CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

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

College Cafeteria/Dining Hall, 1918-1940

A black and white photograph of a long wooden building with a hip roof and lean-to attached in the back. Windows line the building. A three story building, also with a hip roof, adjoins the long building.

College Cafeteria, 1924

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 – United States Army

Builder – LD Crain supervised the construction

Construction began in the middle of May 1918 and within one month the Dining Hall was opened on the east side of Oval to feed the United States Army soldiers being trained on the campus.  During the summer of 1918, more kitchen equipment was installed to help feed the additional Student Army Training Corps (SATC) students that were about to begin their training at the College.

Commonly called the “Mess Hall” by the students, it was a standard wood-framed military dining hall that cost $28,746.68. It contained a 34’ x 190’ main building with a 45’ x 81’ wing.  Construction workers hired directly by the College built the structure under the guidance of the Building Superintendent.  The labor unions to which the workers belonged patriotically waived their union rules regarding holidays and Sundays so that the project could be completed in the shortest amount of time.

The dining hall could comfortably seat 240 although it was rated as a facility that could seat 500 soldiers.  $14,843.00 was spent on kitchen equipment.  A fully equipped bakery adjoined the kitchen.  It produced the 250 loaves of bread and other baked goods consumed by the diners each day.

When classes started in late September 1918, the dining facility was opened to all students and meals could be purchased for a nominal cost.  In October 1918, a plan was announced that a frost-proof, double walled cement storehouse for vegetables would be built by the soldiers learning to work with cement.  The building connected to the mess hall would be 21’ wide x 50’ long x 12’ high.  The double-wall would have a four-inch air space between the walls to maintain an even temperature in which to store the food.  This support building would stand for the next four decades and become known as “The Biltmore”.

The war ended in November 1918 and the SATC troops departed the campus by the end of that year.  Aggie students began returning from military service in the spring of 1919.  Beginning with the fall semester of 1919, the “College Cafeteria”, as it was now called, was being run by a local contractor and continued to be used as an affordable cafeteria dining facility for the students, faculty, and staff of the College. In the fall of 1920, an addition was built onto the southeast end of the original building.  The interior was remodeled during this same time.

Despite almost being closed during the summer of 1935, the “College Cafeteria” remained open and continued to serve meals until 1939.  It appears to have lost business to the soda fountain and coffee shop in the new Student Union opened in the fall of 1936.  The building stood until May 1940 when it was razed. Materials from this building were used to build the R.O.T.C. Pistol Range building located south of the west Gun Shed.

The new full-service cafeteria in the 1939 addition to the Johnson Hall Student Union had made the older facility obsolete in the eyes of the administration.  Ironically, College administrators were said to have quietly admitted they regretted tearing down this building after the United States entered World War II in December 1941. This old building would have been very handy to have to feed the masses of United States Army soldiers that came to live and study on the campus during 1942 and 1943.

The Dining Hall was the first of several of the “temporary” wooden structures built on the campus.  These were widely used in the first half of the 20th century to meet the billeting needs of the U.S. Armed Forces.  According to the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Quartermaster General and the Army Corps of Engineers combined to establish five principles used from the outbreak of World War I through the 1950s as the foundation of their mobilization construction plans.  Speed, simplicity, conservation of materials, flexibility, and safety were these principles. They created and issued standard building plans for simple wood-frame structures to be used for a multitude of purposes on a military installation. The buildings were designed to be constructed quickly with inexpensive and prefabricated materials that could be built in assembly-line fashion. The standard plans were bundled into construction packages that could meet the needs of a 125-person company, complete with barracks (with central heating, interior showers and latrines), mess halls, offices, recreation, and supply buildings. Some of the typical elements of these buildings included a long, rectangular shape, a gable roof, use of horizontal wood siding, the use of “aqua medias” or the first story projecting overhang which provided protection from rain, and multi-paned, double-hung windows.  Little or no insulation was used in most locales and often the interior was the frame of the building and back side of the roof and siding boards.  The Dining Hall had its interior lined with smooth panels to better allow for maintaining cleanliness.

