The Beginnings

A Study by the University of Arizona's College of Architecture has divided present architectural styles on campus into two periods. The dividing year is 1940, with the university's original building - Old Main - being completed in 1891, six years after the establishment of the university by legislative act in 1885.

The College of Architecture uses its own jargon in referring to styles, stating that prior to 1940, the campus architecture was "revival in spirit" and that after 1940, there came a divergence "in the direction of modern architecture" with a few exceptions. The college stated that in this second period" designs were to meet utility with little regard for ornamentation."

The periods were the old and the new. The old is centered around Old Main and is a natural spreading away from the university's chief building at the time. The new was built to the north, south and east of Old Main and now extends as far east as Campbell Avenue, north across Speedway and south to the south side of Sixth Street. There are some structures in the vein of the "new," west of Park Avenue.

The College of Architecture states that the period from 1885 to 1938, the first half-century of the university's history, is represented by buildings and landscapings that were individually distinctive and yet all is combined to present a scene of harmony. Lyman and Place, Roy Place, and Place and Place were the architectural firms most responsible.

From 1914 to 1924, L. T. Bristow, John B. Lyman, and Roy Place were the architects who designed the bulk of the university buildings. Bristow and Lyman, of San Diego, took Place into their firm. Bristow never visited the UA campus, and with the departure of Lyman by 1924, Roy Place and his firm until 1940 were the leading designers. From 1940 to 1950, the partnership of Roy Place and his son, Lew Place, was at the forefront. From 1950 to 1976, Lew Place was alone responsible for the Place and Place firm. All of these architects were recognized as leaders and innovators and were highly regarded in the profession.

The College of Architecture, in particular Professor Robert Giebner, has pointed out that the growth of the campus from its original forty acres in 1885 to its 321 acres in 1985, and the development of new buildings have been "continuous but not constant." The patterns of change are visible in VA campus architecture.

The adaptability of the structures has also changed, caused by the different functions ascribed to the buildings. Many of them, consequently, have been added to, but the College of Architecture points out, these changes generally maintained compatible relationships with the original structures.

The College of Architecture states: "Buildings constructed after 1938 may fail to contribute toward the historic portion of the campus, but the historic buildings manifest enough continuity that the non-contributing structures near the historic core do not detract from the historic feeling in the older portion of the campus."

The College of Architecture describes the construction: Workmanship was of excellent quality. Brickwork, belt courses, and panel designs show a great concern for detail. Roofs are usually hipped (or gabled) and most often are covered with red clay tile, in recognition to regional architecture. Hipped roofs are obscured with deep bracketed overhangs or with parapets. Most of the historic buildings have two or three stories.

Before 1935, the College of Architecture states, there were three different styles of revival architecture. Prior to 1900, architects were influenced by the Late Victorian Period. Between 1900 and 1930, buildings show Classical Revival Styles. After 1930, classicism gave way to a strong interest in Italian Romanesque Revival.

This was nationwide and the College says that UA campus buildings reflected trends of the nation. Styles represented desires of the faculty and administration, where such desires were expressed, to pattern UA after East Coast academic institutions. That results because university leaders, presidents and scholars, were usually from the east or midwest, which colored their conceptions of the proper building style for the UA. 
The College of Architecture recently petitioned for National Historic District recognition for the west UA campus. Two buildings have already been recognized as historic - the old Library, which is now the Arizona State Museum North and Old Main. The old Library was designed by the firm of Lyman and Place and was dedicated on October 23, 1927.

The historical recognition request was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, which, in turn, filed it with the State Historic Sites Review Committee. The review committee recommended that the UA area be so-determined to the State Historic Preservation Officer, Donna Schober. Her next step is to seek listing with the National Register of Historic Places.

The sixteen-acre area, generally west of Old Main between East Second Street and East Fourth Street, then west to Park Avenue, contains twenty-three buildings and includes the four-foot volcanic rock wall on the western edge of the area along Park Avenue. It also includes plantings, particularly the olive trees along Olive Road fronting the Fine Arts Complex.

Specifically, historic status is being sought for seventeen structures plus the wall. The buildings and their completion dates are: Chemistry-Physics 1936, Agriculture 1915, Speech (originally Science Hall) 1909, Mines and Engineering 1918, Gila Hall 1937, Maricopa Hall 1920, Yuma Hall 1937, Cochise Hall 1921, South Hall (originally Arizona Hall) 1913, Nugent Building (old Administration) 1937, Douglass Building (originally Library and Museum and then old Law Building) 1904, the Center for English as a Second Language (originally Humanities) 1935, Herring Hall 1903, Arizona State Museum North (originally the Library) mostly completed in 1925, Main Auditorium 1936 (now under reconstruction), the Berger Memorial Fountain 1919, and Seward Observatory 1921.

