The Aggie Barn: Future USU Welcome Center & Museum of Anthropology

The Aggie Barn:  Future USU Welcome Center & Museum of Anthropology
Architect's rendering of rehabilitated and expanded Barn to house the Museum of Anthropology and a USU Welcome Center.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adieu, Old Friend

The last news I heard of the Art Barn was that Utah State University and USU Credit Union were working together to turn the building into offices and a welcome center. A respectable use for a respectable old building, once the plans to turn it into a museum fell through. So when  I drove through campus today and saw construction work going on--the building gutted--I assumed the restoration had begun. Excited, I pulled up and waved over one of the construction workers.

"How much of the exterior are you going to be able to save? Are you going to save the sign?" I pointed to the "Man's Best Friend" sign over the old front doors of the stable--supposedly an old cavalry motto referring to horses, not dogs.

He scratched under his orange hat. "They made a cast of the sign to display somewhere on campus. It was cracked in three places and couldn't be moved."

"You're not keeping the sign?" My heart fell. That sign was a unique reminder of the confluence of agricultural and military history at USU.

"Nope. The whole thing has to be renovated."

I thanked him and backed away, making notes to make some phone calls, find out what the plans were for the building. As I stood watching, one of the guys got into the tractor and slammed the excavator into the beautiful gambrel roof, crushing the corner of the building. I stared, my hand over my mouth, as they did it again and again, stripping away the front of the building.

Not renovated, razed.

In its last moments, the building proved the worth of its construction. It didn't just buckle under the blows. Tears slid down my face as I watched the destruction of all that history, all those memories. I felt a small amount of what a person must experience when they go to see a condemned friend stand in front of a firing squad. It was horrible to watch, but I was glad someone was there who understood what the building had been, to capture its final moments and bid it farewell.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Utah Museum Association Members Tour the Future USU Museum of Anthropology

The Utah Museum Association (UMA), a group representing over 250 museums in Utah, held their annual conference this year in Logan. At least 129 people attended the conference from October 10-12, 2011. As part of the proceedings, the USU Museum of Anthropology invited conference participants to tour the current museum and the historic Art Barn, or Aggie Barn, that will soon be the home of the new museum.

The tour, titled “The Past & Future of the USU Museum of Anthropology...and Aggie Ice Cream to Boot!” began with USU’s current Old Main-based museum. It included an overview by museum director Bonnie Pitblado, who briefly covered the museum's history and philosophy, followed by a discussion of exhibits and programming led by Adrienne Day. The tour participants then took a short walk over to the old Art Barn, where they got a sneak peek at the future home of the USU Museum of Anthropology, led by Holly Andrews.

As part of the barn tour, barn researchers Jon Alfred and Jason Neil presented some of their research to attendees. Jon Alfred’s presentation was “From Horse Dung to Pottery Shards: Barn Usage at Utah State University,” a discussion of the changing roles of barns on USU campus. Jason Neil’s presentation was “Memories From the Barn: Learning From the Past Through Oral History.” It featured information about three oral histories that have been done about the barn, including audio excerpts. It discussed how a building can represent different things to different people and the value of preserving memories from the public to understand the historic importance of places. Participants were interested in how the information gathered by the research team will be preserved and presented, such as through displays in the new museum and on the Barn Yarn public radio broadcasts.

At the end of the tour, Holly Andrews displayed and discussed the architectural plans for the rehabilitation of the barn into the new museum and welcome center. Participants then enjoyed their Aggie Ice Cream. Several attendees said the tour and the work of the barn research team has given them new ideas that they will take back to their own communities and museums.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Relaxed Atmosphere

The Art Barn was many different things to the students, faculty, and staff who came and went there over the years. To Darnel Haney, the Art Barn was a refuge from the racial tensions on campus and in the community in the early 1960s. Haney is an African-American from Arizona who was recruited to play basketball for Utah State University. He related to us some of his positive and negative experiences at Utah State during that tumultuous time.

"I was contacted by Utah State. At that time the head basketball coach was Cec Baker. They had won the NIT the year before, and they were looking forward to a great year in basketball. . . . That was a disaster that first year; it was absolutely a disaster. We had conflicts in basketball, on the court. We were rated first in the nation, and we didn’t live up that expectation. The coach was fired that year and much of it had to do with my being there at Utah State. . . . The players were in disarray and were constantly at each others throats, and the community felt that I was responsible for much of this. In all the frustrations which you have in a community, I had no one who I could talk to.

"I was an art major, and during my frustration I would go to the Art Barn. I had an adviser by the name of Larry Elsner who took the time and talked to me. They blamed much of the non-success of Utah basketball team on me. At the time I was dating my wife. She is a white girl from North Logan, Utah. She wasn’t a student at Utah State, and they did not like that situation at all. As I remember, Larry Elsner was one [of the] neatest people I have ever met, because he himself was married to a Japanese woman. Occasionally he would talk to me about situations. He said 'My marriage is not recognized in this community either.' . . . He was a quiet giant, I call him. Larry was just a sweet person, had limited conversation, but what he said, it meant a lot.

