CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

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

W. D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center, 1949-2015

A group of metal buildings and greenhouses clustered together. Brightly colored flowers are in the foreground.

W.D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center, 1970s

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 and Builder - Winanday Greenhouse Company

630 West Lake Street

In September 1948, construction began on three greenhouses built on a site west of the Poultry Farm.  Built by the Winanday Greenhouse Company for $61,000, they were intended to greatly expand the horticulture research facilities of the old greenhouses built between 1890 and 1919 on the northeast portion of the campus. 

The network of greenhouses, trial gardens and other research facilities has expanded over the years to serve the needs of the Horticulture Department.  In 1951 a fourth greenhouse was built on the north end of the existing three floral greenhouses for research work needed by the Colorado Certified Potato Growers Association.  They paid for its construction that summer.  In 1954, the north and south horticultural Quonsets were constructed; both had a first and second floor.

From 1954 until 1964, one of the Quonsets was the home of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beet Sugar Research Section.  In 1964 they moved to their new location on Rigden Farm until it was closed in 1993 and the Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center (ARDEC) was opened.   The USDA Beet Sugar Research Section then relocated its greenhouses to the Bay Farm and is now the next-door neighbor to the new CSU Horticulture Center.

In the summer of 1974, the State Board of Agriculture authorized the renaming of the facility to honor recently retired Horticulture Professor Winfred D. “Bob” Holley.  Professor Holley came to the College in 1949 and was credited with making Colorado A & M a leading research center for the floral industry.  Records from the Department of Facilities Management show that Randall Larsen & Associates did some design work on the Lake Street Greenhouses at an unspecified time.  During the summer of 1974 the old CSU Trailer Association Trailer Court was removed, and the three acres turned over to the Department of Horticulture.  The land was planted with a variety of trees and became the CSU Arboretum. 

From 1974 until 2012, horticultural work continued at the Holley Plant Research Center.  New types of annual and perennial flowers were grown there to the delight of home gardeners.  Methods of raising organically grown vegetables were tested on the Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) fields.  The resulting organic produce was sold to the public.

Based on campus maps, in the summer of 1977, Meridian Drive was extended from West Pitkin to West Lake in a large S-shaped curve that snaked through large gravel parking lots and wrapped around the PERC.  During the late 1980s and 1990s, the parking lots north of the PERC were paved and lit. Trees were planted along Meridian as this had become a major entry and exit road for the main campus.  In 1992, four domed-shaped greenhouses were added to the PERC northeast of the existing greenhouses and a few feet south of one of the 90-degree curves on Meridian.  In 2001, one of these four greenhouses was removed as the gravel “Poultry Farm” parking lot to the east was paved and lit. In July 2005, one of the three remaining greenhouses took a direct hit from an out-of-control car and needed a great deal of repair.  Large boulders were placed between the greenhouses and the street to prevent a future collision.

In the spring of 2012, the PERC suddenly became front page news.  Much of the land which the PERC used was identified as part of the site for a proposed new on-campus football stadium.  Heated debate about the need and desire for an new stadium raged in Fort Collins.  On December 5, 2014, the CSU Board of Governors voted to build the new stadium.  This set things in motion to relocate the horticultural work being done at the PERC.

The site of the current Ropes Challenge Course just south of Aggie Village South was identified as the new location for the PERC.  In early 2015, it was officially announced that the construction of the new stadium would begin in the summer of 2015. It also announced that the PERC would be moving to the site just south of Aggie Village South in part of the Bay Farm area of the South Campus.

In March 2015 construction work had started on the “new PERC” buildings at the site south of Aggie Village South.  In July 2015, the new Horticulture Center opened south of Aggie Village at the intersection of Bay Drive and Centre Avenue.

On Monday, July 20, 2015, concrete construction barriers were placed along the south side of PERC as preparations were being made to remove the greenhouses and Quonsets and begin work on constructing the new stadium.  The greenhouses had been emptied of plants over the previous weeks and moved over to the new Horticulture Center greenhouses.  Workers began the process of deconstructing the old greenhouses and the Quonsets.  The North Quonset was stripped of its outer sheet metal and stood for a few weeks as a rusted skeleton.  It appeared the greenhouses were being carefully taken apart so that they might be reused at another location. By the first week of September 2015, all the structures and trees had been removed and the site was cleared for the beginning of the stadium construction.