Presenting the proposal for the historic district was Robert Giebner, UA architecture professor.

Included in the historic district but not listed as historic buildings were the Electrical Engineering Lab Building and the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Building (originally the Mechanical Arts Building) and the old Greenhouses. These structures are to be demolished.

Giebner said of Roy Place: "He was the architect that gave the university its images; he was very important. The character of the university was due to that man."

In the historical district, it is easier to state which buildings Roy Place did not design. They were the Agriculture, Speech, South Hall, Herring hall and Douglass buildings. He also designed Bear Down gymnasium, which is not in the historical district, but is expected to be designated a historic structure in the future.

Writing of the architectural firms Lyman and Place, Roy Place, and Place and Place, the College of Architecture's Archivist, Sarah Gresham Perper, states: "The style of the University of Arizona campus was set by them, with nineteen projects done between 1914 and 1936. Their practice extended beyond Tucson to other communities in Arizona where a variety of other types of public buildings and buildings for public use were done."

The style referred to uses neo-classic designs with a Spanish treatment.

John B. Lyman came to the UA campus in 1914 as a partner in a San Diego architectural firm with L. T. Bristow. In those days, most architects were selected by competition. Elevations and floor drawings were submitted to the Board of Regents and the firm with the winning design either became the supervisory architect, using force account labor, or as an advisory architect if a contractor was the builder.

Lyman brought Roy Place to Tucson with his second UA building and made Place a partner. Lyman had separated from Bristow. He left Place to enter the service in San Francisco in 1918. After World War I, Lyman returned to re-enter the partnership with Place but did not stay long. In 1924, he returned to San Diego. Roy Place continued on alone until Lew Place, his son, became his partner in 1940. Roy Place died in 1950 and Lew Place kept the name of the firm as Place and Place but continued as sole owner until 1976, when he dissolved the firm and retired.

Together, Lyman and Place, Roy Place, and Place and Place designed thirty-nine buildings at the University of Arizona, most of which are still standing and in use. The total does not include the Alexander Berger Memorial Fountain, the Greenhouses, the Water Works and the utility tunnels. Also not included in the count are extensive remodelings and additions done to many campus buildings.

In A Review of the Modern Architecture in Arizona, published by the Western Architect, v. xxxi, No.6, June, 1922, Prentice Duell writes:"Among the modern men practicing in Arizona (in architecture), Lescher, Kibbey, and Mahoney, Lyman and Place, stand foremost, both from the standpoint of design and the amount of work done. Much is expected from them since what they are doing today will determine the architecture of Arizona for some years to come."

On October 23, 1981, the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson stated:

"Through a unifying theme of basic red brick, the UA has attempted to integrate two eras of design: The earlier period a romantic theme, characterized by columns, tile roofs, arches and self-contained scrollwork. It co-exists with the modern buildings - flat roofs and modular designs. Plenty of glass."

By that time, the Places had well established their own "Places in the Sun."

Before the Place influence had been set, UA campus buildings were a hodgepodge of design and structure.

  • They consisted of:
  • 1891. Old Main, first campus building also known as the University Building.
  • 1892-93. Three cottages. Two were known as the West and East Cottages and the third was a home for the university president.
  • 1892. A mining annex attached to Old Main.
  • 1890. A pump/boiler/engine house.
  • 1892. The first greenhouse.
  • 1895. A second greenhouse. Later known as the "Propagating House."
  • 1891. A "temporary structure," which in 1895 became a cottage for the assistant horticulturist and in 1899 was used for Domestic Science classes.
  • 1896. A stone dormitory known as North Hall and later called Pima Hall.
  • 1897. Assaying and Shop Building.
  • 1899. South Hall. A men's dormitory of forty rooms, later called Apache Hall. In 1927, it became Music Hall, and in 1934, it became the Fine Arts Building.
  • 1900. Manual Training Building, joined to the original Shop and Assay Building, razed in 1916 for the New Mines and Engineering Building.
  • 1902. University Dining Hall, later called the "Commons."
  • 1903. Herring Hall.
  • 1904. Library and Museum. In 1926, it became the College of Law Building.
  • 1909. Science Hall. Three story, red brick. Later, it became the College of Liberal Arts.
  • 1913. Arizona Hall. Two story, red brick. Men's dormitory. Today, called South Hall.
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