The Early The Early Architectural years

The Agriculture Building

Forbes BuildingAgriculture

The University of Arizona Agriculture, Dr. Forbers wanted an elevator to the roof, but no terminal scructure on the roof. Behind it, partially seen, at left, is the "Aggie" Auditorium.

Roy Place, as an architect, had nothing to do with the UA's Agriculture Building, although he played a small part in the designing of the "Aggie Auditorium," a hexagonal building adjacent to the east of the Ag Building. It served as the university's first auditorium and was built shortly after the completion of the Ag Building. It has since been demolished.

Place began as an active architect during the realm of Dr. Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid, who was president of the university from 1914 to 1922. Dr. von KleinSmid, who had the appearance of Teutonic aristocracy but none of the autocratic airs, was appointed president of the University of Arizona by the Arizona Board of Regents on August 7, 1914. The Agriculture Building's basement was being excavated at the time and was the first of the university's cohesive style that was to rise out of the hodge-podge of existing structures.

Von KleinSmid was to be paid an annual salary of $4,500 and was to be furnished a residence, already existing on campus, and utilities for that house. It was a good salary in those days for the UA's seventh president.

In a newspaper article, the Tucson Daily Citizen on March 2, 1924 - two years after von KleinSmid's departure for the presidency of the University of Southern California - had this to say about him:

In the summer of 1914, Dr. von KleinSmid was called to the University of Arizona to direct its administration. At that time, Arizona was a small struggling institution with very meager equipment. It stands today as a university in every sense of the word with a student body of over two thousand and with equipment that is not surpassed in any part of the country. This achievement is directly attributable to the energetic, aggressive administration of President von KleinSmid. When the University of Southern California was looking over field for an administrator to take the place of George Finley Bovard, it could find no one who could qualify in such a remarkable way for the high position as the former president of the University of Arizona.

Von KleinSmid was a native of Illinois and during his life received five earned and honorary doctoral degrees.

During his tenure as UA president, von KleinSmid espoused a single theme, "Greater Arizona." He was a fine orator and the state's citizens loved speakers if they had anything to say. Von KleinSmid did. He held daily assemblies for the student body and they were even attended by the faculty when such attendance was not mandated nor popularly followed. No one had ever seen a university president like him - he was handsome, magnetic, eloquent and convincing.

He was also a good politician, as university presidents as well as architects dealing with universities must be, and he soon made an active and important supporter of Gov. George W. P. Hunt. Hunt was a politician's politician and he well knew how to deal with the Legislature and with Arizona mining companies - which, for all practical purposes, were one and the same in those days.

The first construction under von KleinSmid was the" A" on Sentinel Mountain west of the downtown section and on the last day of the project, von KleinSmid gave the student body a day off from classes so that all could pitch in and become a part of the project. Von KleinSmid had ambitious plans to house and instruct the expanding student body, which rose from 451 students to 1,732 during his administration. But World War I expenditures cut into those plans ..

Von KleinSmid died in Los Angeles on July 9, 1964, at age 89. He was Chancellor of USC at the time of his death. The Agriculture Building was completed in July, 1915, but was begun under the administration of UA President Arthur H. Wilde, who preceded von KleinSmid.

The building has been described architecturally as Roman Classical Revival. It has an octastyle portico of eight Ionic columns. It is of three stories and a basement with the windows and upper half of the basement visible. It has a low-hipped tile roof, a classical cornice and classical detailing on doors and windows. It is U-shaped with the open part of the U on the east.

It is located south across the street from Old Main and faces west. Architects were Bristow and Lyman. It was built by the Winget Construction Co. of Los Angeles. Total cost was $172,493, which included equipment and excavation and the separate auditorium to the east.

As was stated, for large state construction in those days many architectural contracts were awarded on the basis of a competition on the outside design and the floor plans. As the number of architects in the state grew, this method of architectural selection became unpopular probably because of the enormous amount of work that the losers in the competition had to produce and were not rewarded. It was a chancy enterprise at best. And so in a few years, reputation and politics became the deciding factors in the selection of designers. More on that, later.

Neither Bristow or Lyman were residents of Tucson at the time, presumably traveling from their business and residences in San Diego to the UA campus when their presence was required. It is not a matter of record, however, that Bristow ever visited on-the-job construction.

Lew Place states that his father, Roy, had nothing to do with the design of the Agriculture Building. Lyman and (Roy) Place, however, are listed as architects for a new entrance to the Aggie Auditorium. The College of Architecture's Archives has the signed, original plans.

Designing buildings for a university is a unique occupation because the structures are specialized buildings depending on their intended use. And the usage varies decidedly. Chemistry, library, engineering, athletics - each requiring special treatment, consideration, and knowledgeable research.

The architect began by interviewing the personnel who were going to operate the building and work in it, particularly the dean of the college or the head of the department. The dean, or head, would bring in his people who would be the professors, to meet with the architect and persons from the university's superintendent of buildings and grounds office and to advise of special requirements. These needs, quite practically, were tempered by the amount of money appropriated by the State Legislature for the construction. Regrettably, Legislators know nothing of construction; they know of purse strings which the draw closely shut on such frivolities as education. They take the requested appropriation from the Board of Regents and hack away.

