Mines and Engineering Building

In the second session of the Arizona Legislature of 1915, Gov. George W. P. Hunt sought from the lawmakers a "superb" School of Mines. This probably was at the gentle insistence of UA President Dr. Rufus B. von KleinSmid, who had won the governor over to his progressive thoughts on higher education.

Gov. Hunt, whatever anyone might think of him, was a persuasive man. The Legislators produced. They appropriated $75,000 out of the state general fund for a Mines and Engineering Building on the UA campus. A provision was attached - that the sum had to be matched by private gifts, and without naming the powerful copper mining industry, the lawmakers knew, in the end, who would be the private givers. The mines, themselves.

There is good thinking by the mines in this. Copper was the principal taxpayer in the State of Arizona. It made little difference to the mining lobbyists whether the entire amount came from the general fund or whether half of it did and the mines made up the other half direct from their profits. The "little difference" was the mine owners were going to have to pay their good share for education, so why not reap good public relations benefits by direct giving?

(It is easy to "pick on" the mines. In today's light, they are being damned if they had and damned if they had not. Back in 1915, very few had the nerve to do so. Consider: The mines were Arizona's largest contributor in property and other taxes; the payroll from the mines matched or surpassed that of any other industry; they controlled the Arizona Legislature by supporting in the proper places candidates for State Representative and State Senator; they owned the Arizona Daily Star, the state's most powerful newspaper; they knew that they had to support education and other state obligations. So, they chose to get the most mileage possible out of their expenditures. The mines were allpowerful until the 1960's, the 1970's and the 1980's. And the question that any historian and those interested in history should face is: Was all of this power bad and was it misused? That is and has been the subject of many written thoughts and the answer - or conjecture - probably has no place in this account of Roy and Lew Place. However, once asked, an answer will be given in a fence-straddling manner: All of the mines’ power was not misused; some of it was; the power was both bad and good. Measuring Arizona today, the mines probably were more beneficial than not.)

Von KleinSmid was about to earn his nickname, "The Great Persuader." He went by train to New York City to enter the dens of the executive lions of the mining companies operating in Arizona. He persuaded them, together, to ante-up $100,000 - $25,000 more than the Legislature had asked for in private donations. (Anti-copper critics might say that the higher figure had been in the public-relations mindedness of the "mine lions" all along. But enough of that!)

The mines were the Calumet and Arizona Mining Co., Old Dominion Copper Mining and Smelting Co., Phelps Dodge Corp., and the Ray Consolidated Copper Co. Their expressed purpose was that they saw the advantages of financing the education of future mining executives and supervisory personnel to help their own industry and this is probably true. What better method of developing future manpower than through a College of Mines and Engineering?

Architect's plans for the Mines and Engineering Building, dated 1917, are signed by J. B. Lyman. The College of Architecture's Archivist's office has on hand 28 sheets of drawings for the structure, ink on linen and pencil on oiled vellum.

Roy Place was the on-site architect who made necessary revisions to the drawings and supervised construction, which was carried out by day labor working for the University of Arizona. Date of completion was October, 1918, and the total cost was $205,000, of which a final total of $130,000 came from the mining companies. The original appropriation by the Legislature of$75,000 was not increased.

Lew Place tells of his father's involvement:

"Roy told me that at the time, Jack Lyman had entered a competition for the design of the building. He won. He then made a contract with the state of Arizona on a force account basis to build it. (No contractor was employed. Labor was furnished by the University of Arizona.) 

"And then Lyman didn't know how to run the job, to put it together. Roy had been working for the State of California in its architectural division. They had their own State Architect. "

(Jack Lyman had little, if any, experience as a supervisory architect. Roy Place had considerable on-site experience in supervising construction. Actually, his work had been that of a contractor as well as an architect.)

Lew Place went on:

"Jack got in touch with Roy and asked him if he would quit over there and come to Tucson and oversee the construction of the building. They would split the architect's fee. So that's when they became partners. 

"There was a little frame house behind the site of the Mines and Engineering Building, to the east of the site, and the university allowed Jack and Roy to use it as their office. It was their construction office. That was in December, 1916. So Roy came over and in December, 1917, he decided to stay in Tucson and he sent for my mother and myself and we moved here."