"I would go to that Art Barn many times and throw pots. Throw pots means you put them on the wheel. You could take your frustrations out there. . . . We would sit in the Barn until 11 o’clock at night, throwing clay, making pots, doing what have you. It was a sort of therapy for me. And it was a lonely time for me because I had very few friends.

He remembers that the Art Barn was a place with "a lot of enthusiasm. I walked in there and there were a lot of people doing different things. It was a relaxed atmosphere. There was a freedom in there that was not every place where you go on a campus. Smiles were there and helpful hands were always there. And most of all the instructors were just a part of the students. It wasn’t just a person up there, an authority, but he was a part of his class."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Looking out for the Art Barn

Adrian Van Suchtelen, an award-winning artist who taught in the USU Art Department from 1967 until 2003, shared some of his memories of the Art Barn with us.

Many of Professor Van Suchtelen's memories were about how students, professors, and staff in the Art Barn looked out for one another. He recalled one elderly custodian who, he said, really "cared about the Art Barn. . . . He looked after students; he looked after me; he looked after Larry [Elsner]. He had discovered that this other janitor had been stealing tools. I mean expensive power tools, because sculpture has a lot of expensive tools. And he had been watching him. This guy had figured out how to take the tools and hide them in the garbage can. He would come back later and take them out of the garbage can. But this guy was onto him, and he had taken the tools out of the garbage can before he came back at night. He had saved us, he had saved the Art Department, just a huge amount of money, the way he looked after us. I was so thankful for that, and the students were very excited and thankful about it."

The custodian was elderly and did not have the money for good dental care, so he had lost all his teeth. Professor Van Suchtelen told us, "We decided to have this raffle and this fundraising. I went around my fellow faculty, and they went around to the students, saying, 'We are raising enough money to buy him a set of teeth for Christmas.' And he was so happy. I don't have to tell you. We bought him a set of teeth for Christmas, and it was the best Christmas present that he ever got."

Besides theft, the Art Barn community sometimes had to watch out for other threats. During the revolution in Iran in 1979 there were fears about terrorist attacks even at Utah State. One night someone came into the Art Barn and turned on some gas valves and there were concerns that it could have been the work of would-be terrorists. Professor Van Suchtelen remembers, "If someone had lit a cigarette, and the whole place would have blown up, and there would not have been an Art Barn anymore. I was obliged to warn the students to keep their eyes out for any suspicious happenings, strangers in the Art Barn, etc., and to always be on the lookout."

There were also tensions within the Art Barn community from time to time. "Students would bring in their dogs because we were by ourselves in the Art Barn. It was sort of an isolated place. And one of the custodians had become very annoyed with that idea, so he wrote on the wall, 'No Dogs Allowed' [but he spelled it] A-L-O-U-D. Some student had written, right underneath it, 'And No Dogs A-Quiet Either.' He wrote it in big, big letters."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Modern Horse Barn

In an earlier post we alluded to an article written in the campus newspaper in 1919 about the Art Barn when it made its debut as the horse barn, replacing the old square "model" horse barn near Old Main. Below is a transcription of that article. It shows the role that USU and its barns played in demonstrating agricultural advancements for the campus and for the larger community of Cache Valley and northern Utah.

Student Life, Logan City, Utah Friday, October 10, 1919 Volume XVIII, Number 4

“Horse Barn is Modern”

“The old students of the school who were not here last year, are no doubt surprised at not seeing such a familiar landmark as the old horse barn. There is now nothing left to show where it stood except a few rocks. No matter what happened to the old barn, a new one has been built to take its place. The new horse barn was built by Alston & Hoggan of Salt Lake City, at a cost of about six thousand dollars. The plans were drawn up by the Animal Husbandry Departments with the assistance of a local architect. It is made to hold eleven horses; there are six individual ventilated stalls, four large rommy[sic] box stalls, running water, grain bins, hay and straw chutes, a harness room and an office. The floors are made of cement, thus making it possible to keep them clean without difficulty. It is newly painted inside and outside giving it a very attractive appearance. Those who have visited it and know what a barn should be seem very well pleased with it. When it was first finished, it was planned to have a real old barn dance in the loft, which has a good hardwood floor, but it had to be used for storing hay, so we may expect this dance to be given later. Those interested in good farm buildings should not miss seeing this one."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Assuming Its Place

Barn research team member Jason Neil has been continuing his research in USU Special Collections and Archives and has uncovered more documents related to the "turf wars" over the space in the Art Barn after it was vacated by the Art Department. In addition to the requests discussed in earlier posts, he also found proposals to turn the Art Barn into a photojournalism lab, a hobby center, or a restaurant and recreation center with a barn theme. From 1977 until 2007, discussions continued about the best ways to use the space in the Art Barn, with frequent changes and remodels made as campus needs changed.

