CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

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

Preconstruction Center/Industrial Sciences Building/Arts-Industrial Arts Building/Arts Building/Mechanical Engineering Building/Mechanic Arts Hall/Mechanics Shop Building, 1883-

Two-story brick and stone building with an arched entryway.

Mechanical Engineering Building, c. 1918

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 – James W. Lawrence (1883), Harlan Thomas (1892, 1896, 1899)

Builders – Douglass Brothers (1894 water closets), Frank Anderson of Denver (1896)

251 West Laurel Street

The first part of this building, originally known as the Mechanics Shop, was built of red brick in 1883 at the cost of $10,000. to build.  Mechanical Engineering professor James W. Lawrence had recently joined the faculty and designed the new building.  Instrumental in leading the growth of the Mechanical Engineering work on the campus, he served many roles in addition to his teaching duties, becoming the Chairman of Mechanical Engineering, College Registrar and served as Acting College President for several months.

The original 1883 Mechanics Shop building acquired major additions in 1892, 1896 and 1899. Engineering student and architect Harlan Thomas was known to have designed the three additions using the “Richardson Romanesque Revival” style that mixed red sandstone and red brick.  The 1892 project saw a new entrance to the original building created to resemble the architecture of the addition that faced West Laurel Street.  In early 1894, indoor flush toilets came when water closets were installed after the college and city’s sanitary sewer system was operational.  The 1896 addition expanded the building along West Laurel Street giving it the appearance we know to this day.

The rapidly growing building became known as the Mechanical Engineering Building during the 1890s.  In 1899, a 40’ x 60’ building made of pressed brick was constructed just south of the Mechanical Engineering Building to house the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory. It was built for laboratory work done by the advanced mechanical engineering students.  In time, this structure was physically connected to the main building.  Some of the funds to build these additions came from donations made by local Fort Collins citizens.

Over this same period, some support buildings such as coal houses and storage sheds were constructed near the Mechanical Engineering Building.  These were simple frame buildings that appear to have been built, removed, and rebuilt as needed.  A 1906 Sanford Map shows a coal house just south of the original building where the forge room and foundry are located.  This same map shows the coal and iron storage building stands just west of the main building.  It is constructed of red brick on the west side and the other sides faced with wooden siding.  Its doors and windows on the east side indicate it having been built for storage and other utilitarian functions over a century ago.

In late January 1907, the bronze plaque indicating “5,015 feet above sea level” was installed on the east side of the building.  It was designed by Professor James W. Lawrence and cast by his students in the building’s Forge Room and Foundry.  This same time, the first electrically powered machine of any kind was installed on the campus.  A lathe powered by an electric motor was added to the inventory of equipment at the Mechanical Engineering Building.

In the fall of 1937, one of the building’s classrooms had air-conditioning equipment installed to train mechanical engineering students about the use of this new technology.  This appears to be the first air-conditioned facility on the campus.

The end of WWII and the resulting influx of students on the GI Bill heavily impacted the Division of Engineering.  In December 1945, the State Board of Agriculture approved the plan to convert the second floor of the Mechanical Engineering Building into a temporary dormitory for engineering students.

In May 1957 the institution had its name changed to Colorado State University.  In the fall of 1957, the building ended its 74 years of service to the mechanical engineers and had its function and name changed to the Arts Building when the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the College of Engineering moved over to its wing the new Engineering-Physics Building. The Department of Art and some Home Economics classes moved in and took over the space.

In 1969, changing functions saw the name being changed to the Arts-Industrial Arts Building.  In October 1970, the State Board of Agriculture renamed the building the Industrial Sciences Building after turning the entire building over to the Department of Industrial Sciences.

In 2009, money, materials and labor donated by several construction companies supporting the Department of Construction Management’s efforts funded a major interior and technological renovation and upgrade of the building.  This included the removal of the twenty-year-old elevated walkway that once connected this building to Guggenheim Hall.  On January 27, 2010, the “new” old building was officially given the name Preconstruction Center.  The historic red brick and sandstone structure now provides modern classroom and office space for the Department of Construction Management.  A pleasant patio area occupies the courtyard on the southwest side of the building.

Sources by Gordon A. Hazard

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 27, 1882, page 120, page 120.

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

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, February 21-22, 1883, pages 145, 147-148.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 26, 1883, page 157.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, August 29-30, 1883, page 163, 165, 168.

Fourth Annual Register of Colorado Agricultural College, 1881-82 – 1882-83, printed in 1883, page 45.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 11, 1886, page 245.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 9, 1886, page 8.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 12, 1890, page 184.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, July 17, 1891, page 229.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, December 1891, page 6, col. 2, vol. 1, number 1.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 11, 1891, page 257.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 1892, pages 17-19, vol. 1, number 3.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, April1892, page 40, vol. 1, number 5.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, March 9, 1892, page 270.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, May1892, page 53, vol. 1, number 6.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 11, 1892, pages 282-283, 288.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 1892, page 6, vol. II, number 1.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 15, 1892, page 309.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 14, 1893, pages 366-367, 371, 372.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, January 30-February 1, 1894, page 291.

“Register of the Officers and Students of The State Agricultural College, Fort Collins, Colorado, Courses of Study and General Information.  1893-1894”, pp. 66 – 68, 72, published in 1894.

City of Fort Collins Map, 1894.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 13, 1894, pages 442-443, 446, 447.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 14, 1894, page 455.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 30, 1895, page 465.

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

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 6, 1895, page 477.

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Eighteenth Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture, pages 49-50, published December 1896.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 1897, page 61, vol. VI, number 5.

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Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 1898, pages 4-6, vol. VIII, number 1.

Register of the Officers and Students of the State Agricultural College of Colorado for 1899-1900, pages 86-89.

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Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 12, 1904, page 4, vol. XIII, number.

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

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 14, 1904, page 775.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 10, 1905, page 9, vol. XIV, number 9.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, April 21, 1905, pages 13-14, vol. XIV, number 14.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 7, 1905, pages 4, 7.

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Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 27, 1905, pages 2-3, vol. XV, number 2.

Sanford Insurance Map, published March 1906.

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

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Board of Governors Minutes, August 24, 2007, section E-2-D, pages 10-11.

“Democracy’s University – A History of Colorado State University 1970 – 2003” by James E. Hansen II, 2007, pp. 230, 347.

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