Sources by Gordon A. Hazard

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, April 30, 1918, pages 50-51, vol. Jan. 1917 – Aug. 1930.

Rocky Mountain Collegian May 16, 1918, page 5, vol. XXVII, number 35.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, April 30, 1918, pages 50-52, vol. Jan. 1917 – Aug. 1930.

Rocky Mountain Collegian September 26, 1918, pages 1, 2 and 4, vol. XXVIII, number 1.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, September 30, 1918, page 65.

Rocky Mountain Collegian October 10, 1918, page 5, vol. XXVIII, number 3.

Rocky Mountain Collegian October 24, 1918, pages 1 and 5, vol. XXVIII, number 7.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, November 29, 1918, page 68.

Rocky Mountain Collegian December 19, 1918, pages 1 and 6, vol. XXVIII, number 11.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 2, 1919, pp. 1, 6, vol. XXVIII, number 12.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 30, 1919, page 1, vol. XXVIII, number 16.

“The Colorado Agricultural College, Its Functions, The Service it is Rendering”, 1919, pages 82-84.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, May 26, 1920, page 114.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 23, 1920, page 1, vol. XXX, number 2.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, September 27, 1920, page 122.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 28, 1920, page 5, vol. XXX, number 7.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, October 29, 1920, page 126.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, December 16, 1920, page 4, vol. XXX, number 14.

Fort Collins Morning Express, April 2, 1921, page 6, col. 6.

1922 Silver Spruce yearbook, page 192.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, November 26, 1921, page 166.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, December 8, 1921, page 1, col. 2, vol. XXXI, number 12.

Fort Collins Evening Courier, December 22, 1921, page 6, col. 2.

Fort Collins Morning Express, January 3, 1922, page 1, col. 3.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 5, 1922, pages 1 and 6, vol. XXXI, number 14.

Fort Collins Morning Express, January 10, 1922, page 2, col. 4.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 19, 1922, page 1, col. 6, vol. XXXII, number 2.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, October 23, 1922, page 211.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 6, 1923, page 1, col. 1, vol. XXXII, number 44.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 11, 1923, page 1, col. 4, vol. XXXIII, number 2.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, November 2, 1923, page 1, col. 1, vol. XXXIII, number 17.

C.A.C. Alumnus, August 1924, pages 1 and 3, vol. 5, number 4.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, October 19, 1926, page 1, col. 5-6, vol. XXXVI, number 6.

Colorado Agricultural College Bulletin, “Building Conditions at the Colorado State Institutions of Higher Learning”, series XXV, number 8, December 1926, page 23.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 8, 1927, pages 1 col. 6 and page 4 col. 3, vol. XXXVI, number 24.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 15, 1927, page 27.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, July 23, 1927, pages 437, 438, vol. Jan. 1917 – Aug. 1930.

C.A.C. Alumnus, July – August 1927, page 10, vol. 8, numbers 3 & 4.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, August 20, 1927, page 443, vol. Jan. 1917 – Aug. 1930.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 20, 1932, page 1, vol. XL, number 18.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, November 22, 1933, page 178, vol. Sept. 1930 – Aug. 940.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, February 27, 1935, page 268.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, April 10, 1935, page 1, vol. XLIV, number 29.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, July 24, 1935, page 286.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, August 10, 1935, pages 292-293.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, September 16, 1935, pages 213 and 220.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, August 23, 1938, page 514.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, August 26, 1939, page 338, vol. Sept. 1930 – Aug. 1940.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, February 3, 1940, page 116.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 14, 1940, page 139.

The Colorado State College Alumnus, May 1940, page 1, vol. 20, number 7.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, May 16, 1940, page 1, vol. XLIX, number 33.

The Colorado State College Alumnus, June 1940, page 3, vol. 20, number 8.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, September 27, 1940, page 190.

“Long Range Development Program”, Report to the Colorado State Planning Commission, March 1952, page 50.

“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. 274.

"The WPA Guide to 1930s Colorado," published by the University Press of Kansas, 1987.

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