In 2007, the faculty using the third floor of the barn wanted to remodel the south end for offices and a conference room. In the process of considering this remodel, it was found that the building failed to meet several codes, including the ADA and fire codes, and that if they did "anything to the building other than install carpet and apply new paint, the entire building [would] have to be upgraded to comply with current code."

It was suggested that the Art Barn may have "substantially outlived its usefulness," especially since it was never intended "for human occupation," but the project coordinator also recognized, "On the other hand, due to the fact that this building is probably the last remaining vestige of Utah State University's agricultural heritage on main campus, it could be successfully renovated (similar to the Janet Quinney Lawson and Lillywhite buildings) and assume it's [sic] place as a prominent historic building along 700 North. . . . Renovation of the structure could produce a marvelous space and preserve a piece of history for the University."

Click on the image of the USU Archives document below to read more about this pivotal decision in the barn's history.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

KVNU Interview with Director Bonnie Pitblado

Horse Crazy

Alice Cardon Crockett, who sent us a story about the time she rode U-Dandy (one of the stud horses kept at USU in the horse barn days), shared with us some more of her childhood memories of the barn and Logan. She described herself as "horse crazy," and she and her friends would often visit the horses in the barn.

Ms. Crockett remembers that there was an alfalfa field where the LDS Institute of Religion now stands, and she would pick alfalfa for the horses on her way to the barn. "And if it didn't seem like quite enough, and if U-Dandy looked especially hungry, I'd just go up into the haystack and get some more for him. . . . We played a lot in that hayloft. It was really fun, but after you'd bounced around a lot it gets kind of dusty, and that's when we'd kind of give it up and do something else." She said this "just drove the groundskeeper wild."

In addition to U-Dandy, she remembers that the name of another horse in the barn was Seabiscuit (not the famous racehorse Seabiscuit). "[The names] were written right above, so that you knew all their names, and those are the only two I can remember. And they were the two who had the bigger paddocks, because they were at the end [the south end of the barn]. And when I think about it, I'm not even sure the other horses had their names over their stalls."

Ms. Crockett said that she learned to ride horses at Dunbar Stables in Logan's "Island," and they would ride to Providence through the orchard of Edgewood Hall, an old abandoned estate that was said to be haunted, perhaps because a child supposedly drowned in the pool there. She said her frequent contact with horses was what gave her the confidence to try to ride U-Dandy. She compared the experience of riding U-Dandy to the excitement she felt the time she thought she saw the Bear Lake Monster on a family trip to Bear Lake.

She said the picture she took of U-Dandy and her father, featured in an earlier blog post, was taken with a Brownie camera given to her by her school friend Peter Brunson. She would frequently bring her parents up to the barn "Just so they could see this wonderful horse I loved. And in my heart, I thought, if they get to know him enough, I’ll be able to bring him home. And there is still, as you turn into University Hill Way, there is still a small orchard there. It has maybe four ancient trees. Well, in my mind, U-Dandy could live there, and I would, there is a little gray garage that’s there that we have, and I just, I just knew that if things were right and everybody got along, he could come. And it never happened." She also at one point tried to convince her parents to buy a horse from the circus that came and performed in the old stadium, which once stood across from the barn.

Ms. Crockett has many other fond memories of growing up around USU, including playing house in the student union building, buying hamburgers with her friends at the Bluebird on campus, and meeting jazz musician Duke Ellington when he performed at USU. She came to USU as a student after the horse barn had been transformed into the Art Barn. ". . . I went back to take a pottery class there, and I remember thinking . . . right there is where U-Dandy was. And it was, it was pretty nice. I kind of thought, well, I bet he's still here sort of. It was neat."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

1952 Music Hall

This scan of a drawing from 1952, when the barns and animals were being removed from campus, shows a proposed renovation of the horse barn into a music hall (a change that never took place). It is interesting not only because it shows an early concept for an adaptive reuse of the barn, but also because it gives us an idea of how the barn looked in 1952. The scan is reproduced here courtesy of USU Special Collections and Archives. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Art Barn "Turf Wars"

Barn research team member Jason Neil shared some of his discoveries in the USU archives:

"Today while I was at the special collections, Bob Parson told me that he had come across some Art Barn documents that I might find interesting. I looked through several folders and discovered quite a few documents of interest. It seems that when the Art Department shifted to the new art building, there were quite a few departments debating and asking for the space."

Among the documents he examined were letters showing several departments jockeying for space in the Art Barn, including the Art Department (which wanted to keep the kilns on the first floor for commercial ceramics production and community ceramics classes), the College of Natural Resources (which wanted a wet lab on the south end of the second floor, where plumbing and a concrete floor were available, and offices on the third floor, as well as proposing that some of the space might also be used for MX missile research), and the Department of Languages, Philosophy and Speech Communication. He also found architectural drawings of the first two floors of the Art Barn showing how the space was eventually divided between the departments, which are included below (these drawings give an incorrect date for the original building of the Art Barn).