It was the duty of the architect, in council with the grounds superintendent, to design according to appropriation, not in the light of need.

Only actual construction came from the appropriation. Monies for decorating the grounds, for necessary sidewalks and streets and extensions of the utility tunnels came from the university. Usually, this money represented unspent funds from previously-completed buildings, if such surplus actually existed.

After the consultations, the architect would proceed with detailed renderings, trying to include all of the faculty requests that he could. When the Agriculture Building was in its formative stages, the Director of the University of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station - and later head of the College of Agriculture - was Dr. Robert H. Forbes. Forbes was a fussy man and threw himself into the designing of his "college" with all of his energy much like a mother hen clucking over her nest. A good illustration of the role played by Forbes is a letter from him to L. T. Bristow of the architectural firm, Bristow and Lyman. Bristow had suggested to Forbes that he look at the architectural styles in several buildings in San Francisco.

After a trip to that city, Forbes wrote Bristow:

I have looked at the Bohemian Club today and find it quite interesting inas-much as it can be done in the materials available at Tucson. All the headers are dark and other walls are a shade darker than our common brick, so that the general effect is heavier than that proposed by you for our building. I do not especially like the diagonal brick work in the upper story, however, although it is very good of its kind. This kind of construction seems uncomfortable to me, especially when it is introduced midway of a wall, as you are proposing to do with the herring bone work at the top of the first story. It seems to me that patterns in which horizontal lines predominate in an arrangement around a decorative oblong space will avoid the feeling that the structure of the wall is contradicting within itself. The square-raked joints in the Bohemian Club and in several neighboring buildings are very effective in toning and softening the appearance of an otherwise hard surface. Unless I mistake, however, raked joints have to do, properly, with surface tone rather than with outline; but when carried clear to the corners they interfere with outline converting clear vertical lines into rough edges. As a matter of taste the point seems worth considering.

The Olympic Club, alongside the Bohemian, has some very good dead-white (not gray) columns, apparently natural stone, which would show up beautifully against your Flemish bond brick front.

The Alvarado Hotel nearby also has some fine brick work in the top story arranged not only to fill in the space ornamentally, but also to crown and finish the long lines of windows below.

The Palace hotel did not interest me, the composition pillars and the eight white capitals seeming to me in rather barbarous taste. The long flat arches of the dining room are very good but would not apply to our work, I suppose, unless possibly to the auditorium.

Referring to the thermostatic control it seems to me that the more exposed suites of rooms constantly in use on the west front should be equipped now. Temperatures will change rapidly in those rooms from morning to afternoon unless automatically arranged for. I would suggest, therefore, thermostats each for the Farm Management and Administrative offices on the third and second floors respectively.

Your specifications will undoubtedly follow program requirements for the most part, some of them, such as fireproofers, being essential.

I have written to Mr. Granick fully concerning details as they now stand. Advertisement should appear this week in Arizona papers and local contractors will doubtless be waiting your plans when they arrive.
With best wishes for an early completion of preparations, I am very truly your, R. H. Forbes.

And all this from a farmer.

But of course Forbes was more than a farmer. He was a world water expert, later a State Representative in the Arizona House, a photographer who took many pictures of the Agriculture Building in progress, a hiker, a conqueror many times of Baboquivari Peak in southern Arizona, and a cultivator of olive trees in Tucson. More will appear, later, on the subject of Forbes' olive trees.

In another letter to Bristow, Forbes wanted the Ag Building's elevator to run to the roof in case heavy equipment would be needed there. In this, Bristow discouraged Forbes by explaining that if the elevator ran to the roof, if its ultimate stop was atop the roof, a twenty-foot tall terminal would be required on the roof, thus breaking the architectural lines. Bristow won that one.

Additions and alterations to the Agricultural Building were done in 1921, 1927, 1963, 1978 and 1983. Roy Place was the architect for these before the 1963 alterations, which were extensive, at a cost of $624,433. J. H. Binns was the contractor for the 1963 alterations, designed by architects Friedman and Jobusch.

A year after the Agriculture Building was completed, it was turned into a "fort," according to historian Douglas D. Martin, in his history, The Lamp In The Desert, the story of the University of Arizona from its beginning to 1960.

In 1916, Gen. John J. Pershing was ordered into Mexico on the trail of the revolutionary, Pancho Villa. Villa had invaded the United States and his band of men had murdered seventeen citizens in Columbus, New Mexico.

Rumor reached Tucson that either Villa or some 3,000 Yaqui Indians, or perhaps together, planned to raid Tucson. University of Arizona faculty members formed a military company to protect faculty families and to guard the campus.

The Ag Building was turned into a fort and faculty families stocked it with a week's supply of food and necessary bedding.

Later the Ag Building became a hospital. Spanish Influenza during World War I hit the UA in the fall and winter of 1918. Four hospital wards were set up in Old Main and the top floor of the Ag Building was made into a large-scale hospital ward.

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