CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

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

Military Support Facilities/Pistol Ranges/Gun Sheds, 1919-1961

A shed with 14 sets of four doors each.

Nearly completed Gun Shed, 1927

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 – United States Army, Butler Manufacturing Company of Kansas City (steel gun shed buildings)

Builder - Farm Superintendent William “Billy” O’Brien supervised the building of the Rifle Range on part of the foothills pasture in 1916

On foothills land that would later be the site of the B.W. Pickett Equine Center, the Military Rifle Range was completed and opened in March 1916.  Planned for at least two years, the Military Rifle Range was located on what was then called the “south foothills pasture”.  The land was approved for the use of the military department under an agreement between the Director of the Experiment Station and the Professor of Military Science and Tactics. 

Following World War I and the arrival of the inventory of newly assigned field artillery equipment, a variety of wood-framed and sheet-metal military support buildings were added to the military department’s inventory.  During the summer of 1919, a one-story, wood-framed military supply building was built.  It was located just north of where the General Services Building would be built 1947 and south of where the National Seed Storage Laboratory would be built in 1958.  On a campus map dated 1923, it was called the Gun Shed and was located at the north end of the military riding arena.

In October 1920, the new horse stable building had been completed and the herd of almost fifty military horses had been moved into their new quarters.  The new stable building was built just south of the Military Barracks and was described as a large airy building with a cement floor, running water, electric lights and all the modern equipment of an up-to-date stable.  It was designed to shelter up to 100 horses. 

The south end of the field adjoining the stable building was used for horse corrals, a riding arena, a feed lot, and granary. The north end of the field was used for a military drill and parade ground.  In 1939, there were 84 horses being used by the military department.  In about 1955, these stable structures were dismantled and moved to land on the Wolfer Farm.  This was to make way for new buildings to house the Physical Plant Department operations and create a new CSU Riding Stable complex away from the center of the Main Campus.

Following the massive Military Barracks fire of January 28, 1927, the Butler Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, Missouri was contracted to provide the first steel and sheet metal building that was commonly called the Gun Shed.  The 36’ x 192’ building cost $5887.50 and was constructed on a concrete pad in the early spring of 1927 to house large military field equipment.  It was designed with big doors along its east and west sides so that horse- and tractor-drawn artillery gear could be moved in and out with ease and efficiency.  A second similar Butler building was built just east of this building in the early summer of 1927.  The East Gun Shed had a concrete floor and storage shelves for personal military supplies such as rifles and uniforms.  It was lined with brick which allowed it to be heated during the winter and remain cooler during the rest of the year.

In 1940, the first indoor Pistol Range was constructed along East Drive just south of the West Gun Shed and north of where the new Bishop Trainer Building would be built a few months later.  Recycled materials from the old Dining Hall/College Cafeteria building on the Oval were used in its construction. 

In late 1940, a large wood-framed building was built and equipped with a Bishop Trainer.  According to aerial photos, it was built on the site of the old Military Riding Arena.  The Bishop Trainer was invented by United States Army artillery officer Major General Harry Gore Bishop at Fort Sill, Oklahoma several years earlier.  It was an innovative indoor artillery range used to train soldiers in the use of field artillery without having to set up in the field and use live ammunition. The Bishop Trainer was placed into use by the Military Science Department in the spring of 1941.  After WWII, the mission changed and Bishop Trainer was no longer used.  The building, with its dirt floor, was pressed into service as a storage area for hundreds of boxes of unused library books.  The books remained until 1957 when the building’s function changed once again.

In 1957, the old Bishop Trainer building was turned over the Department of Wood Science for their use.  During 1958, donated materials from wood product corporations were used to transform the old building into the Troxell Wood Utilization Laboratory that opened in early 1959.

In the spring of 1960, the original West Gun Shed building was removed. Within a year the East Gun Shed building was removed and the site became an open lawn area that saw countless military drills by ROTC cadets for the next three decades. The West Gun Shed building was used by the CSU Motor Pool as a maintenance garage and is still in use today.  Some of the original folding door hinges are still in place on the east side of the building.

Aerial photographs taken between September 1960 and April 1961 show the first Pistol Range structure disappearing during that period.  Another wood-framed Pistol Range building was built on a site east of the new Livestock Pavilion and west of the electric substation on West Pitkin Street.  This second Pistol Range building was demolished in 1999 and the site became part of a paved parking lot and a sidewalk.  It is now the site of the new Chemistry Research Building which was constructed in 2016-2017.

Sources by Gordon A. Hazard

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 30, 1914, page 2, vol. XXIV, number 4.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, November 18, 1914, page 3, vol. XXIV, number 11.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 16, 1916, page 1, vol. XXV, number 27.

C.A.C. Alumnus, August 1919, page 4, vol. 1, number 3.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 11, 1919, pages1 and 5, vol. XXIX, number 2.

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

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, February 10, 1920, page 98.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Meeting Minutes, June 28, 1920, page 117.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Meeting Minutes, March 25, 1921, pages 144-145.

Rocky Mountain Collegian, September 7, 1923, page 3, vol. XXXIII, number 1.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, December 22, 1923.

State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, November 24, 1924, page 305.

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State Board of Agriculture Executive Committee Minutes, February 6, 1927, pages 416-417.

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Campus Map, 1928, several military buildings and facilities are shown.

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“Long Range Development Program”, Report to the Colorado State Planning Commission, March 1952, page s13, 25 and campus maps.

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“Colorado State University Directory of 1959-60”, campus map.

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