Jason also said, "One thing which I could not copy due to size but which I thought was interesting were two architectural drawings (fairly large size) of a proposed Music Hall from 1952. Apparently the university was proposing, planning, or toying with the idea of transforming the horse barn into a Music Hall and musical instruction facility. From the date it is possible that this idea formulated well before the university even thought of the Art Barn."

Trying to Get a Hold of Part of It

Thad Box, Dean Emeritus of the College of Natural Resources, shared with us some of his memories of the barn in the days when it was considered valuable real estate on USU campus.

Thad Box came to USU as a professor in 1959 when he was fresh out of graduate school at Texas A&M. He remembers the barn at that time still showed traces of its former use as a horse barn, with some pens still remaining around it.

He got to know the barn better later. "It wasn't until after I came back here in 1970 as dean of the College of Natural Resources, and my office was right across there, and we were just growing like mad during those days. We had over 1400 students in natural resources in the early 60s. We were adding new faculty and looking for new graduate student space. We were out of space, so I saw that big barn there and I started trying to get a hold of part of it. By that time the Art Department had it pretty well used as their Art Barn for classes and labs and so on, but I was able to get part of the second floor, and I think we put in seven or eight offices on the second floor. They were mostly graduate students and new faculty members. By then I was in the barn practically every day for a couple of years . . ."

Apparently the Art Department and College of Natural Resources managed to get along fairly well while they shared the barn. In fact, some of the natural resources graduate students modeled for the drawing classes.

Thad Box also remembers another incident involving models in the Art Barn that occurred in the late 60s or early 70s: "Gerald Sheratt (he is mayor of St. George now, he went down there to be their president of Southern Utah University), he was the university beggar, the development officer, at the time and very good at that. He was a very modest sort of guy, nothing off color around Gerry. One day he was bringing a group of donors they were trying to get money from; I don't know if it was money to redo that building or what, but he had a number of men and women both and he brought them around by our offices and then he took them up to the third floor. He walked in on an art class with a nude model sitting there. He got them out of there so quickly it was sort of a standing joke over there about how fast he got the donors out of there. I don't think it was well known at that time that they were having art classes with nude models."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

1959 Art Barn Article

Jason Neil, barn research team member, uncovered a draft of an article in the USU archives describing the Art Barn circa 1959, which is transcribed below. This document provides an interesting snapshot of the barn just after it became the Art Barn.

"The Art Barn

Utah State U. boasts a barn that holds a store of unusual and interesting ceramics.

The bar[n] that refuses to cater to even registered livestock is the only authentic art barn in the Mountain West. It looks enough like a farm structure on the outside, but on the inside hay and stalls have been replaced by a kiln, potters' wheels, glazing machinery and cases and stacks of unfinished and finished ceramics.

On[c]e the barn did provide quarters for cattle, but when Utah State began to enlarge its campus facilities, and changed its status from agricultural college to university, personnel began to wonder just what they were going to do with the large out-dated landmark standing at the center of campus.

Other agricultural facilities were eventually moved to North Logan, but the 'too stationary and sentimental to be transported' barn was left archaic and virtually deserted.

Then came a 1959 spring quarter fire that destroyed a small and inadequate ceramics studio located [in] the Main Building. A party of fine arts instructors had a unique idea for a Utah State 'first.'

Ceramics and equipment that had not been spoiled by the blaze were moved into a 'renovated and modernized' building--a structure to be officially termed: art barn.

One remaining dobbin didn't seem to mind being moved out when students' artistic vases were moved in.

Today, just a few short months after remodeling the old barn, students interested in art flock from all parts of the nation to listen to lectures and try their hand at ceramics in barn headquarters.

The ceramics lab with its orange doors, smell of warm shellacs and wets paints provides a highly specialized world for those in art education."

Below: A picture of the Art Barn surrounded by cars from the 1959 edition of the Buzzer, USU's former yearbook.

Monday, February 28, 2011

1912 Precedent for Utah State University Welcome Center and Museum

The transformation of the Art Barn into the USU Welcome Center and Museum of Anthropology is a creative idea and an excellent reuse for a historic building, but we were surprised to find that campus plans from 1912 in the USU archives show that a similar idea was considered at least once before in USU's history.

The campus plans, pictured below, were drawn up while the old horse barn, or Model Barn, was still standing just to the northeast of Old Main. These plans called for the old horse barn to be replaced by new agricultural buildings, including a building called "Museum of Agriculture, etc." These campus plans were never fully realized, and the museum wasn't built, but if it had been, it would have been a focal point on the north side of the quad.

Back in those days, 400 North was a main approach to the campus, which was centered on the quad. The main entrance to the quad from 400 North would have brought students and visitors right up to the agriculture museum, and it's easy to imagine the "etc." in the museum's name meant it was going to serving as a welcome center as well because of its dominant location and size.