In the summer of 2016, the Perennial Flower Trial Garden was relocated to the north end of the University Center for the Arts.   Its former location, now situated just west of the new stadium and east of the CSU Arboretum, was cleared to become the site of new football practice fields.  The CSU Arboretum / Woody Plant Demonstration and Research Area was preserved.  It was said the plan was to improve the CSU Arboretum with enhanced signage and more walking paths so that it could be better enjoyed by people visiting the campus for events at the stadium.  A new garden was to be built along the Lake Street side of the practice fields to enhance the appearance of the area and to honor the memory of the Holley PERC that once stood there.

Sources by Gordon A. Hazard

Colorado A&M News, October 1946, page 1, vol. 1, number 4.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, November 5, 1947, page 271.

The Colorado State College Alumnus, January – February 1948, page 4, vol. XXVII, number 1.

Colorado A&M News, February 1948, page 1, vol. 2, number 8.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 6, 1948, page 1, col. 1, vol. LVII, number 15.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, February 21, 1948, page 308.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 24, 1948, page 6, vol. LVIII, number 1.

Colorado A&M News, September 1948, page 3, vol. 3, number 3.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 1, 1948, page 10, vol. LVIII, number 2.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, May 20, 1949, page 6, vol. LVIII, number 29.

Colorado A&M News, October 1949, page 3, vol. 4, number 4.

“1950 Silver Spruce”, page 61, vol. 45.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 11, 1951, page 577.

University Historic Photo Collection, images B4332A, B, C, D, dated August 1951.

“Long Range Development Program”, Report to the Colorado State Planning Commission, March 1952, page s10, 14, 17, 30 and campus maps.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, May 15, 1952, page 4, vol. LXI, number 34.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, September 23, 1955, page 554.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, October 21, 1955, page 563.

1959 Fort Collins City Directory, page 405.

Colorado State University Rocky Mountain Collegian, April 29, 1960, page 1, vol. LXVIII, number 49.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, February 16-17, 1962, page 305.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, March 30, 1962, pages 325-327.

The Colorado Aggie Alumnus, March - April 1963, page 12, vol. 37, number 12.

The CSU Alumnus, January – February 1964, page 3, vol. 40, number 1.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 5, 1973, page 3, vol. LXXXI, number 95.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 20, 1974, page 480.

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

CSU Comments, July 25, 1974, page 3, vol. 5, number 1.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 10, 1976, page 3, vol. LXXXIV, number 115.

“Democracy’s College in the Centennial State – A History of Colorado State University” by James E. Hansen II, 1977, pp. 356, 399.

CSU Comments, July 20, 1978, page 1, vol. 9, number 1.

Fort Collins Journal, December 4, 1979, page 5, vol. LXXXVIII, number 63.

CSU Comments, December 17, 1981, page 3, vol. 12, number 17.

CSU Comments, August 26, 1982, page 7, vol. 13, number 2.

Colorado State University Comment, September 13, 1984, page 2, vol. 15, number 5.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 26, 1990, page 1, vol. 98, number 125.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 30, 1990, page 14, vol. 98, number 129.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, July 2, 1991, page 1, vol. 100, issue 1.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 22, 1996, page 3, vol. 104, issue 122.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 11, 1998, page 6, vol. 107, number 15.

Colorado State University Alumni, fall 2002, page 32.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, August 26, 2003, page 24, vol. 112, number 3.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 15, 2003, page 1, vol. 112, number 16.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 8, 2004, pages 1 and 3, vol. 113, number 13.

“Visionary Leadership, the Memoirs of William E. Morgan”, page 94, by Connie Pheiffenberger, 2005.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 20, 2013, pages 1 and 6, vol. 122, number 56.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 2, 2015, pages 1 and 6, vol. 123, number 95.

http://source.colostate.edu/plant-research-get-new-home-colorado-state-university/, by Jennifer Dimas, February 16, 2015.

CSU Faculty and Staff Life, March 2015, pages 1 and 5.

CSU Architects Alpha List, March 17, 2015, by James E. Hansen II, Randall Larsen & Associates.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, May 3, 2016, page 4, vol. 125, number 57.

http://source.colostate.edu/green-spaces-define-csu/, Source, August 16, 2017, by Jennifer Dimas.

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