In 1907, the headline in the Las Cruces newspaper announced "New College to be Work of Art."
Pioneer southwestern architect Henry C. Trost had been commissioned to design a plan for the fledgling New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, founded only 19 years earlier.
The plan for what was to become New Mexico State University included a horseshoe drive and 13 buildings that were to form the school's centerpiece.
"With six buildings at each side in the form of a horseshoe and the administration building in the center, the College will present an appearance of unity and harmony rarely found in like institutions," the article read.
The story of NMSU's architectural origins is described most fully in the authoritative work on Trost, "Henry C. Trost, Architect of the Southwest," by Lloyd C. and June-Marie F. Engelbrecht, available in the university's library.
The campus would have an east-west orientation and be open-ended in the west at its entrance. The buildings were to be executed in what Trost called Spanish Renaissance architectural style, with hipped tile roofs and domed towers. Arches would connect the buildings to form a complex resembling some of the historic California missions.
The one exception was the university president's home, now the Nason House, on University Avenue. That building shows the influence of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style, to which Trost was exposed during his years in Chicago and the Midwest.
Although Trost's general layout for the university was followed for almost 30 years, it was never carried out in its entirety. Of the seven Trost buildings completed, only five remain. Four have been renovated.
University architect Martin Hoffmeister said the remaining Trost buildings are campus treasures because they are such interesting and original designs. While the NMSU campus has strayed from Trost's original campus design, most of its buildings retain the Southwestern flavor, he said. The horseshoe continues to be the campus center, as Trost intended.
"There is much variety on this campus," Hoffmeister said. "Today we are following Southwest designs and moving away from brutal modernistic styles."
Henry C. Trost Buildings On The NMSU Campus
- Wilson Hall. The first Trost building on campus was completed in 1909 and used for the study of agriculture. It was leveled after a destructive fire in 1937.
- William Conroy Honors Center . The second oldest building on campus is the , William Conroy Honors Center which is at the base of the horseshoe. Known as the YMCA building, today the building houses NMSU's Honors Program. It is the oldest public structure designed by Trost still standing in New Mexico.
The YMCA was brimming with activity soon after its completion as a men's dormitory in early 1909. It now stands vacant on the northwestern edge of the Horseshoe. The YMCA was one of only three student-owned university buildings west of the Mississippi River when it was built. It was furnished with gifts from donors throughout the then-Territory of New Mexico.
Built primarily to provide dormitory facilities for male students, in the 1920s it was a boarding house and a favorite place for many of the faculty members to eat.
The YMCA was converted to space for the music department in 1929 and was purchased by the university in 1964. The following year it became headquarters for the U.S. Air Force ROTC program, which remained there until the program was moved to the renovated Young Hall in 1982.
- Old Hadley Hall. The iron-domed administration building and library also opened in early 1909 as the centerpiece of the Trost plan. It was designed to stand out, much like a church in a mission complex. It had a large dome, suggesting a building of importance, 34 feet in diameter. Old Hadley, which stood at the top of the arc of the horseshoe, was demolished in 1957. Some say the building was deteriorating and could not be rehabilitated. Others believe it marked the end of an architectural era at NMSU. The current administration building was built just west of the old building in 1953.
- Gymnasium/Music Center. The old armory, which served as a gymnasium from 1911 to 1938, became part of the Music Center in 1983. The older building has a circular running track now used to house practice rooms 12 feet above the original gym floor. Faculty offices occupy the first floor.
- Goddard Hall. The engineering building with its distinctive bell tower and Spanish Renaissance style was completed in 1913. An annex was added under the auspices of the WPA in 1936-37. The annex was designed and supervised by college faculty and built with student labor.
The building was dedicated in 1934 to the late dean of engineering, Ralph Willis Goddard. Born in Waltham, Mass., in 1887, Goddard was hired by the college as an electrical engineering professor in 1914 and became dean of engineering in 1920. He was a pioneer in radio engineering and his experiments received national attention. He also trained enlisted men to become proficient in sending and receiving wireless messages during World War I.
Goddard died on Dec. 31, 1929, from electrocution inside the transmitter room of radio station KOB on the NMSU campus. Funding for the renovation of Goddard Hall, which was the symbol for NMSU's Centennial celebration, is under way. Two sections of the building will be remodeled.
The WPA section rehabilitation project, partially funded by the National Science Foundation, will house research support services. The historic Trost section will house registration and student services offices.
- The Nason House. The original residence for the college president and family was built on University Avenue in 1918. Today the Nason House is home to the Center for Latin American Studies.
- Young Hall. Originally the university library, Young Hall was completed in 1928. The building was occupied in 1958 by the English department. In 1982 it was renovated for the military science and aerospace studies department. The hall is named for Regent R.L. Young. The building's renovation maintained its exterior shells with a new building inside. Today it is home to the school's ROTC programs.