Though the agricultural museum wasn't built, the agricultural history of USU and Cache Valley will still be memorialized on campus through the rehabilitation of the Art Barn into the USU Welcome Center and Museum of Anthropology. During the rehabilitation project the facade of the building will be restored to the extent possible to resemble the barn its its first function as a horse barn. This will allow an important historic building on campus to find a new purpose while still serving as a reminder of USU's past. Of course, it's also fitting that the new Department of Agriculture building is being built across from Old Main on the quad, bringing agriculture full circle on campus.

The images below are renderings of the 1912 campus plans. The top sketch of the plans shows an aerial view of the quad from the south, with Old Main Hill on the left side of the picture, and 400 North and Logan's "Island" at the bottom. The agriculture museum is the large building on the north side of the quad with numerous sidewalks converging on it. The bottom image shows the landscape plans with Old Main Hill on the bottom of the image and the complex of proposed agricultural buildings on the left side.

It Wasn't Quiet at All

Kevin Krogh, professor of Spanish at USU, was one of the last people to have an office in the barn before its upper floors were condemned. He recalls the active social atmosphere of the barn in its last years as office space.

Dr. Krogh described the layout of the barn during his time there:

“Downstairs there were four or five offices and a conference room on the west side of the main floor. The four of us in our department were all over there. Harold Kinzer had an office on the second floor. There was a classroom on the second floor. On the third floor, who knows what was going on there; there were all kinds of people in a small space. I think it was a software producing business connected in some way with the university. Downstairs also was the rat lab, and the psychology department grad students were who they were, four or five students on the east side of the main floor.”

The layout of the building contributed to the noisy, social atmosphere of the barn:

“It wasn’t quiet at all. The psychology graduate students who ran the rat lab, their office wasn’t entirely enclosed; it was a half wall. You couldn’t see over the wall. There was probably a space of a foot and a half to two feet between the ceiling and the wall. It was a large space, and that was open to the main entrance area where students would come that were in the speech program to be interviewed by other graduate students. So there were people in and out all the time. It was really quite noisy. If you wanted quiet you had to shut your door because the graduate students were always chatting; students were always waiting in the hall for interviews in the conference room.”

Because his office window was directly across from the kiosk at the exit to the parking lot, where people stopped to pay for parking, he would often shut the window to keep out the sounds of the cars and the parking lot attendant talking to drivers. Unfortunately, the building was very hot in summer, so having both the door and the window shut to have some quiet would become stifling. Dr. Krogh recalled coming in very early in the morning in the summer to avoid the heat. In the winter the building was heated by steam, but it was often still cold in the barn during the winter, and the steam heat could also have some negative effects, as he discovered on one occasion:

"I came to the office, and when I opened the door to the main office I could hear this hissing sound. I thought, ‘What in the world is that?’ As I got closer to my office door I could hear the hissing sound was coming from my office . . . also I could feel that it was kind of humid in there. When I opened the office I discovered that the steam valve in the office had broken. Steam was going everywhere, and water was dripping off the ceiling, off my books, and onto my desk. You could see water everywhere.”

Apparently the barn had frequent maintenance problems, because Dr. Krogh recalls that "There were people from maintenance, USU physical facilities, there all the time, fixing things all the time, replacing valves, wires. They were doing something all the time it seemed.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, the inconveniences of having an office in the barn, there was a real camaraderie among the professors who had offices there:

“The four or five of us that were there, we identified ourselves as those in the Barn. Everybody else in our department were over here in Old Main. We supported each other and we had the camaraderie of being in the Barn. You get to know somebody if you are walking across campus from your office in the Barn to Old Main where you are teaching or back. It was a great opportunity to get to know people. The people around me right now, I know them fairly well, but not as well, and I don’t feel the closeness as a colleague as I did with those who were in the Barn, even though they weren’t in my discipline. But I just knew them better because we had more opportunity to converse and to talk about things. Things kind of get boring over there in the Barn when you are there for a while, so you would go down the hall and visit with a person in the office down the hall.”

The camaraderie among the people in the Art Barn was what made it a special place to many of the people who had offices there.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Barn Phone Directory Listings

Using the campus phone directories in the USU archives, barn research team member Jason Neil has compiled a list of all the professors and groups that had offices or phone extensions in the barn throughout the years.

Offices were not a part of the original function or design of the barn. In its years as a horse barn there were no offices in the barn, and during the Art Barn years, throughout the 1960s and 70s, only Larry Elsner and, starting in 1967, Adrian Van Suchtelen, had barn offices.

After the Art Department moved into its new building at the end of the 1970s, however, the function of the barn changed again. From 1980 until early 1983 there were no offices listed in the barn, and perhaps the building was vacant, but then in the 1983-1984 academic year, the Psychology Department's basic behavior lab and a few people from the Range Science Department were listed in the directory as barn residents.

Until the 2006-2007 school year the barn continued to be home to a number of departments and people, including at various times members of the Biology Department, Psychology Department, Poisonous Plant Research Lab, National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, Rocky Mountain Dairy Herd Improvement Association, Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Science Department, and Language, Philosophy, and Speech Communication Department.

