Interested in taking a walking tour of the key Oregon State University buildings designed by John Bennes? It’s easily done. Twenty of the buildings are in a fairly compact section of the campus, with most of them on or within a stone’s throw of Jefferson Way or Campus Way.
Park in the public lot on Jefferson just before 15th Street (be sure to buy a two-hour permit) and then head up Jefferson (you can bring the map on Page A1 as a guide, but there are also plenty of map kiosks on campus). You can easily finish the tour in an hour or so, depending on how much you poke around.
Here are some highlights, with some notes from OSU archivist Larry Landis:
Landis, who thinks that architects who followed Bennes were not his equal, notes that the Pharmacy Building annex was built in 1966 “during the dark period.”
McAlexander Fieldhouse has played a key role in the university’s military programs, with an imposing façade that reflects that use. It was named for Ulysses G. McAlexander, commander of the OSU Army ROTC unit before and during World War I.
Langton, which includes the first pool built by OSU, Moreland and Weatherford serve as kind of an embarrassment of riches in a back-to-back-to-back trifecta in the Jefferson corridor.
Head up 26th to the Women’s Building, which Landis said also bears the stamp of one of Bennes’ many partners, Harry A. Herzog. It also contains a marvelous historic pool.
Hovland used to be the Horticultural Products Building.
As you hit Campus Way you will see Ballard Extension, which was originally named for Margaret Snell and was a women’s residence hall. The university planned a second such women’s dorm, but the Depression ended those plans. Please note that Snell Hall on Jefferson is NOT a Bennes design.
Milam, once the Home Economics Buildings, is another Bennes design. The west wing was added in the 1950s, which Landis emphasized was the “dark period” of OSU architecture (ditto for the 1960s).
Plageman, which houses the Student Health Service, and Gilbert both were influenced, Landis said, by the Works Projects Administration, a massive FDR-era public works effort.
Bexell, the original home for Commerce and the College of Business, also was home of the president’s office from 1923-72.
Gilkey, which once was the Dairy Building, never housed any cows, Landis noted. “That’s one of those urban myths.”
A short walk down Waldo Place gets you to Strand, the recently remodeled agricultural building. It was designed and built in three sections, one in 1909, one in 1911 and one in 1913.
Out on Monroe is Graf, the old engineering lab, which Landis said is “more elegant than we give it credit for.”
Covell formerly hosted physics classes as well as the KOAC radio station. The third floor had a roof porch for astronomical observations. "There was a lot less light pollution then," Landis said. The building also once housed the university’s Cold War-era air raid siren.