Old Main (Arizona State University)

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Old Main
ASU Old Main.jpg
Old Main, built in 1898
Location Tempe, Arizona
Coordinates 33°25′14″N 111°56′2.50″W / 33.42056°N 111.9340278°W / 33.42056; -111.9340278Coordinates: 33°25′14″N 111°56′2.50″W / 33.42056°N 111.9340278°W / 33.42056; -111.9340278
Built 1898
Architect James M. Creighton
M.J. Sullivan
Architectural style Victorian, with Queen Anne influences
NRHP Reference # 72000199
Added to NRHP 1985

Old Main was the second building on the campus of Arizona State University, in Tempe, Arizona. It was built in 1898, 14 years before Arizona became a state. In 1985, Old Main was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Dedicated in February 1898, Old Main was originally all classrooms on the second and third floor, with an auditorium (the Assembly Hall) on the upper floor and a library on the lower level (which now houses the university's telephone service unit). In 1911, Theodore Roosevelt came to Arizona for the dedication of the Roosevelt Dam, and spoke on the steps of Old Main. In his speech, he envisioned the opportunities the dam and the resulting irrigation for farming would create for Arizona and opined that some day perhaps as many as 100,000 people might live in the valley. The dam made possible the Salt River Project and eventually led to the evolution of the Salt River Valley as a major metropolitan area.

Largest building[edit]

For decades, Old Main was the largest building in the Valley. Its significance to the development of both Tempe and the university was great. After Old Main was built, alumni went to the legislature to ask that the admission standards be raised, in order to bring the stature of the institution to the stature of the building.


Heritage Landing[edit]

The third floor landing was dedicated as the Heritage Landing in April 2001. It honors the Heritage Chairs (currently 8 in number) who have contributed significantly to the state of Arizona and given generously to ASU. The quilt on the west all of the landing was designed by Jason Eslamieh '78, the architect for the rehabilitation, to honor these outstanding supporters.

Tooker Boardroom[edit]

The Tooker Boardroom is accessed through doors to the right and left of the Heritage quilt. It is named for Gary and Diane Tooker ('62 and '61). Gary is a former chairman of the board at Motorola. Gary and Diane both served on the Alumni Association board. The Tooker Boardroom is also used for board meetings and staff meetings, and is also available to campus and outside groups.

Basha Family Library[edit]

Two doors south of the Tooker room is the Basha Family Library, named for Eddie Basha and his family. Eddie was awarded an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from ASU in 1999, and has three sons who earned ASU degrees. The art work hanging in this room was created by artist Joseph Henninger in 1934. Henninger was originally from Indiana, but came to Phoenix to paint a portrait. It was awhile he was completing this work that he received a commission from the Public Works of Art Project (a pre-WPA arts effort) for two murals to be hung in the reading area of Matthews Center Library. The mural currently in the library is entitled "Industrial Development in Arizona" and addresses the theme of the five C's of Arizona: Cotton, copper, cattle, climate and citrus.

Carson Ballroom[edit]

On the east side of the upper lobby, all doors lead into the Carson Ballroom. This was originally the campus auditorium, with built-in seats running north to south and a stage on the east wall. The 28-foot high ceiling is the original pressed metal ceiling. Damaged sections were replaced by the same company in Missouri which created the original tiles. The rods which run east to west across the room are there to stabilize the building. They were put in less than a year after the building was finished, because it began to pull apart at the open span of the vaulted ceiling. Originally there were vertical rods as well, but these were removed after structural engineers determined they were not necessary. The Carson Ballroom is named for Ed and Nadine Carson ('51 and '53). Ed is a past Alumni Association board president. Ed and Nadine now live in Beverly Hills and Nadine believes they met at Old Main. Ed says he is willing to take her word for it!

Bebbling Balcony[edit]

The Bebbling Balcony is named for John and Barbara Bebbling (both '71). The Bebblings donated all of the paint and flooring, as well as making a monetary donation.

Grand staircase[edit]

The grand staircase is now flipped from its original position; at the time Old Main was built, an additional flight of stairs led downstairs to the lower level. There is no foundation to the building, therefore, all the load-bearing walls had to be retained and respected in the new building design. The column in the main lobby are re-creations from casts of the originals on the upper floor. The glass in the windows (90% of the building) is the original glass. Some show the wavy aspect typical of glass from the 19th century.


Throughout the building red oak is used. It is a hardwood used regularly during the period of the building's construction. Transoms above the doors were originally designed to increase air circulation, since of course there was no air conditioning. Now they serve as sources of natural light to the inner spaces of the building. Old Main was the fist building in Tempe to have electricity, but it was rather unreliable. Therefore lighting fixtures of the period all had "down" lamps which ran on electricity and "up" lamps which ran on gas when the electricity wasn't available.


The piano in the Carson Ballroom was donated by Bill and Corinne Hochgraef ('65, '68 M.S.E. and '65 M.A.E.). Bill is a past Alumni Association board chairman.


Behind the building at ground level is the Farnsworth Terracce Courtyard, named for Anita and Ross Farnsworth ('57 and '56, '57 M.A.). Here you can purchase an engraved paver to recognize your own accomplishments or those of a friend or relative.

External links[edit]