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GU History: 1896-1912

A guide to the history of Gonzaga University


By the mid 1890s Gonzaga needed another building to accommodate the growing number of students.  A contract was signed with Henry Preusse and Julius Zittel architects for a new $100,000 building.  Construction started in 1897.  After the large blocks of granite were placed as the foundation, over 1,000,000 common bricks and 200,000 pressed brick for faceting were used.  When the pile was partly assembled a photograph was taken.  

 Administration Building under construction, 1897

Administration Building
(now College Hall)
under construction, 1897

 Gonzaga College 1898
Gonzaga College, 1898

By the end of 1898, the walls and roof were completed.  It took almost two years to complete this new building.  Located 300 feet east of the original college and occupying two city blocks, it was the largest building in Spokane.   

 Campus 1902
 Campus, 1902.  Original College Building,
 baseball stadium, St. Aloysius Church,
 Administration Building (now College Hall).

At this same time, the Jesuit administrators decided to move the three original buildings to new sites, nearer to the new building.  This move made sense for three reasons: it would help alleviate the railroad problem (the train tracks went right by the original college creating noise and air pollution); land where the first buildings were erected could be sold; and the college facilities would be within a convenient walking distance from each other.   

 College Hall 1903
College Hall, 1903

The 1892 hall was the first to be moved in March 1899.  Since it no longer was needed as a dormitory, the floor which divided the two stories was removed, creating a large space to make a stage and hall.  This building was eventually torn down in 1915.  Months later in August 1899, St. Aloysius Church was moved to its new location to the west of the Administration Building.

 Moving of the Original College Building
 Moving of the Original
 College Building, 1900

In the spring of 1900, the arduous task of moving the original college building began.  The estimated cost was between $5000 and $6000 dollars.  The building was calculated to weigh about 2,500,000 pounds.  An immense framework of wood was built under the entire structure before the building was raised.  After a few months, the building was ready to be moved.  Due to the sheer weight, changes were made to how to move it using six to eight horses with a windlass.  Hydraulic jacks were used for pushing the building.  Once it reached its new site, the building was turned to face the right direction. This building then began to house the Northwest Jesuits’ scholasticate. 

 1st year cadets
Cadets in front of the
Administration Building, 1900. 
Captain Luhn at far right

In 1899, Father George de la Motte succeeded Father Rebmann as Gonzaga’s President.  Reared in the military because his father was a high ranking officer in the French Army, Father de la Motte asked Captain Gerhard Luhn to head up a cadet program. Captain Luhn had been a member of the United States Army for 42 years  That first year, 80 cadets in two companies were enrolled.  The War Department supplied the uniforms and guns.  However, some of the cadets were too small to shoulder the guns, so they were given wooden ones.  Cadets were required to attend drill twice a week while wearing  their uniform.  Luhn held this position until he retired in 1905.  The program officially ended a few years later.

 President Roosevelt's carriage
President Roosevelt’s carriage
in front of the Administration
Building, 1903

On May 26, 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt visited Spokane stopping at Gonzaga College. There its cadets, students, and Jesuits were lining the front of the Administration Building, which was decorated with bunting and flags.  Gonzaga officials presented President Roosevelt with a bouquet of flowers and a poem of welcome.  Afterwards, he gave a quick message of thanks and appreciation.  He then rode away to attend other ceremonies in the city.  

 Construction of Administration Building addition
Construction of
Administration Building
addition, 1904

Student enrollment continued to increase.  By 1900, Gonzaga College had 244 students in attendance.  Space again became a problem.  Construction began for the new addition to the east end of the new college building by summer of 1903 .  The foundations provided 255 feet along Boone were finished in March 1904.  Near December of that year, the new east wing was completed.  In the construction, 2,000,000 bricks and 600,000 board feet of lumber were used.  The building had 444 feet of frontage along Boone Avenue.

 Senior Division Gymnasium
Senior Division Gymnasium,
now Russell Theater, 1904

This new wing included classrooms on the first and second floors, chapel for 550 students on the third floor, and the dormitory on the fourth floor.  In the basement there was a 20 by 50 foot swimming pool, shower and locker rooms and a new heating plant.  A gymnasium was added at the east end of the addition.  The gym had two stories, a lower gym 12 feet high for smaller boys and the upper floor for older students.  The lower gym also had a large billiard room.  

 Gonzaga Basketball Team 1908
Gonzaga Basketball
Team, Spokane City
Champs, 1908

Basketball started in February 1905 after the gymnasium was built.  Like baseball and football, there was no set schedule or league play at first; instead, there were numerous intramural teams for all ages.  Years later the Gonzaga basketball team would play other schools. Handball was also a popular sport in the new gymnasium.  Tournaments were held to find a champion.  Gonzaga students began playing tennis in 1900 after two courts had been constructed.

Plunge, swimming pool, 1904

In the spring of 1906, some of the 483 students became sick with typhoid fever.  At first, the campus well was blamed.  Upon the advice of health officials, President Herman Goller closed the school six weeks early and sent the boys home.  After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the illness was caused by water not circulating enough in the Plunge, the swimming pool, in the basement of the Administration Building.  In all, four students and one priest died from the illness.   

Infirmary, later named Goller Hall,

Since the college infirmary could only handle normal emergencies, President Goller sought to build a separate infirmary building.  Eventually named Goller Hall in 1941, the new infirmary was a pressed-brick veneer building, with a chapel, doctor’s office, 13 private rooms and 4 wards for patients.  The basement housed the kitchen and dining room.  At full capacity it could hold 33 sick people.  Over time Goller Hall outlived its usefulness, because of a need for more space and less of a need for a large infirmary. In 1929, a small area was dedicated for the infirmary and the rest for a School of Music and Fine Arts.  Later it became a faculty residence and the infirmary moved to the Administration Building.  It burned down in 1970. 

 St. Aloysius Church
St. Aloysius Church
Dedication, Oct. 1911
 Gonzaga First Law Graduates
First Law Graduates, 1915

During Gonzaga’s Jubilee year in 1911-1912, Gonzaga observed the dedication of the new dual spires St. Aloysius Church.  Also, Gonzaga changed its name to “Gonzaga University” with the start of its School of Law in the fall of 1912.  A three year law course was offered in the evening, five nights a week with two instructors.  Saturdays were for debates and special assignments.  Thirty students were admitted that first term. On June 10, 1915 the first group of 13 law students graduated.  


Updated March 2015



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