Holsteins, Horses and Hogs: The Barns of Oregon State
Partial Architectural Drawing of the West Side of the Dairy Barn (later Ag. Utilities Building), ca. 1907. This drawing is one of several made by Portland architect John Bennes and his colleagues for use in constructing the Oregon Agricultural College Dairy Barn. [OSU Archives RG 193.]
Oregon State University has long been noted for its picturesque campus and architecture. Unfortunately, only one of OSU's beautiful early 20th century barns still stands. Between 1900 and 1940, Oregon State built many outstanding examples of barns, most of which have succumbed to fire, neglect, or obsolescence.
The first college barn was constructed in 1889, an octagonal structure with a cupola and two wings that were later additions. This building served as the college's primary barn until 1909, when construction of a new barn was completed. Between 1908 and 1937, at least seven barns were constructed on the college grounds. John V. Bennes, a noted Portland architect, designed six of the barns, as well as many other campus buildings during that period. Today, only one of the six barns designed by Bennes – the Veterinary Dairy Barn – has survived.
Most of OSU's barns have been transitory structures compared to other buildings on campus. At least three barns burned to the ground, and several others were demolished to make way for new buildings as the main campus grew to the west. New barns have been constructed, but none compare in majesty to those structures built before World War II.
The Octagonal Barn, 1903. The College's first barn, built in 1889, was this octagonal structure. The addition was built in 1892. It served as the heart of the College's 180-acre farm until 1909, when construction of a new barn was completed. In its later years, the Octagonal Barn served the College as a horse barn until it burned in September 1924. [OSU Archives P90:51.]
The Dairy Barn, ca. 1909. This barn, the first of six designed by J. V. Bennes for the College, was built in 1908/09. It was a frame building with brick pilasters. Although built as a general barn, its primary use was to support the College's dairy program. The west wing housed the farm mechanics shop until about 1913. After a new dairy barn was built in 1937/38, the structure became the Agricultural Utilities Building. Over the next fifty years, it was utilized by several departments (Agricultural Engineering, Horticulture, Computer Science) and the USDA. It was razed in 1989 to make way for the Agricultural and Life Sciences Building. [OSU Archives P25:1157.]
Letter from John Bennes to E. E. Wilson, Secretary of the Oregon Agricultural College Board of Regents, December 11, 1907. "Dear Sir:- I am inclosing [sic] the contract, of the Mutlnomah Mill and Construction Co., for the Cattle stables. Will you kindly send the contract that is signed to the [Oregon] Secy. of State, and have the copy signed, as soon as possible, and mail to the Multnomah Mill Co." The Multnomah Mill and Construction Company of Portland built the barn for $15,600. [OSU Archives RG 8.]
The Beef Barn, ca. 1920. This classic Bennes-designed barn was built in 1914 to house the College's beef cattle and sheep herds. Its loft could accommodate 300 tons of hay. The barn was located near where Withycombe Hall stands today. [OSU Archives #41.]
The Beef Barn Destroyed by Fire, September 15, 1947. The Beef Barn was slated to be moved further to the west in the fall of 1947, but was destroyed by fire on September 15 of that year. Spontaneous combustion of wet hay was determined to be the cause. Five head of cattle that were to be shown at the Pacific International Livestock exhibition in Portland died in the fire. [OSU Archives P82:15.]
The Hog Barn and Feeding House, ca. 1916. This modest structure, also designed by Bennes, was built in 1916. It contained 29 pens and the three-story feeding house. The barn was located on the site of the current Crop Science Building and was used until a new hog barn was built in 1936/37. [OSU Archives #41.]
Construction of the Horse Barn, December 11, 1924. The Horse Barn, built to replace the Octagonal Barn that had burned in September 1924, was very similar in style to the Beef Barn, constructed ten years prior. Both were designed by J. V. Bennes. The three men standing near the fence are D. J. Smith, of Washington State College; William J. Gilmore, Professor of Farm Mechanics at Oregon Agricultural College; and William A. Jensen, OAC's Executive Secretary. The barn, located on Campus Way between 30th and 35th Streets, was torn down in 1971. [OSU Archives P120:1292.]
The Sheep Barn, ca. 1930. This elegant structure was one of the last two barns that Bennes designed for the College. The other was the Veterinary Dairy Barn, which stands today. The Sheep Barn was later added on to, and was used until new facilities were built in 1990. [OSU Archives #41.]
Veterinary Dairy Barn, ca. 1935. Similar in design to the Beef Barn and the Horse Barn, this structure was the last large barn designed by Bennes. It was constructed, along with the Sheep Barn, in 1929-1930. The Veterinary Dairy Barn is the only pre-World War II barn still standing on campus. It is located on Washington Way just beyond Dryden Hall. [OSU Archives #41.]
Second Dairy Barn, ca. 1939. A new dairy barn was built in 1937/38 as a WPA project to replace the 1908/09 barn. This massive structure was located just south of Harrison Blvd. between 35th and 53rd Streets, on the dairy program's current site. The barn burned on February 7, 1967, attracting hundreds of onlookers. [OSU Archives #41.]
This photographic exhibit was originally installed in the Administrative Services Building on the the Oregon State University campus in February 1996; an on-line version was also developed and made available on the World Wide Web in February 1996.