University of Wyoming and Community Colleges

Old Main (1887), University of Wyoming, Albany Co., 1910
Old Main (1887), University of Wyoming,
Albany Co., 1910

Photo: #ah001872, Digital Collection, American
Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

University of Wyoming

In 1886, the Ninth Territorial Legislature of Wyoming passed a bill officially declaring the territory’s intent to found the University of Wyoming in or near Laramie and authorizing formal action to organize a university. This law also provided for operating income though an annual tax levy of one-fourth mill on all taxable property in the territory and appropriated $50,000 for the construction of a university building, which commenced almost immediately. The cornerstone of University Hall (now Old Main) was laid in the summer of 1886, and the university welcomed its first students in the fall of 1887. The first women's dormitory, Merica Hall, was built in 1908; and the second women's dormitory, Hoyt Hall, was built in 1916. Both of these grey pressed brick buildings with limestone and terra cotta trim were designed by Wilbur Hitchcock, Cheyenne. When Wyoming entered the union in 1890, only thirty-nine students were enrolled in the university, but by 1915 enrollment had grown to 234. During that same period the university campus expanded from 20 to 54 acres, and from one to eight major buildings.

Hoyt Hall (1916), University of Wyoming, Albany Co
Hoyt Hall (1916), University of Wyoming,
Albany Co

Photo: Mary Humstone, 2007
The university played an important role in the development of the state’s public school system, first through its training of teachers and later as a research and outreach institution as well. In 1917, the College of Education built a Rural Demonstration School on the Laramie campus to train teachers for rural schools and to demonstrate what a model rural school should look like. The rectangular, hip-roofed building was described as “modern and complete in every way.”

The growth of the university paralleled the growth of high schools in Wyoming, whose enrollment more than tripled during the Progressive era. Recognizing the significance of this trend, UW president Arthur Crane successfully lobbied the state legislature in the 1920s to increase the amount of royalties paid to the university from oil revenues on university-owned lands, thus amassing a building fund that allowed expansion of the campus to meet the growing needs.

Rural Demonstration School, University of Wyoming, Albany Co.
Rural Demonstration School, University of
Wyoming, Albany Co.

Photo: Supt. of Public Instruction Biennial Report, 1922

Crane initiated UW’s first formal campus planning process, enlisting the help of Laramie architect Wilbur Hitchcock and the Denver-based landscape architecture firm of McCrary, Cully, and Carthart to create a master plan to guide development of the “Greater University” over the next 25 years, including buildings, landscaping, walkways, roads, and utilities. The 1922 plan established a quadrangle of buildings on the perimeter of an open space, later known as Prexy’s Pasture (“Prexy” was the nickname given to college presidents at the time). The placement of buildings around an open area was a popular feature of campus planning which reflected early-twentieth century ideals of community and fellowship in higher education.

University of Wyoming Campus, Albany Co., 1925
University of Wyoming Campus, Albany Co., 1925
Photo: University of Wyoming Campus, Albany Co., 1925
To standardize the architectural design of the campus, Hitchcock collaborated with noted New York architect Raymond Hood. Their aim was to create a design vocabulary that would allow variety in building styles while providing continuity in massing and materials. To harmonize with the local landscape, all buildings were to be constructed of native buff-rose-colored sandstone from the university’s quarry and buff-colored brick, with stepped rooflines that mimicked the outline of Wyoming’s mountains. These guidelines influenced the design of campus buildings for the next forty years or more.

Hitchcock continued to be the architect for campus housing. The first Men's Residence Hall (McWhinnie Hall) was designed by Hitchcock and built in 1928. This Gothic Revival style building included buttresses, tall and narrow arched windows, and an arched and vaulted entry. Hitchcock also designed Fraternity Park in 1930 that was divided into two groups of student dwellings, one for men and one for women, separated by a central mall containing tennis courts. His final design for housing was Knight Hall, a Collegiate Gothic style women's dormitory completed in 1940.

By late 1931, the economic impact of the Depression had reached Laramie and the university building program was put on hold. However, thanks to loans from the Public Works Administration (PWA) that covered up to 45% of the total proposed cost of construction projects, the university was able to resume building in just a few years. The new Liberal Arts Building (now Arts and Sciences Building) was designed by William Dubois and completed in 1936. The four-story building, designed in the Depression Moderne style, consists of a large auditorium surrounded by classrooms. It was featured in Public Buildings, the 1939 report on the architecture of the Public Works Administration.

