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Entryway sign linked to university’s early days

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Portals on the past

by Tim Marsh, University Relations

See a slideshow of historic photos and postcards at WSU Today.

Entrance arch in 2009. Photo by Tim Marsh.
Many WSU graduates and soon-to-be grads pose for photos next to the sign at the university's main Stadium Way entry in Pullman. But most people don't know the sign has a link to another, much earlier, WSU gateway.

WSU was established in 1890. Its first graduating class was 1897. In 1905, the institution's name changed from the Washington Agricultural College and School of Science to the State College of Washington.

Traveling west today from the entryway sign to the university's walk-in entrance at the east edge of Reaney Park, you can walk up the hill and stop. With Albrook Hydraulics Laboratory on the right and the junction of Oak Street and Administration Walk to the left, you are at the location of the university’s original entrance arch, built of basalt quarried locally.

Sometimes called "Ad Walk's Arch" and described by one WSU publication as a "grand Roman arch," the 36-foot high structure was dedicated in 1905. In 1955, to permit the widening of Oak Street, the arch was removed. The removal was with approval of the Class of 1905, which had funded it as a gift to the alma mater.

While the original arch was reduced to a "pile of rubble" in the winter of 1955-56, according to the 1958 Chinook yearbook, blocks of basalt from it were saved.

Postcard of the WSC arch in 1909. Courtesy Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.
Later, apparently during the 1957-58 school year, the Stadium Way entrance sign was created from that rescued basalt. Originally higher than it is today, lettering on the sign included "State College of Washington, serving Washington through Education, Research & Extension."

In 1959, WSC became Washington State University.

While the original arch is gone, it is remembered in a tangible way. In 2003, a three-quarter size replica of the arch was constructed - built of basalt quarried in Oregon - as a gift from the Class of 1947, as part of its 50th reunion celebration, and the Class of 1997. This arch - about 25-feet 8-inches high - is on the walkway behind the WSU president’s house, near the original arch’s location.

Sources of information for this story include WSU news releases, WSU Chinook, WSU Today, and Moscow Pullman Daily News.

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