times as many students and 4.5 times as many faculty, the college needed additional facilities.  The college hired John Olmsted to create a campus plan which called for additional buildings of  simple red brick with white terracotta trim arranged around separate quadrangles.   Over the twenty-five years Kerr was president, OAC expanded to 555 acres and 42 buildings.  Architect John V. Bennes followed the Olmsted plan in designing classroom buildings Gilkey, Batcheller, Milam, Gilmore, Strand, Moreland, Langton, Hovland, Graf, Ballard, Bexell and Pharmacy Halls, all built between 1912 and 1925. 

Bennes also designed another important campus building:  a library.

In the early 1900s, the library was housed on the second floor of the Administration Building. One of President Kerr's first hires (1908) was a professionally trained librarian, Ida Kidder.

Ida “Mother” Kidder
Kidder added to the size of the collection and successfully advocated for larger and better facilities. A separate library building was completed in 1918. 
Kidder Hall (then OAC library)
Students and faculty carried the 36,478 books and approximately twice that number of magazines and pamphlets along a 250 foot wooden walkway constructed between the second floors of the old Administration and Library buildings. That would have been something to see!

When the new library was built in 1963, the building was renamed Kidder Hall.

Although these buildings still house classrooms, labs, and offices and would be familiar to today's students, the campus has continued to increase in size along with the growth of the student body, expanding westward beyond 26th Street and adding dorms and other facilities to the south and east. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Army Communications Circa 1920

The advent of trench warfare plus the development of machine guns, tanks, and airplanes during World War I created problems in communications even within one country's forces. Because the trenches of opposing forces were often relatively close, visual signals were easily intercepted and exposed the sender to machine gun fire. The allies turned to telephone and telegraph communication which required stringing thousands of miles of wire, a slow and dangerous task. 

The photograph shows a U. S. Army Signal Corps service buzzer, manufactured by the Stromberg-Carlson Telephone Manufacturing Company of Rochester, New York.

This battery-operated device could be used to send either telephone or telegraph messages.  Telegraph signals were considered more secure and easier to understand if sent under heavy (noisy) bombardment. These devices required constant monitoring and were less useful in battle when the army advanced beyond the lines or when the lines were cut or destroyed by bombing. Without good communication rapidly advancing troops had no way to let heavy artillery units know their location, sometimes resulting in shelling by their own forces.

Wireless radio sets of the era were too bulky to be easily carried and were difficult to tune when there were many frequencies operating in the same area. Radio technology improved near the end of the war but much of the development of wireless communication took place in the following decade.

Sometimes the solution was a return to an earlier technology—the sending of messengers by homing pigeons. The U. S. Army had over 600 pigeons in France. The pigeons successfully delivered about 95 percent of the messages given them.  In one instance, a group of soldiers who were surrounded by the enemy and out of supplies and encountering friendly fire sent a message out with their last homing pigeon.  The pigeon made it to headquarters in spite of being shot in the breast, blinded in one eye, and with a leg that was almost completely severed.  The bird, Cher Ami, lived and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Click on the following URL for a picture of Cher Ami at the Smithsonian.  

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon