Looking Back 120 Years
Looking Back on 120 Years
Originally published in Gonzaga Quarterly, Winter 2008
photos courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives and Jennifer Raudebaughwritten by Sabrina Jones
|In white collar and sitting cross-legged, right front, is Gonzaga's first registered student, Constantine Aloysius McHugh, 11, from Helena, Mont. "Applicants must know how to read and to write and not be under 10 years of age."|
Place your bets: Will Gonzaga's yin outweigh yang?
By 1900-01, Gonzaga College had a yin and a yang: The yin was having the largest enrollment in the region, with a whopping 244 students, the yang was the lack of space to accommodate them. In 1903, ground was broken for a $250,000 eastward addition that included two million bricks and 600,000 board feet of lumber. By the time it was completed, the building had more classrooms, a chapel, dormitory, swimming pool and two-story gymnasium. Innumerable pennies and nickels were lost in the billiard room, which became a sort of "poker den," despite the diligence of prefects.
Before the days of ATMs and direct deposits there were vaults
Very heavy, ornate vaults. And Gonzaga had - and has - a beautiful one. In Gonzaga's early years, it was stashed in the Jesuit superior's apartment. Why? Because he controlled the money. Today, the Jesuit superior's apartment is no longer there, but the vault remains. What took the apartment's place? The controller's office, of course.
The fire of '41: falling slate, falling timber
Gonzaga lit up the sky, literally, on Dec. 10, 1941. Flames poured out of the Administration Building's third- and fourth-story windows. By the time the fire was extinguished, the law library annex, chemistry stockroom, darkroom and a biology laboratory were total losses. More than $15,000 in books were destroyed, as were highly valuable papers, including 14 original sketches by famous western artist C.M. Russell.
A terrible trifecta: typhoid fever, World War I, influenza
There has only been one school year that Gonzaga was unable to successfully finish, 1905-06. Typhoid fever struck the campus, forcing President Herman Goller, S.J., to terminate the remaining school year. Several students died. By 1918, Gonzaga documented 100 influenza cases on campus and witnessed many empty classroom seats as more than 1,000 Gonzaga students served in World War I.
Window, window on the wall...
Any guess how many windows look out of College Hall - 100, 200, 400? Try 606 - including those great big round ones that adorn the east end of the building.
ROTC comes to Gonzaga
The year 1947 brought the beginnings of Gonzaga's ROTC program and with it, hundreds of rifles, side arms and uniforms. The ROTC became as much as established feature of campus life as intercollegiate football had been in the pre-war years. An old wooden door on the east end of the third floor leads up to what was a shooting range. There ROTC cadets could be found firing away, looking down on the theatre below, their bullet casings landing safely in sand. When the range was closed in 1994, two-and-a-half tons of lead-contaminated sand - and likely thousands of casings - were removed. The plan for the space today? A state-of-the-art performance theater.
The University Chapel
Built in 1905, the original 550-student capacity chapel didn't boast any stained-glass windows and was lit with only gas fixtures. Its physical stature remained fairly unchanged until Vatican II in the early 1960s, when the original pews were literally thrown out of the windows and replaced with chairs from the dining hall that sat on green shag carpeting; the original tin ceiling was covered with orange burlap. By 2002, the soul of the chapel was recaptured, as $700,000 worth of improvements were made, including stained-glass windows from a Philadelphia church that were personally driven across the country by the artists. One original pew was somehow salvaged - and now humbly sits among the others. As you walk throughout the chapel, your feet touch the same boards all others have tread since 1905.
Girls at Gonzaga? "No, the women would be the smartest ones in class."
Although 1948 marks the first year women officially were allowed to attend Gonzaga University as undergraduates, the first woman to earn her degree was Helen Grigware, who graduated from the law school in 1935. The first woman officially accepted was Dorothy McGowan, in 1948. Along with her acceptance, GU administrators noted the need for "a powder room and lounge in the old man-scented building."
Room 244: Bing Crosby leaves his mark
Kids love to leave their mark - and Bing Crosby was no exception. Walk into College Hall Room 244 and on the windowsill you'll find an irreplaceable carving of Bing's signature. Which is now sealed under Plexiglas.
Lost and found: a wallet - and memories
Spokane-based Walker Construction has been renovating Gonzaga buildings since 2004. According to superintendent of projects Don Erks, quite a stash of memorabilia has been discovered in the Administration Building since then. "Earlier this year, one of our workers found a wallet in an old air vent," he said. "Inside was a 1941 receipt for a $38 bicycle, social security card, driver's license and, of course, no money. He went home that night, looked up 'Condon' in the Spokane phone book and started calling. Long story short, he found the owner of the wallet, an 81-year-old Patrick Condon, who came to the building to claim the wallet he forgot he lost." In addition to the wallet, the crew found a Gonzaga letterman's jacket, Gold Seal beer can from Ellensburg, a box of Kellogg's Pep Whole Wheat Flakes, tax tokens, student notes and - proof that kids will be kids - a paper airplane.