National Historic District
On October 27, 1868, the small institution of higher education known as Corvallis College was granted a charter by Oregon's legislative assembly designating it as the state's land grant institution under the provisions of the federal 1862 Morrill Act. The land grant designation was secured in part by William Moreland, one of the college's faculty members who also served as the secretary of the Oregon Senate. The institution, known as Corvallis College and the Agricultural College of Oregon, was operated as a joint private/public institution until 1885. In 1871, the college board of trustees purchased a farm of 34.85 acres just west of Corvallis for $4500 using funds raised by 100 local citizens. Known originally as the Experimental Farm, this area is known today as Lower Campus.
In 1885, citizens of Benton County incorporated a State Agricultural College Association for the purpose of raising funds for a new college building. By August 17, 1887, the cornerstone for the new building was laid on "College Hill," part of the original college farm. The building was completed in 1888, and in 1889, the college moved from its building in downtown Corvallis to its new, three story brick home just west of downtown. In the same year, additional lands for agricultural purposes were purchased west of the original 35 acres.
1889 and 1900 the college added several new buildings and the first landscaping was undertaken by horticulture faculty member George Coote. Between 1890 and his death in 1908, Coote directed the planting of many trees around the Administration Building (now Benton Hall). He also established the paths through what had been the Experimental Farm, today's Lower Campus, and lined the paths with American Elm trees. Many of the trees around Benton Hall and in Lower Campus still stand today. New buildings included Alpha Hall (1889), the first residence hall; Mechanical Hall (1889); the Station Building (1892), which housed the agricultural experiment station; Cauthorn Hall (1892), designed bý W. D. Pugh and constructed as a men's dormitory; Horticulture Building (1893) which also housed a photography lab; and the armory and gymnasium (1898). In 1898 Mechanical Hall burned to the ground. The next year construction began on a new Mechanical Hall. Construction on Agriculture Hall (now Education Hall) was completed in 1902, and in 1907 a new women's dormitory, Waldo Hall, was completed.
Between 1907 and 1909, three events occurred that shaped the future development of the campus. In the spring of 1907, William Jasper Kerr was selected as the college's president. Later in 1907, Portland architect John Bennes was selected to design the Mechanic Arts building, the first of nearly
50 design projects done for Oregon State between 1907 and 1942. And in 1909, Kerr called upon John Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers landscape design firm (successors to Frederick Law Olmsted) to consult upon the future direction of the campus's development.
Almost all of the buildings constructed during Kerr's tenure were designed by John Bennes, a Portland architect. Bennes designed a variety of buildings, including the armory, many classroom and laboratory buildings, residence halls, gymnasiums, the library, six barns, and a memorial gate. Although each was unique, many of Bennes' building designs had similarities that created a unity on campus. This is attributable to the considerable influence of John Olmsted's 1909 campus plan recommendations, particularly his call for "architectural harmony." Olmsted was invited by Kerr to come to Corvallis, review the campus, and make recommendations for its development. Olmsted visited in June 1909 and produced a 60-page narrative report dated October 1. Many of Olmsted's recommendations were adopted, which laid the foundation for the long-range development of the campus. Olmsted's plan served OAC well for the next fifteen years. In November of 1924, however, President Kerr met with associates of another renowned planner, A.D. Taylor of Cleveland, Ohio: Taylor made an on-site visit in December 1925 and submitted his plan in January
A.D. Taylor developed two campus development plans, in 1926 and 1945, shortly after the end of World War II. The plan proposed to expand the campus to the west and south, and also proposed repetition of equally spaced trees lining nearly every street. Over the next 60 years, the growth of the campus generally respected the basic layout and circulation of A.D. Taylor's 1945 plan.
Since 1945, the framework established by visionary stewards of the past continues to influence the future direction for Oregon State University's physical development. The approval of the OSU National Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places affirms its significance to the OSU community, the City of Corvallis, the State of Oregon and the Nation.