CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

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

Old Main Annex/Speech Building/Botany Building/Chemical Building, 1898-1971

Two-story brick building with arched windows on the first story. A sign above the entrance reads "Old Main Annex".

Old Main Annex, c.1969

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.

Architects – Harlan Thomas (1898), Montezuma W. Fuller (1915), Eugene G. Groves (1922 rebuilding)

In 1898, local architect Harlan Thomas designed the first building specifically designed and built for teaching chemistry classes.  It was called the “Chemical Building”.  Thomas used the “French Renaissance” style that he adopted while on his trip to Europe a short time earlier to learn more about architecture.

Originally budgeted at $16,000, it was constructed at a cost of $47,000.  It was faced with sawed red sandstone from the Pleasant Valley quarry at Stout, Colorado.  It featured a basement with walls 14’ in height.  Excavation for the footings had to go much deeper than originally anticipated.  It was said nearly 1000 wagon loads of soil had to be brought in to level the ground around the building.

In 1915, Fort Collins architect Montezuma W. Fuller designed a remodel to the building.  About 2:30 A. M. the morning of December 22, 1921, a raging fire was discovered in a laboratory on the second floor.  The fire alarm pull box at the corner of College and Laurel was pulled by the night watchman to summon the Fort Collins Fire Department. As the fire burned out of control, it was said that a rainbow of colors exploded in the flames as the many jars and beakers of various chemicals caught fire.  The fire destroyed the peaked roof and gutted the red sandstone and brick building.  The local newspapers reported that weak water pressure prevented fire crews from fighting the fire.  Nearly five decades later, this same weak water pressure hindered fire crews as they attempted to extinguish the fire that destroyed Old Main.

During 1922, at a cost of about $60,000, it was rebuilt and reconfigured as the “Botany Building” using a plan designed by Eugene G. Groves. The roof line was flattened with the renovation.  In addition to the Botany department, the building also housed the Chemistry section of the Experiment Station. They were there until the opening of the Industrial Research Building in 1948.  In 1922, a new Chemistry Building was built on the west side of the Oval.  Opened on January 15, 1923, it is now called the Louis R. Weber Building.

It was used and called the “Botany Building” from 1922 to 1959 when the new Plant Science Building opened, and the Botany Department moved.  From 1960 to 1967 it was called the “Speech Building”.  From 1967 until it was demolished in January 1971, the now decaying building was called the “Old Main Annex” and was mainly used to house art studios. 

Sources by Gordon A. Hazard

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 13, 1894, page 447.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 7, 1895, pages 482-483.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 1896, page 45, vol. V, number 4.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 5, 1896, pages 522, 523, 524.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, July 30, 1896, pages 537, 539-540.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, October 29, 1896, page 157.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, November 1896, page 24, vol. VI, number 2.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, October 4, 1897, page 574.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 1897, page 11, vol. VII, number 1.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 1898, pages 9,10, 12, vol. VII, number 5.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, April 1898, page 8, vol. VII, number 7.

24th Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture and the State Agricultural College, 15th Annual Report of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Fort Collins, Colorado 1902, published 1903, page 33.

“24th Annual Register of the Officers and Students of the State Agricultural College, Fort Collins, Colorado 1902-

1903”, pp. 20 – 21.

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“Map of the College Grounds – 1904”, by Ralph L. Parshall.

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Fort Collins Evening Courier, December 23, 1921, page 1, col. 5-6, “Water Pressure Low at College, Not in Town”.

Fort Collins Evening Courier, December 24, 1921, page 7, col. 2, “Kind Hearted Ladies Make Hot Coffee for College Fire Fighters”.

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

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

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