CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

A history of CSU's building and grounds from 1870 to the present.

Claim Building/Claim Shanty/Chemistry Laboratory/Brick Building, 1874-1890

A pen and ink sketch of a small building with a gabled roof and chimney at the top. The front has a door and there is a window on a side wall. Several trees are in front of the building and foothills are in the background. The building is situated in a grassy field and the sketch is bordered by a lined frame. Claim Building, undated


From CSU's Sense of Place:  A Campus History of Colorado's Land-Grant University, by James E. Hansen, Gordon A. Hazard, and Linda M. Meyer.  Fort Collins, CO:  Colorado State University, 2018.

Architect – A. K. Yount provided a sketch of the desired building to the builders

Builders – E. Bassonett and John W. Boyd did the brickwork.  Jonas R. Boorse and Eph Love did the woodwork.  John W. Boyd did the plasterwork.  Hitching & Company of New York built the heating system for the greenhouse.

In November 1874, the first funds were appropriated by the Colorado Territorial government to have the first building at the new Agricultural College contracted for and constructed within a period of nine days.  Built at a cost of $420, this first building was a 16’ x 24’ red brick building that stood at the southwest corner of what is now College Avenue and Laurel Street.  It should be noted that some accounts said the building was 14’ x 28’ in size.

The building was completed in only eight days during November 1874 by local builders and brick makers E. Bassonett and John W. Boyd. Stone for its foundation was selected and brought to the site from the foothills by a local Fort Collins man known only as “Indian Charlie” Clark.  Other accounts list him as “Indian Joe”.  Mr. Clark used his wagon and oxen to move the foundation stones from the quarry to the building site in one night.  Local carpenters Jonas R. Boorse and Eph Love did the woodworking while John W. Boyd did the plasterwork.

The construction of this small building kept the Agricultural College from being moved to some other town in the Colorado Territory.  Greeley and Boulder were both said to be lobbying to get the new Agricultural College moved to their cities as they claimed that since 1870, little had been done in Fort Collins to move ahead with opening the Land-Grant Agricultural College.  Along with the 240 acres of donated land, this "Claim Building" or “Claim Shanty” gave evidence of the good faith on the part of those interested in keeping the school at Fort Collins. Additionally, forty acres were enclosed in a five-board fence and farmed for several years by local farmers as work went on to establish the College. 

On December 26, 1877, the Colorado State Board of Agriculture met and received a report this original brick building had just been lathed and plastered.  The new tenant would be taking possession of the building the next day.  They also received a report that a survey had just been done on “Canal Number 2”.  It was determined that the distance from the canal to the proposed new College Building was exactly one mile or 5280’ and had a 20’ drop. This drop was determined to give a flow of water sufficient to provide enough water pressure to pipe water to the existing brick building as well as up to the second floor of the yet to be built College Building.  The Board voted to buy the necessary two-inch galvanized pipe and have it installed.  The pipe was quoted as costing two cents per foot delivered to the campus.

In its January 1878 meeting, the State Board of Agriculture authorized $50 be spent to buy “hardy fruit and ornamental trees” to establish an orchard on the “elevated ground” of the new campus.  One month later, the Board authorized more funds be spent on plants and constructing an addition to this building.  They also agreed to allow the yet to be hired president of the College the privilege of living in it rent-free for the year, thus making this the first official “President’s House” at the College.  The Edwards family lived there for just a few months before moving into the second floor of the Main College Building for most of the remainder of their time at the College.  An 1883 campus map shows this small orchard to be south and west of the Claim Shanty.  The 20’ x 50’ greenhouse addition was heated by equipment from the Hitchings & Company of New York. This structure was shown on the 1883 map.

During its 16 years of existence, the little brick building served as a granary, tool shed, dwelling for three families, greenhouse, and as the first “Chemical Laboratory” at Colorado Agricultural College when converted to that use by Professor Charles F. Davis in 1882.  A door and window appear to have been added in the summer of 1887.  It was demolished in 1890 and its materials were recycled and reused in the construction of other buildings.  The Potting Shed is believed to use most the materials from this original brick building. 

A drawing believed to have been made by Elijah Edwards, is the only image known to exist of the original campus building.  A map of the CAC campus in the 1883-84 Catalog shows a small building standing near the intersection of College Avenue and Laurel Street.  A greenhouse is attached to its south wall.  Rows of trees were shown standing to the west and south of the building.


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Sources by Gordon Hazard

Fort Collins Standard, August 31, 1874, page 4.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 26, 1877, page 3.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, February 27, 1878, page 6.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 14, 1882, page 130.

“Fifth Annual Register of the Colorado Agricultural College, Fort Collins, Colorado, 1883-84”, pages 40-41.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 9-10, 1887, pages 29, 31.

“1895 Silver Spruce”, vol. 1, History of the State Agricultural College and the College Farm.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 1897, page 59, vol. VI, number 5.

Colorado Agricultural College Hand Book 1900, page 5, LD1146.C6, 1898/99 & 1900, Archive.

“Early History of the Colorado Agricultural College”, by George H. Glover, ’84, pages 7-8.  LD1153 G56, 1919, Archive.

C.A.C. Alumnus, March 1920, page 4, vol. 1, number 10.

1921 Silver Spruce, pages 10-16, vol. V, April 1920, “Early History of the Colorado Agricultural College” by George H. Glover.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, November 20, 1923, pages 1, 2, vol. XXXIII, number 22.

“History of Agriculture in Colorado” by Alvin Theodore Steinel, 1926, page 584.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, April 15, 1931, page 6, vol. XL, number 30.

“Colorado A & M College Program and Chronology, 75th Anniversary”, Fort Collins, Colorado, February 10, 1945, page 3.

Colorado A&M News, February 1950, page 9, vol. 4, number 8.

“Long Range Development Program”, Report to the Colorado State Planning Commission, March 1952, pages 15, 50, LD1145.8, A452, 1952, Archive.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, December 2, 1955, page 2, vol. LXV, number 11.

The Colorado Aggie Alumnus, November – December 1959, page 5, vol. 35, number 6.

The Colorado Aggie Alumnus, September – October 1962, page 7, vol. 37, number 9.

“Historic Campus Spots of Colorado State University”, pages 1-6, by James R. Miller, 1963, http://hdl.handle.net/10217/76845.


Colorado State University Collegian, February 11, 1966, page 1, vol. LXXIV, number 85.

The CSU Alumnus, November – December 1967, pages 2-4, , vol. 43, number 5.

Fort Collins Coloradoan, Sunday, February 8, 1970, page 20A of the “Colorado State University Centennial Issue”.

“Affairs of CSU”, Spring 1970, vol. 9, number 1, page 2.

“Colorado State University One Hundred Years Press Release”, 1970.

“A History of Colorado State University 1870-1974”, by James E. Hansen II, 1974.

“Democracy’s College in the Centennial State – A History of Colorado State University” by James E. Hansen II, 1977, p. 25, 62, 73, 83.

Colorado State University Alumni Association Alumnus, June 1982, pages 4-5.

“History of Larimer County Colorado 1860-1987 Volume II”, edited by Arlene Briggs Ahlbrandt and Kathryn “Kate” Stieben, Compiled by the Larimer County Heritage Writers, Fort Collins, Colorado 80524, 1987, pages 218-221.  F782.L2H57 1987 v. 2 Special.

“Fort Collins Yesterdays”, by Evadene Burris Swanson, 1993 edition, pages 41-42F784.F6 S94 1975A Special.

Comment, February 2, 1995, page 1, col. 2-4, vol. 25, number 18.

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