The Saga of Old Main’s Tower

In 1886, the skyline of Laramie became dominated by a massive stone structure, known today as Old Main on the University of Wyoming campus. The structure’s octagonal stone tower with a steeply pitched conical spire was a town landmark. But, over the years some of Old Main’s original architectural features were removed. The first to go was the stone tower.

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The Old Main Building, University of Wyoming under construction in December 1886. American Heritage Center, ah002750.

The writer of the editorial below was one of those not at all happy about the removal of the tower. He or she is unknown, as is the publication in which the editorial appeared. It seems to have been written within four years of the tower being removed, a process that was begun on June 10, 1916.

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Color postcard of Old Main, no date. American Heritage Center, photographic file.

We Wonder Why?

Has anyone ever seen a tower? If so that body knows what a beautifying agent such a thing is. It adds a finishing touch to a building – to almost any building in fact – it also adds a grace and a feeling of inspiration. One cannot walk this campus and see a single peak (outside of the mountain peaks). The buildings are all on a level in skyline scenery.

There was a time, however, when this was not the case. About four years ago the Main building was topped by a good-looking headpiece. This headpiece finished off the building. Isn’t it ridiculous to see a building which was cut out to wear a crown…wearing a little, squatty, shack-like cupola? It is not only ridiculous but it is a shame to disgrace the looks of the whole campus with such a terrible front as the Main building now presents to the world.  The University tower was a landmark. It could be seen for miles coming in on the train.

Why was the tower taken down? We heard stories of a weak wall and that the tower was too heavy for it. Thus, is was torn down and for a long time the Old Main stood with no hat on al all. Finally, this imitation hovel was put up. Does it replace the tower?

We wonder why a tower has not been built? The present senior class is the last class which has had the opportunity of seeing the Main building in all is glory, headpiece and all. The University authorities (we will not say who these authorities are) are also ashamed to send present pictures of the Main Building as advertising matter. They always find an old picture which shows the tower. Do you blame them? Now in the least, for it is something they are justly ashamed of.

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Old Main after the tower was removed, 1920s. American Heritage Center, Ludwig-Svenson Studio Collection.

– Leslie Waggener, Associate Archivist

About Tyler Cline

Digital Archivist and head of digital services at the UW American Heritage Center.
This entry was posted in University of Wyoming, University of Wyoming history. Bookmark the permalink.

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