CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

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

College Farm Structures, 1887-1959

A large barn with four gables and a cupola with a cast iron weathervane. An opening large enough to hold wagons is on the left side of the building and two doors are in the front.

Horse Barn, c. 1917

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 (1887 College Barn), Harlan Thomas (1903 Horse Barn), Albert Bryan (1905 Implement Building), Harry H. Smith (1925 Abattoir)

Builders – John C. Davis (1887 Barn carpenter), George Kelly (1887 Barn stonework), Smith & Soult (1887 Barn painting), W. T. Dimmick (1905 Implement Building), Cole-Potter Construction Company (1906 barns and stalls), S.A. Macdonald Company of Denver (1926 rebuilding of the dairy barn silo), Farm Superintendent William “Billy” O’Brien oversaw many of the structures as they were being built

Multiple buildings classed as “College Farm Structures” have come and gone over the years.  On January 26, 1882, a report on the plans to build a barn was read to the State Board of Agriculture by President Elijah Edwards. This earliest barn appears to have been built in the summer of 1882.  This brick building with its additions still stands as today’s Laurel Hall.  Laurel Hall was used as a barn for only a few months as it was converted to the college’s Chemistry Laboratory by April 1883. For the next four years, it appears other structures were used to provide shelter for the small but growing number of work horses, dairy cows and swine used on the campus.

This same meeting in 1882 had President Edwards reporting that a cistern was to be built on the College Farm.  It was to be 10’ wide and 15’ deep.  After its brick walls were laid, cemented, and plastered, it was to have the ability to hold water for twelve months.

In the spring and summer of 1887, the State Board of Agriculture discussed and approved the plans to build a 48’ x 70’ general purpose barn on the campus that would resemble the new barn on the Loveland area farm owned by a person named Mr. Goss.  James W. Lawrence, professor of Mechanical Engineering, designed the College’s newest barn that featured a 10’ high basement, 18’ high main area, 14’ wide doorway, a large granary, and an experiment room.  Located on the “dry knoll of the College Farm”, contracts were awarded with excavation and foundation work started in August 1887.  The barn was completed in late 1887.  A water pipe tapped the city water main near the original laboratory building ran under the College grounds to supply water for the livestock kept there.  Fences and corrals still needed to be built.

In December 1889, a basic barn and adjoining corral area was constructed along West Laurel Street in the “Walnut Grove” west of the Mechanics Shop building. The barn cost $1000.  John C. Davis was the building contractor for what was intended to be the first Veterinary Building.   Before the building could be used by the Veterinary Department, the State Board of Agriculture fired the College Veterinarian and disbanded the infant department. The Horticultural Department was given permission to use this new barn by the State Board of Agriculture.  In 1907 the Department of Veterinary Science had been revived by the State Board and this barn was remodeled to meet the needs of Dr. George H. Glover and his new course of Veterinary Medicine studies. 

The inventory of College Farm buildings expanded in 1891 when a 32’ x 50’ Implement and Tool Building and a six-sided Sheep Barn with its sheds and outside paddocks were constructed.  In the summer of 1896, the original 1887 College Barn got a new roof and ventilator system.  In 1900, a project to rebuild and modernize the original stock yards on the College Farm started under the direction of the Professor of Agriculture.  At that time, the College Farm livestock herd had Clydesdale horses, Shorthorn and Jersey cattle, Shropshire sheep and Berkshire hogs needing proper facilities.  By 1903 Ayrshire, Polled Angus and Hereford cattle along with Tamworth and Poland China hogs were added to rapidly growing farm inventory.

In 1902, the 1887 College Barn was remodeled from a general-purpose barn into a barn for dairy cattle.  The newly remodeled Dairy Barn now had two gables, a grain storage silo, and a cupola sporting a cast iron weathervane depicting a milk cow.  That same summer and fall saw the new construction of a $1000 Hog Barn and the massive $6000 College Horse Barn.  The College Horse Barn was built to support the contracted experiment work being with carriage horses for the United States Government.   Architect Harlan Thomas designed this landmark building with the assistance of his students in the short-lived Department of Architecture.

When placed into service in January 1903, the College Horse Barn was considered state-of-the-art as it was supplied with electricity. It was built on a thick base of native stone and constructed of heavy timber.  The massive red barn had four gables and a cupola with a cast iron weathervane depicting a galloping horse.  It stood on the highest point of the campus, about where the Clark Building now stands. The north gable had large doors that allowed tons of hay to be stored to be fed to the horses below.  This new barn was located 50 feet north of the smaller Dairy Barn. Original plans called for connecting the two barns with a porch, which appears to have never happened.  The Sanford Insurance map published in March 1906 shows both barns along with other farm structures. 

