As I walk through Old Main’s hallways, I see pictures of what it used to look like. When I see these things, it reminds me of the stories my great-grandmother used to share about her time at UW-Stevens Point. I can only imagine what it must have been like.
Over the years, UW-Stevens Point has evolved and transformed. Old Main opened in 1894 and was home to both classrooms and administrative offices. After talking with some faculty, looking at the pictures in Old Main’s hallways and reading a book about Old Main, I realized there are many things I did not know about this campus landmark.
Here are 12 things I learned about Old Main:
1. Before UW-Stevens Point was known by its current name, the university was called the State Normal School. It was the sixth of its kind in the state.
2. After the State Normal School, the college went through three name changes before it became UW-Stevens Point. From 1926 to 1951, it was called the State Teachers College. After it was called State College (1951-1964) and then, State University (1964-1974).
3. The first class to enroll consisted of approximately 200 students, and there were five men and eight women faculty members, which was the largest group of faculty in the state!
4. As we look at now-and-then pictures of Old Main, you may not see many differences on the outside. But inside was so different. In 1894, the basement and first floor of Old Main were the upper and lower parts of the gymnasium, which was also the largest college gym in the state. The second floor housed the Normal School, which included classrooms, a library, an assembly room and administrative offices. On the third floor of Old Main, there were more classrooms and science labs. Today, there is no access to the third floor.
5. In 1901, the west wing was built. Its first floor included the home economics department. Other departments in the new addition included the rural education department, which at the time was the school’s largest department, another assembly room and the music department.
6. As the growth of the school continued, the east wing was added. The east wing was almost an exact replica of the west wing’s layout, and housed the relocated home economics department. Many renovations happened over the years, including the moving the gymnasium to what is now the Communication Arts Center.
7. In 1976, Old Main was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
8. In 1979, Old Main underwent a renovation to modernize the interior and remove the east and west wings.
9. The Normal School provided classes for teacher training, but over the years class offerings expanded into many different areas of study. When the school first opened, families in the area with young children wanted to send kids to become pupils at the school, allowing college students to practice their teaching. Drawing was also a crucial part of the teacher preparation curriculum. Students would gather around statues purchased by President Pray, to practice their drawing skills.
10. In the early stages of the university we now call UW-Stevens Point, domestic science was one of the largest programs, which included planning, preparing and serving meals. Physical measurements and daily class exercises with lectures and discussions on applied anatomy and physiology were also required.
11. Held in the second floor assembly room, students attended daily general assemblies. On Fridays, many seniors presented their original “rhetorical” to the group.
12. Music was also another important part of the students’ lives on campus, with the Glee Club and Treble Clef Club being among the first to organize.
Although many things about UW-Stevens Point have changed throughout the years, the spirit of hard work and creativity still lives on. Old Main is an iconic piece of UW-Stevens Point’s history and shows that change is not something to be afraid of.