The barn has remained an important part of the campus landscape and many people's USU experiences over the years because of the many functions that it has served.

Below are some of Jason Neil's summaries of the listings from the USU campus phone directories. Click on the images to be able to zoom in and read the lists of people who had offices in the barn from the 1980s to the 2000s.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Lot of Fun at the Art Barn

Rose Milovich, the Preservation Manager and Exhibition Program Director for USU's Special Collections and Archives, took classes in the Art Barn in the late 1970s. She shared with us some of her memories of the Art Barn and the camaraderie among students there.

Ms. Milovich studied ceramics in the Art Barn and was involved with raku, a Japanese form of pottery. She related some stories about doing raku at the barn:

". . . they used to have the raku kilns at the back of the barn and there was a kind of a fence around it. There was a cluster of students who were there eighteen to twenty four hours a day and I was one of those students. We would eat together and fire pots and make pots. One of our friends Masihiro decided that we should cook dinner over the raku kilns, and so he made fried rice over the raku kiln . . . It was a lot of fun; it was like a family. We were all different people and all from different places. We helped each other . . . We would take turns [watching the kilns] and relieve each other. Somebody would stay there for three hours, somebody else would stay for six, somebody else would go through the night.”

In fact, she remembers a lot of students staying in the Art Barn all night:

“That wasn’t uncommon. It was actually pretty common. There were a few couches around. The drawing studio was on the third level. There was a little loft on the top and a little ladder you could go up if you wanted to sleep. You could bring a sleeping bag. Now you would never think of doing that . . . It’s a whole different world of security and safety.”

She also offered some details about the interior of the Art Barn in the last years before the new art building was completed and the barn was transformed into offices and labs:

“When I was taking ceramics in the Art Barn there was an area that was set aside for glazes and doing glaze work. That was on the east side of the building, pretty much the whole length of it. On the west side, the larger part, they had all the potter's wheels. They had some kick wheels and they also had some Shimpo electric wheels…The second floor when I was there was strictly sculpture. The third floor was drawing. There was some jewelry casting that was taught underneath sculpture. They did some metal casting.

"My most vivid memory is walking in and seeing all the potter's wheels and the clay all over the place. They had a room that was humidified so that your ceramics wouldn’t dry out too quickly. You would walk through it and you would have to go through it sideways because it was so small. If you turned this way you would knock somebody’s pots over.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Art Barn Class Schedules

Barn research team member Jason Neil has taken on the challenge of creating a complete list of all the professors who taught or had offices in the Art Barn over the years. He is using USU Special Collections resources such as campus phone directories, bulletins, and class schedules to compile the list. Below are excerpts from three class schedules that he found, one for summer semester 1962, one for fall semester 1970, and one for spring semester 1971. These show some of the professors teaching in the Art Barn and the types of classes they taught there. The Art Barn is abbreviated as "AB" in these class schedules. Click on the images to open them up and be able to zoom in to read them better.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Appropriate Use for an Enduring Building

It is easy to forget that the Art Barn was once part of a complex of barns and corrals located where the Taggart Student Center and parking lot are today. Those other barns were removed during the 1950s and the animals moved to North Logan, but some people remember when they were a vital part of campus. Dr. Newel Daines, former mayor of Logan and an active participant in historic preservation in Cache Valley, shared with us some of his memories of the barn from his childhood during the 1930s. His earliest interactions with the campus barns occurred when his family took their cows to campus to be bred to the bull that was kept there to improve local herds. He still remembers his early impressions of the horse barn:

"I remember it was a big oval-top barn that had a Jackson fork that came out of one end that they would haul hay into the loft of the barn, and it was a beautiful building at that time . . . It had an attic and everything else was on the ground floor. There were stables in there for the horses to be separated."

His other interactions with the horse barn show that it was an important part of campus and of Cache Valley. His mother rode in some of the community-wide horse shows that were held on campus, and Dr. Daines remembers that among the "outstanding horses" in those shows were the college's horses, which were stabled in the horse barn across the street from the old stadium where the shows were held. He also shared how the barn was part of the childhood education of many Logan school children:

"I was a student at the Whittier School, which is on the corner of 3rd North and . . . 4th East [now the Whittier Community Center], and since it was the school we would go up there on trips to examine the barn and see what was going on at that time . . . We would walk up there and look at the barn and see what was going on in the barn and see the horses that were in that barn. It was an interesting thing for a nine or a ten year old to do."

Dr. Daines has enjoyed seeing the horse barn remain throughout the years, especially since he remembers it from its first function as a horse barn. He says, "
It is a good example of the buildings that have endured for a long period of time . . . now that it will ultimately be a museum, it seems appropriate."

Above: This undated image from the USU archives shows the campus barns. The horse barn is at the right end of the barn complex, and cattle judging is taking place in roughly the current location of the University Inn and Conference Center. Below: This image shows a view of the barns in the 1940s if one was standing with their back to the horse barn. This area is now a parking lot.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Calling Cache Valley Woodworkers!