In 1908, a small house was moved from the newly acquired Taylor Farm property to a new location near the Farm Superintendent’s House.  It appears to have become the Farm Manager’s Cottage that was located near the Sheep Barn and paddocks.  This site is about where the Madison-Macdonald Observatory was built in 1966. The former Miller and Taylor farms had been purchased by the State Board of Agriculture a couple of years earlier as the college grounds were expanded westward to what is now South Shields Street.

On February 10, 1920, the Executive Committee of the State Board of Agriculture assigned the East Farm to the Experiment Station for their work.  The barns, sheds and corrals formerly used in the now defunct government carriage horse breeding work were given to the Military Department to support its rapidly growing inventory of horses and artillery equipment.

In August 1922, two fires affected the barn structures on the College Farm.  A fire was discovered in the Dairy Barn that was quickly extinguished and no real damage was done.  Later that month, another fire did about $4100 damage to the Beef Cattle Barns and some of its experimental feeding sheds.  These structures were badly damaged and had to be replaced after the fire.  The cause of both fires was felt to be the careless discarding of still-lit cigarette butts.  Security was increased and access to non-College personnel was greatly restricted. Smoking around the College Farm was severely restricted. Over the next year, a great deal of money was spent on adding fire-fighting systems to the buildings of the College Farm.  These actions were mandated by the insurance carriers.

In early 1925, a state-of-the-art abattoir was constructed under the direction of Animal Husbandry Professor Harry H. Smith.  This new slaughterhouse allowed students to learn how to process meat and the comfort of working indoors rather than outside as they had done up until that time.  The L-shaped building and its corrals were located a few yards south of the Stock Judging Pavilion and could handle 8 hogs and 3 beeves at the same time by classes learning how to butcher meat.  The abattoir featured a large boiler, a portable smokehouse, and a scale that could weigh carcasses without having to remove them from the overhead track.

In the summer of 1926, the silo of the Dairy Barn was rebuilt for $522 by the S.A. Macdonald Company of Denver.

Up through the early 1950s, the original College Farm saw the construction, modification and removal of several unnamed farm structures as the needs of the Department of Animal Husbandry evolved.  By the mid-1950s, tracts of agricultural land located miles from the Main Campus had been acquired.  Abandoned for use by horses and other livestock, most of the old farm barns and sheds that long occupied the Main Campus were finally demolished during the last months of 1957 and the naturally occurring high ground there was leveled.  Aerial photographs show the six-sided Sheep Barn, its side sheds and paddocks standing until the late months of 1958.  Some of the cattle shelters and corrals stood until the early months of 1959.  This part of campus was cleared for the construction of several new academic buildings over the next fifteen years.

Sources by Gordon A. Hazard

Fort Collins Courier, April 9, 1881, p. 2, c. 3.

Fort Collins Courier, May 5, 1881, p. 2, c. 1.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, September 2, 1881, page 82.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, January 26, 1882, pages 97-98.

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

Report of the State Board of Agriculture of the State of Colorado 1881-1882 dated December 18, 1882.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 6-7, 1887, pages 17-18.

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

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, September 1, 1887, pages 37-38.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 15, 1887, page 43.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 7, 1889, page 117.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 13, 1889, pages 140,146.

“Twelfth Annual Register of The State Agricultural College, Fort Collins, Colorado, 1890-1891”, p. 68.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, April 16, 1891, pages 200-201.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, December 1891, page 5, col. 2, vol. 1, number 1.

13th Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture State of Colorado 1891 to the Governor, published 1892, pages 5 and 23.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 1892, page 12, vol. 1, number 2.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 14, 1893, page 368.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 8, 1894, page 410.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, December 13, 1894, pages 445-446.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, April 2, 1895, pages 34-35.

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

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, July 31, 1895, page 61.

Sanford Insurance Map published November 1895.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, June 8, 1896, page 529.

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Register of the Officers and Students of the State Agricultural College, 1899-1900, published in 1900, page 84.

Fort Collins Courier, March 8, 1900, page 5.

22nd Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture and the State Agricultural College, 13th Annual Report of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Fort Collins, Colorado 1900, published 1901, page 19.

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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 19.

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State Board of Agriculture Minutes, July 24, 1903, page 721.

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

“The State Agricultural College, Fort Collins, Colorado, Catalogue and Prospectus – 1905-06”, published May 1905, p. 34, LD1146, .C6, 1903/04 – 1907/08.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, September 1, 1905, pages 15-18, vol. 3.

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Sanford Insurance Map published March 1906.

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State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, July 24, 1926, page 394.

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University Historic Photo Collection, image B7608J and B7608K, dated January 1958.

The Colorado Aggie Alumnus, January – February 1958, pages 2, 4-5, vol. 34, number 3.

University Historic Photo Collection, image B7394A, dated April 1958.

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

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“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, page 379, v. 2.

State Board of Agriculture Minutes, August 29, 1989, page 1-7 1-1m.

 

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