Printer Friendly Version
Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento
November 5, 2003
Early days on campus were tough on inhabitants
This article is
one in an occasional series about CSUS buildings.
Mud, dust, war and hundreds of shrub-eating jack rabbits were among the challenges
faced by builders, staff and students during the first phase of campus construction
Construction on the first master plan, which included seven permanent buildings
and a number of temporary buildings, began with a groundbreaking ceremony in
May 1951. Construction of the administration building, now Sacramento Hall,
and the library building, now Lassen Hall, began in the summer but bad weather
and material shortages caused by the Korean War plagued the project from the
outset, causing delays that continued over the next two years.
In addition to the administration and library buildings, the original master
plan also included a food service building, one main classroom building and
three smaller science buildings that housed both classrooms and labs. All of
the buildings were designed in the Spartan, unadorned style characteristic of
state architecture in the 1950s.
Classes at the new campus began in February 1953, five months behind schedule
and with construction still not completed. The official move to the new campus
was marked by a parade on Feb. 9, 1953 that went from the University’s
temporary location at the Sacramento Junior College campus on Freeport Boulevard,
down J Street, to the new American River campus.
Because the site had been completely cleared of all trees and brush by construction
crews, the campus was a “sea of mud” in winter that “turned
into a dust bowl” in summer, according to George Craft, CSUS history professor
and author of California State University, Sacramento, The First Forty Years:
1947-1987. During the rainy season it was common for cars to become stuck in
mud and in the summer for dust to coat even the interiors of buildings, making
some lab experiments impossible.
The installation of a sprinkler system finally allowed for the planting of trees,
shrubs and grass to begin in November 1953. More than 3,000 trees were planted
in fall 1953 and spring 1954, including the dawn redwoods that now stand east
of the University Union and the eucalyptus grove that now stretches along the
west side of State University Drive West.
Unfortunately for grounds workers, the first shrubs planted served as food for
the area’s thriving jack rabbit population. In response, campus authorities
concocted a solution that may seem extreme by today’s standards: Faculty
and staff were invited to participate in rabbit hunts. The University provided
the ammunition but participants were asked to bring their own guns. The hunts
bagged between 100 and 200 hares a week before ending in late fall 1953.
By spring 1954 landscaping was taking and with the first phase of construction
nearly complete, the American River site began to resemble an actual campus.
However, busy construction work would continue to define the campus into the
California State University, Sacramento Public Affairs
6000 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 (916) 278-6156