Friends and neighbors:

USU's "Team Barn" needs your help! Without giving away too much about the fun we're cooking up now, let us just say that involves hand-crafting lots of mini (some ultra-mini, and some, oh, say, birdhouse-sized) Aggie Barns.

We have the wood, the patterns, and a whole bunch of helpers lined up, but we need 6 or 7 folks with a talent for woodworking and access to woodworking equipment. Oh, and a willingness to participate in a half-day-long project as foremen or forewomen.

If you can help or know someone who fits the bill, or if you just want to know more, please e-mail USU Anthropology staff assistant or call her at 435-797-0219. We promise, this will be a good time!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Continued Usefulness Throughout the Years

While many people who share their memories of the barn have strong associations with one stage of its existence, others have known the barn through some of its changes over the years. George Morrison is one of those who has memories of the barn as a horse barn and as the Art Barn. Mr. Morrison's parents met while attending Utah State Agricultural College (USU's name prior to 1957), and his father eventually became a faculty member in agricultural economics. Mr. Morrison has many memories of enjoying activities on campus even before he enrolled as a student. He remembers the barn from the days when it still housed horses:

"One neighbor in Hyde Park, Jay Hansen, tended horses in the Horse Barn. One fall evening, Jay brought me and a friend with him on his evening chores. The barn was poorly lit back then and the three of us had to carefully move about trying not to spook the horses and get kicked. I can still smell the grass hay, horse 'biscuits' and sweat."

Later, Mr. Morrison attended USU, where he studied forestry and met his wife Betty. He and Betty both graduated in 1966. Mr. Morrison got to know the barn in its new role as the Art Barn while he was a student on campus. He said:

"I made many trips through the Art (Horse) Barn during my student years as I worked on the custodial staff. I'm delighted to see the old concrete building finding continued usefulness instead of disappearing to make way for more parking slots."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thanks to the Utah Humanities Council!!

Thanks to the Utah Humanities Council for providing funding to support the historical and oral history research reported in this blog from July 2010 to June 2011. We're very grateful for the chance to learn so much about the Aggie Barn and to share the stories with our blog visitors!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Delighted That It's Still There

Debora Seiter’s husband John is a speech communications professor whose office was in the Art Barn before the upper floors of the building were condemned. The Art Barn is a special place for her and her family as well as for her husband. Her uncle is a World War II veteran who had attended USU through the GI Bill. She and her husband brought him up to visit the campus again, and “he just really honed in on the barn,” which, along with Old Main, is one of the few landmarks remaining from over 60 years ago. It “thoroughly delighted him that it was still there.”

She also recalls when professors started leaving the Art Barn for offices elsewhere on campus:

“I remember feeling like, well gosh, this isn't going to be the same, and honestly it hasn't. People have kind of branched out and made new connections and networking. . . But as far as recreating as a group and being able to bounce from office to office, still in your chair rolling around, or being able to have a snake, or whatever, those times were over.”

Luckily, memories of the barn will continue to be preserved as it takes on its new role as a museum and welcome center.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Landmark Filled With Memories

Ruth Swaner, local author and artist, shared some of her stories as an art education student at USU in the 1960s. She said it was a “wild and wonderful time,” though also marked by sad events like the assassination of President Kennedy. The Art Barn was a focal point for her college career. She remembered it being full of experiences and friends. “It was a fun place. . . I looked forward to it every day.” She had a lot of learning experiences there. “I found out along the way that I’d rather do art than teach art. . . I never did teach. I decided to get married, have a family, and just do art, and that’s what I’ve really enjoyed doing.”

Mrs. Swaner described the Art Barn in the 1960s. When she was a student she said everyone knew the Art Barn, and it was often a meeting place for students heading to the Hub (in the student center). She said, “The Art Barn is a landmark to me, and it stood out because it was a different shape than the rest of the buildings.” She also described what it was like inside. “There was lots of sunlight coming through all the windows, and the smell of the clay and sometimes the smell of the oils for oil painting.” Pottery was taught on the first floor of the barn, and on the second floor were sculpture and anatomy for artists, where they learned to draw skeletons and muscle systems. Life drawing was on the third floor. Other art classes were held on the third floor of Old Main. She remembered having to get to the second and third floor of the barn by climbing the fire escape stairs on the west side of the building.

One of her favorite professors was Larry Elsner, an award winning artist who taught pottery. She struggled to make anything on the pottery wheel, but she made a pot or vase on the pottery table that she still has to remind her of her days at the Art Barn.

Life drawing was a controversial class because it used naked models, which many of the students were not expecting. Mrs. Swaner described the shock of the class, “When the first person disrobed, you could hear a pin drop. . . I just about dropped my pencil.” Many of the students were very uncomfortable. Some LDS returned missionaries protested the class, which was required for their major, by going to the university administration and asking them to cancel it. They also complained to their church leaders, who quieted their concerns by stating that the human form was a beautiful creation and that learning to draw it could be a worthwhile part of their education. That controversy passed, but another led to the departure of the professor who bucked the clothed-model trend. Mrs. Swaner was surprised years later, however, when she was watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and he introduced the winner of a muscle man award, who turned out to be that very same former professor. Apparently he had made quite a career change.

