Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Ask Cam

More than bricks and mortar

March 11, 2009

Question: Cam, what’s the oldest building on campus? I figure you’d know, since you’re out grazing around all the time and see a lot of campus.

Cam’s answer: Grazing on sunny afternoons! That's what I call real living.

But to answer your question, the oldest existing building on CSU’s main campus is Spruce Hall (photo), which was constructed in 1881. The building, near Laurel Street and College Avenue, originally served as a dormitory and played a key role in the early growth of the school's student enrollment. Spruce Hall now houses Continuing Education.

But one of the most famous buildings built during CSU’s pioneer era (1870-1909) was Old Main, constructed in 1878 for $7,000. The building was plagued early on with structural problems but still became one of the University’s most stately, multi-purpose buildings. The original section housed administrative offices and classrooms, and an addition in 1889 included an assembly hall and armory. More construction in 1903 created an upstairs auditorium and basement gymnasium. Alas, Old Main was destroyed by fire in May 1970. Bricks from the original facility, though, were used in the construction of the Vietnam Era Memorial Bridge near the Lagoon. Nice to see such historical material supporting such a worthy project!

If you’re betting on CSU’s oldest building that’s no longer with us, put your greenbacks on the Claim Building, all 16-by-24 feet of it, which was constructed in 1874 – several years before the University’s first president began his tenure – to demonstrate that the citizens of Fort Collins were sincere in having an agricultural college located in their community. The red brick building initially was used for storage then later as a dwelling, a chemistry laboratory, and a greenhouse.The structure, also known as the Claim Shanty, was demolished in 1890.

(Note to an Ask Cam reader who was “pretty certain that the building was not demolished in 1890 but in 1990” - I double-checked with James Hansen, emeritus history professor and author of two volumes on CSU’s history, and he assured me the demolition happened in 1890.)

Next time you're Ram'bling around the Oval, check out the great historic buildings!

And while you’re in the area, take a gander at the long, curved wall just inside the south entrance of Johnson Hall. You’ll see a timeline of the University’s history, complete with historic photos and interpretive information. It’s really a kick!