The "little frame house" referred to by Lew Place was a building on the grounds, existing before Old Main was built. It was first located just southeast of Old Main and is partially visible in some of the early pictures taken of Old Main. It was moved to a location to the east of the site for the Mines and Engineering Building in 1895 and was then used as a Horticulturist's cottage from 1995 to 1998. From 1899 to 1907/08 it was the Domestic Science Cottage. From 1909 to 1914, it was occupied by the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds and for a period was the office of the R.O. T.C. unit at the university.

Lew Place continued:

"Lyman had his family here before my mother and I moved here. Lyman and Roy started the actual construction of the Mines and Engineering Building in the latter part of 1917 or the first part of 1918. During 1918, Lyman made an application for a commission in the Corps of Engineers for service in World War I. He received the commission and was sent to the Presidio in San Francisco. Roy stayed in Tucson and kept on with the supervision of the construction of the current project. After the war, Lyman came back and they resumed their partnership."

Ground was broken for the building in May, 1917. Lyman was to act as the agent for the UA, purchasing materials and hiring labor. The plans called for a three-story brick building, reinforced concrete and terra cotta columns.

It is somewhat similar in appearance to the Agriculture Building.

It was built as a hollow square. The Agriculture Building has projecting cornices, while there is no overhang on Mines and Engineering.

The cornice line wraps around the entire building giving it a more substantial appearance. The columns on Mines and Engineering are Doric columns, octastyle, while Agriculture has Ionic columns. The roof of Mines and Engineering is de-emphasized.

Lew Place recalls an incident relating to the building some thirty years after construction was completed. "My dad told me one time when we were driving past the Mines building that they had installed steel sash windows. He told me that when he finished up the building and they were painting, that they painted the prime coat on those windows a dark green. For some reason or another, because of a time element or perhaps the lack of money, they never put a finish coat of paint over the prime. And this had to be something about thirty years later when he told me. The prime coat was still there just like it had been in the first place. The university had never painted it. "

The hollow square is "an atrium, because it goes all the way around," Lew Place said. "That's where the Blarney Stone is. In engineering schools, you know, they all have the Blarney Stone. They have initiations in there and you have to be held upside down and kiss the stone. Because you have to kiss the real Blarney Stone in Ireland upside down. "

(St. Patrick is the patron saint of engineers, as well as of Ireland, thus the Blarney Stone. According to encyclopedia sources, there is no legendary basis that kissing the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle, near Cork, gives one the skill of blarney, or flattery.)

The columns of the Ag and Mines Buildings are of terra cotta. 
They are of cast clay, burned, and molded with the clay sections set on top of one another. They are hollow inside and contain the steel supporting columns.

  • Additions and alterations to the Mines and Engineering Building were:
  • 1958. East wing remodeling at $138,880.
  • 1959. Further remodeling to east wing at $254,389. James Macmillan, who left the employ of Roy Place in 1940, was the architect for the 1958 and 1959 remodelings. J.G. Binns was the contractor.
  • 1962. Numerical analysis laboratory remodeled. Cost was $15,249. An atomic acceleration vault was built at $20,534. 1964. Various alterations. Cost was $35,125.
  • 1967. Nuclear addition. Cost was $168,683.
  • 1967. Alterations. Cost was $82,540.

In 1940, the "Mines and Engineering" designation for the building was dropped (because separate colleges were made of Mines and Engineering) and it became known as the "Engineering Building."

The structure is located north across the street from Old Main. It is on the east side of the small street that connects North Drive with the street circling Old Main.

The little frame house used by Roy Place as the construction office was demolished in the summer of 1919. Lew Place states:

"I remember the building because one time I was sitting out on the porch in front of it and my parents had given me a Boy Scout knife. I was out there whittling with it one weekend while Roy was inside working or going over something with someone and I slipped and cut my leg on top of the thigh and I still have the scar. Roy didn't have a car then. Many men rode bicycles to work. Someone had a bicycle and Roy borrowed it and put me on the handlebars and rode me down to Dr. Meade Clyne's office where the doctor sewed up the cut."

In 1922, the university became interested in mass communications and two radio towers were built, one atop the Mines and Engineering Building, the other near the swimming pool. They were used for a time, but the UA lacked the $25,000 needed to set up a long-term broadcasting studio.

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