Mrs. Swaner feels that the Art Barn should always be preserved on campus because of all the memories and experiences that took place there for herself and other students. She was afraid it might be torn down, and she said “This is even more exciting for me to know that they’re going to turn it into something really special . . . We need to preserve the past . . . Old buildings that are filled with memories should be preserved.” She believes that knowing the past can help us all be better people in the future.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Historic Barns and Historic Preservation

In the early days of USU, when it was Utah Agricultural College, barns were an important part of the landscape on campus, in Cache Valley, and throughout northern Utah. Though the Art Barn is the only remaining barn on USU’s campus, barns are still an important feature of Cache Valley’s historic landscape. These historic Cache Valley barns provide a link to the history of USU’s barns.

The original USU horse barn, which was built next to Old Main in 1893, was a large, square, stone building. Though that barn was removed to make room for more classrooms in 1919, a good example of this type of barn is the Logan Temple Barn, which was likely patterned after USU’s horse barn. The Logan Temple Barn, located less than a block east of the Logan LDS Temple, was built in 1897 to accommodate the horses of temple visitors. Like the original USU horse barn, automobiles made the Logan Temple Barn obsolete by 1919, but Thomas Budge purchased it as a garage for his hospital, which was once located across the street from the barn. Today the Logan Temple Barn is privately owned. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Buildings Survey.

When the original USU horse barn was torn down in 1919, a new horse barn (our Art Barn) was built near the vet science building. This barn was cutting-edge for its time, representing the spirit of agricultural innovation at Utah State and in Cache Valley. Its gambrel roof and Jackson Fork allowed hay to be stored conveniently in the loft, and its cement floor was easy to clean. Other historic Cache Valley barns incorporated some of these features too, though it is uncertain if any were directly influenced by the Art Barn.

Like many other historic structures in Cache Valley, the Art Barn’s functions changed over time. In the 1950s the animals and barns were moved off the main campus, except for the horse barn, which remained because of its solid foundation and became the Art Barn. In the 1970s, when the art department moved into its new building, the barn served as overflow office space and classrooms for several departments. Its conversion to a welcome center and museum comes at a time when USU has just opened a new Equine Education Center in Wellsville, a tribute to the continuing importance of horses at USU, and is constructing a new building for the College of Agriculture directly across the quad from Old Main and from where the original horse barn once stood.

This history of adaptive reuse, or rehabilitation, of the Art Barn is a good example of how historic buildings can be preserved and put to new uses. Reuse of historic buildings reduces the environmental impacts that are associated with new construction while preserving the history and heritage that are so important to any place’s identity. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Barn Again program provides information about preserving historic barns, and the Bear River Heritage Area’s “Historic Barns of Northern Utah,” is a good source for more information about historic Cache Valley barns. Both are available online.

Above: Photo of the Logan Temple Barn courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS, reproduction number HABS UTAH,3-LOG,2A- Below: USU archives photo from 1906 of the old horse barn, or Model Barn, near Old Main, with the other campus barns, and the future location of the Art Barn, in the background.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Heart of Cache Valley

To Leo Krebs, 89 year old North Logan native and former USU dairy herdsman, Utah State University is the heart of Cache Valley. He has a lot of memories of watching the campus change over the years as most of the barns and animals were removed and newer buildings, like the nearby Nelson Fieldhouse and the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, were constructed.

Many of Mr. Krebs' memories are of the horse barn. He used one of the university's Persian work horses, a dapple gray mare named Lucy, to haul hay to the other animals. He remembers that USU grew its own hay, but it also bought hay from local farmers. The hay would be loaded into the loft of the horse barn with a Jackson fork. To feed the hay to the horses, they would shove it down through holes in the ceiling.

Many young people getting an education at USU had learning experiences at the horse barn. Mr. Krebs remembers one young man in particular.
"I asked him to unharness her [Lucy] one night and he unharnessed her. The next morning when I went to put the harness on her, he had undone all the buckles. I had to put the harness back together." Mr Krebs laughed at the memory, saying, "He was a very good boy but he was just learning how to put a harness on a horse."

In addition to the two teams of work horses, USU also kept stud stallions that were "outstanding horses" meant to improve the quality of horses in Cache Valley. Mr. Krebs explained, "
They [the university] were the only ones that could afford a good horse or a good stallion like that and so they would have them there for breeding services for a very cheap price." This allowed Cache Valley farmers to improve the quality of their own stock.

Mr. Krebs has witnessed a lot of changes at USU, and he looks forward to seeing the historic horse barn rehabilitated as the new USU Museum of Anthropology and Welcome Center. He says, "Tell them to hurry up so I can see it."