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Big Building Year - 1921 - from Missoulian-Sentinel Centennial Edition 1960

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1921 Is Big Building Year on U Campus

The years between 1920 and 1940 marked a great building era for Montana State University.

At the beginning of the era, the University mourned the loss of 21 University men who died in World War I. Students of the depression decade were struggling to finance their education. The era was ushered out in September 1940, when University President George Finlay Simmons urged students to return to classes rather than interrupt their educations. It was their patriotic duty, he said, to continue their education until called in order to be prepared.

Thus as the ‘30s passed, the nation was on the brink of World War II.

Clapp Begins Reign

The year 1921 began the 14-year administration of Dr. Charles H. Clapp, a geologist who had been president of Montana School of Mines in Butte.

It was also a year when a million dollars was spent in the construction of new buildings and repairs to old ones. The bond issue added to the five-building campus, six buildings: North and South Hall (men’s and women’s dormitories), the Library, Men’s Gymnasium, Forestry School and the heating plant. Construction of the library made it possible for the School of Law to occupy the old library building permanently. The law school had shared the building with the library.

Religion School Starts

In 1924 the affiliated School of Religion was created. In 1926 Simpkins Little Theater, the first barracks building to be completed during World War I, became the scene of nearly all the University’s dramatic productions.

In the late ‘20s the University had 11 permanent brick and nine wooden buildings. Enrollment had leaped from 818 to 1,519 from 1919 to 1929 and the facilities, particularly classrooms, and lab space, were severely taxed.

Corbin Hall exhausted the last of the money from the 1920 bond issue, and the buildings constructed during the ‘30s were financed mainly by federal grants and loans.

Declared Unconstitutional

In 1930 a $3,000,000 educational bond issue for construction was voted. This issue was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, but so convinced was the public of the need for more buildings that in 1934, when students urged a Public Works Administration loan-and-grant for the construction of a $300,000 Student Union, pledging rentals from the building and a small quarterly tax on themselves to repay the loan over a period of years, both the Legislature and the Supreme Court approved the action.

Upon the death of President Clapp in 1935 and the assumption, after a short interval, of the office of president by Simmons, zoologist and explorer who had formerly been at the Universities of Texas and Chicago and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, a concerted drive was made to relieve the congested conditions in the classroom buildings.

More Buildings

The University, under authority of acts of the 1935 and 1937 legislative sessions and specific decisions of the Montana Supreme Court, took advantage of PWA facilities and borrowed funds to construct during the next three years, on a loan-and-grant basis, the $180,000 journalism and $300,600 chemistry-pharmacy buildings completed in 1937 and 1938, respectively; on a grant basis, the $50,000 natural science annex completed in 1939; and through the Works Progress Administration the east bleachers on Dornblaser field completed before the Idaho-Grizzly game in 1939.

The Missoula Woman’s Club contributed a fund of 18,000 and the PWA an outright grant of $14,727 to construct the Woman’s Club-Fine Arts building on campus, while the fourth residence hall, Turner Hall, also part of the new building program, was constructed through funds raised from a University bond issue to be redeemed over a long period of years by the residence hall system, without cost to the state. The payments were made through a building fee.

National Accreditation

The School of Music secured national accreditation, the Bureau of Business Research and news service were organized, the faculty was included in the present retirement system, the health service and library were reorganized and courses in wildlife technology and medical technology were added.

In 1939 the University was given 19,068 acres of experimental forest land. Smith-Hughes funds aided the Home Economics Department and the University received a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of the Carnegie Music and Art Teaching Sets.

27 Buildings by 1940

Before 1940, 17 permanent brick structures and 10 wooden buildings were located on the campus and the University owned extensive athletic fields and a golf course. Students were organized into almost 200 clubs, and honorary and professional societies.

During the “hard years” following the depression, students were able to attend college by taking advantage of non-federal jobs on the campus which paid a total of $53,000 in one year. The National Youth Administration provided another $23,800 annually.

President Simmons resigned April 16, 1941. Dr. Charles W. Leaphart, dean of the School of Law, became the acting president.


Last Updated on Saturday, 18 June 2016 05:07