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 

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