Liberal Arts Building, University of Wyoming,  Albany County, 1936
Liberal Arts Building, University of Wyoming,
Albany County, 1936

Photo: Clayton Fraser Collection
With the advent of World War II, the University of Wyoming became a center of military training and preparation. After the War, the return of veterans resulted in a dramatic growth in enrollment which in turn heightened the need for more housing and academic facilities. Temporary housing for returning veterans was supplied in “Veterans’ Village” in the southeast section of Fraternity Park, consisting of “Butler huts, prefabricated houses, row apartments and plain trailers,” designed to supply 1,000 housing units for single and married veterans.
Johnson Hall (1902)
Johnson Hall (1902)
Photo: Mary Humstone, 2007
The first permanent post-war improvements to the campus came in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the greatest building boom occurred in the mid-1960s. The 1960s building included new housing units for students that included apartments for married students and men's and women's dormitories. The new buildings added to the campus since the end of World War II reflect a growing divergence from the architectural design tradition established by Wilbur Hitchcock and Raymond Hood in the mid-1920s, although up until the 1970s west campus buildings continued to respect the traditional architecture in their scale and use of compatible materials.

The University of Wyoming campus includes architect-designed buildings in styles ranging from Victorian-era Eclectic to Expressionist, making it the most varied collection of high-style architecture in the state. In addition to its architectural significance, the University of Wyoming is significant for its role in educating the state’s students, and in the context of this study, its role in educating the state’s teachers.

University of Wyoming (Knight) Science Camp

Samuel H. Knight (1892-1975) started the University of Wyoming Summer Science Camp in 1925 and served as its director until his death. Knight conceived of the idea of a geology field camp in 1923, and selected land for a permanent camp about 40 miles west of Laramie in the Medicine Bow National Forest. In 1929, construction began on the main lodge, a one-and-a-half-story, 50’ by 100’ log building. The building was built by faculty, staff, and students.

University of Wyoming Science Camp, Albany Co., c. 1930
University of Wyoming Science Camp,
Albany Co., c. 1930

Photo: #ah100534, Digital Collection, American
Heritage Center, University of Wyoming
From 1937 to 1939, Works Progress Administration crews also assisted with construction at the camp. Forty log dormitory cabins, four lecture and laboratory buildings, and a hydro-electric plant that furnished power for lighting and electrical appliances were added.

During its fifty years of operation, the Science Camp attracted thousands of students from around the nation and the world. The camp was discontinued after Knight’s death in 1975, and the property is now in private ownership, and the main lodge is used as a resort.

Casper College Administration Building, Natrona Co.
Casper College Administration Building,
Natrona Co.

Photo: Photographer: James Krumm, 2009
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Wyoming Community Colleges

Wyoming’s seven community colleges date from 1945 to 1969, and are strategically located to serve all counties of the state. They reflect the huge increase in college enrollment after the war, spurred in part by the GI Bill. Several colleges initially opened in high schools before acquiring and building their own campuses.

Casper College, established 1945, opened its new campus in 1955; the buildings, designed by Goodrich & Wilking of Casper and Robert Wehrli Associated Architects, were inspired by the International style. The main building, a two-story sandstone building, features a flat roof and horizontal bands of windows. Goodrich & Wilking also designed Sheridan College’s first campus building the Whitney Building, which opened in 1959. Northwest College, established 1946, finally acquired its own campus and began a building program with the construction of the Nelson Performing Arts Center in 1960. A year after Central Wyoming College was established in 1966, the University of Wyoming leased its Sinks Canyon experimental farm to CWC and the college's Field Station was established. CWC’s first campus buildings in Riverton were built in 1968. Eastern Wyoming College, established 1948, constructed its first campus buildings in 1968. Western Wyoming College, established 1959, began construction on its campus buildings in 1969. Laramie County Community College, established 1968, has its main campus in Cheyenne, a Laramie campus and outreach centers at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne and in Pine Bluffs where the college leases space in the 1929 Historic Pine Bluffs High School, listed on the National Register.

Western Wyoming College Dorm
Western Wyoming College Dorm
Photo: Mary Humstone, 2007
All of these colleges have buildings that are substantial works of architecture that warrant consideration for historic and architectural significance in the future; however, only the campuses at Casper and Sheridan, the Nelson Performing Arts Center at Northwest College, and the Central Wyoming College Field Station at Sinks Canyon are currently old enough to be considered for the National Register of Historic Places.
Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources