The Built Environment: 130 Years of Growth, Development, and Change on the USU Campus: Old Main: The Lighted "A" on the Hill
Old Main: The Lighted "A" on the Hill
A beneficiary of the Morrill Land-Grant passed by Congress and signed by President Lincoln in 1862, the Utah Territorial Legislature created the Utah Agricultural College in 1888. The Land-Grant Act ceded federal land to states in order to establish colleges specializing in agriculture and vocational skills, such as blacksmithing and homekeeping. Two years later, in 1890, the south wing of Old Main opened for classes in September. Built in three stages, and designed by three different architects, Old Main has anchored the university for nearly 130 years.
Flush with cash after the Territorial Legislature nearly doubled the college’s budget request in 1892, the Board of Trustees scrapped the original plans to complete Old Main drawn by C.L. Thompson and adopted Karl C. Schaub’s design for an enlarged central section to adjoin the south and north wings. After completing the north wing and the connecting center structure, a financial panic ensued in 1893, forcing the college to operate on a shoestring budget for the next seven years. In 1901, the economy finally improved, allowing for the completion of Old Main. H.H. Mahler, the third and final architect to work on Old Main, designed the now familiar tower adorned with its famous blue “A.”