OLD MAIN, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
1200 E University Blvd
OLD MAIN: THEN
On October 27, 1887, Phoenix architect, James Miller Creighton began the construction of Old Main, the University of Arizona's first building on campus. After Creighton exhausted the small budget of $37,969, he sought out federal loans to complete the project. At the time, federal loans were only granted for agriculture buildings, so Creighton renamed the building from the "School of Mines" to the "School of Agriculture". After construction was complete, Old Main opened its doors for the University's first class on October 1, 1891. Because Old Main was the only building on campus at the time, it contained a library, offices, dorm rooms, and classrooms. Only six faculty taught thirty-two students in 1891. Students rode their cow ponies to class and tied them up to posts near Old Main. Old Main is one of the oldest surviving educational structures in the western United States; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
In 1919, the Alexander Berger Memorial Fountain was built in front of Old Main. This project emerged to remember thirteen University of Arizona students who were killed in World War I, including Berger's nephew. On January 31, 1920, the Berger Memorial fountain was dedicated among students, faculty, military, and the Tucson community. This fountain remains one of the most exclusive elements of the University's campus.
DEMOLITION: A CLOSE CALL
Due to neglect by the University, Old Main began to deteriorate and was ultimately condemned by the City of Tucson in 1938. After it was declared unsafe, Old Main remained vacant for a period of time. There were several proposals and arguments for demolition, but it was decided that it would cost more to demolish it than to let it remain vacant. After the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, Billy Bray, decided to let the building remain vacant, the United States Navy took matters into their own hands. They repaired the building in 1942 to create a Naval Indoctrination Training School during World War II. In 1945, the Navy paid $20,000 to transform it back into a campus facility.
SAVING OLD MAIN
One hundred and twenty-two days after Old Main opened its doors to students, University of Arizona president, Ann Weaver Hart, and the University of Arizona's Foundation President, James H. Moore, put into motion a $13.5 million dollar fundraising campaign for a full renovation of the building; this campaign was named "Save Old Main". Hart and Moore launched this campaign to preserve the building for future generations. They argued that this building is a visual reminder of the University of Arizona's commitment to higher education, leading scholars, and high rankings both nationally and internationally. Plans for renovation addressed a damaged foundation and exterior veranda, general decay, moisture damage and cracked masonry columns, ventilation, heating, cooling and fire protection systems. Following the renovation, Hart and Moore wanted Old Main to be a place for past and present Wildcats to come together.
University of Arizona Old Main Renovation
OLD MAIN: "THE HEART OF CAMPUS"
In 2008, the first floor of old main was repaired and renovated for a costly $4.6 million. This building contained the University's Office of Admissions, the Center for Exploratory Students, and the Dean of Students Office. In January, 2013, Old Main experienced a full renovation including reframing of the porch, replacement of the roof, and a modernization of the building as a whole. Additionally, the Office of the President was relocated to Old Main. The patio and porch areas are popular places for socializing, enjoying lunch, and viewing mall activities. Old Main has become a symbol of history, traditions, legacy, and success. As Old Main has emerged as a fundamental symbol of success on the University's campus, several academic distinctions, homecoming events, and alumni gatherings have taken place on the steps of Old Main. Additionally, tours for prospective students place an emphasis on the history of the building. Almost every graduate of the University has taken a photo on the steps of Old Main as it symbolizes four years of success and higher education. The historic building has emerged as "the front porch of the University" and "the heart of campus" for students and faculty.
OLD MAIN RESOURCES
Old Main on Facebook
Old Main on the University of Arizona's Website
Susie Bowers, First Floor Manager