Welcome Home to Strand Agriculture Hall

By Peg herring

Agriculture Hall was the largest structure at Oregon Agricultural College when completed in 1913. Spanning the length between two quads, it was built in three parts: Agronomy to the north, Horticulture to the south, and a central Administrative Building with animal husbandry, entomology, bacteriology, and industrial pedagogy.

By any measure, Agriculture Hall was an impressive building, with large windows, high ceilings, and wide corridors. In his 1909 master plan for campus, John Charles Olmstead envisioned “a central door and an imposing porch on the west side of the middle mass of the new Agriculture Hall, so it would be a double fronted building, as its relations to the two quadrangles would demand.” The campus continued to grow, and today Strand Ag Hall stands at the center of the OSU National Historic District. But the imposing porch on the west side was never completed.

Until now.

In October 2015, OSU celebrated the completion of Olmstead’s vision, along with a $24.9 million rehabilitation of the stately Strand Agriculture Hall. Standing on the new West Portico, overlooking the Memorial Union quad, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney recognized OSU’s commitment to safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency.

“Strand was built eight decades before we knew just how vulnerable Oregon is to the mighty quake — which is coming,” Courtney said. “[This renovation] is an example to others who must take action to make their own buildings safer.”

Doug Reimer, of the Portland-based Henneberry Eddy Architects who designed the Strand renovations, said he was equally proud of the accessibility upgrades. “Now everybody uses the same common path,” he said. People in wheelchairs are not isolated; instead, ramps encircle art galleries and collaboration spaces.

Reimer said the architects tore out decades of “shoe horning” to reveal the good bones of the building, including more than 460 original wood windows that they repaired and rehung with new sashweights and weatherstripping. All new wiring, plumbing, and heating systems increase safety and energy efficiency.

Dan Arp, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, is “thrilled to see the building restored and renewed far beyond its former glory.” From the beginning, Strand Agriculture Hall has been home to the agricultural sciences. “We’ve grown beyond these three original buildings,” he said. “Today we have laboratories across campus, and research, teaching, and extension facilities across the state. But this is our home and it’s now an open, accessible and beautiful space to invite people to explore agricultural sciences.”


  1. [[it would be great to get a better photo of the West Portico, if possible
  2. Courtney 2 https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/sets/72157660033735059/

The new West Portico served as a stage for the re-opening of Strand Agriculture Hall, where Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney praised the upgrades for seismic safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency.

  1. Scene of Withycome in horse-and-buggy

James Withycombein carriage in front of east entrance to Agriculture Hall, ca. 1915  http://oregondigital.org/sets/osu-scarc/oregondigital:df70c344m

James Withycombe served as director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station from 1898 until 1914, when he was elected to be Oregon’s governor. He made most of his rounds on a horse and buggy and was one of the main proponents for the construction of the Agriculture Building, known today as Strand Agriculture Hall.

  1. Agriculture Hall, south wing under construction, 1913  http://oregondigital.org/sets/osu-scarc/oregondigital:df70c649m

At the time of its completion in 1913, the Agriculture Building was the largest building on campus. Next door was the Dairy Building, in what became Gilkey Hall.

The Morrill Act of 1862 required that each land grant college own at least 35 acres of land. In 1871, the Corvallis College Board of Trustees purchased a 35-acre farm—with a house, barn and orchard—for $4,500, as the college‘s Experimental Farm, located on what is now the Lower Campus. Funding for the farm purchase came from more than 100 local citizens; no state money was involved.

  1. Student soldiers in front of Agriculture Hall, ca. 1915 -- http://oregondigital.org/sets/osu-scarc/oregondigital:df70c650c

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) was established in 1917, replacing the Cadet Corps, and the Oregon Agricultural College was designated as a "Distinguished Institution" for its ROTC work. During 1917-1918, OAC was the center of military life for the entire state of Oregon; 66 faculty left to aid in the war effort.

  1. Study https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/sets/72157660033735059/

Images from the collection of Art About Agriculture grace the walls of students work spaces at each end of the building

  1. Knob-and-tube wiring (I have the examples here, if we need a photo)

Knob-and-tube wiring from the early 20th century snaked through the old walls of Ag Hall, threading through porcelain insulating tubes and supported on porcelain knob insulators. Wiring, plumbing, and HVAC were all upgraded in the renovation.

  1. Stair and bannisters and safe close-up   https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/sets/72157660033735059/

Many original architectural features were repaired to full function, except four floor-to-ceiling wall safes whose original function remains a mystery. “They were the “cloud” of their time,” speculates Dean Dan Arp, “where all the important documents were stored for safe-keeping.” Today only the heavy metal doors remain, the rest replaced by a new elevator shaft.

The College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University is Oregon's principal source of knowledge relating to agricultural and food systems, and a major source of knowledge regarding environmental quality, natural resources, life sciences, and rural economies and communities worldwide. The College provides undergraduate and graduate education leading to baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and extended education programs throughout Oregon and beyond. Its research programs create knowledge to solve problems and to build a knowledge base for the future. It is a source of information and expertise in integrating and applying knowledge with benefits that are felt in domestic and international settings.