Old Main

Looking at the beautiful brick building that still fits perfectly in the modern world, it is hard to imagine that for decades Old Main was the largest building in the Valley at only three stories tall. Old Main was built in 1898, when Arizona was still sparsely populated and relied on agriculture. The completion of Old Main, created classrooms on the second and third floor and an auditorium for the young Tempe Normal School.

Old Main was the beginning of Arizona's leap towards education. The building was even the first in Tempe to have electricity. Old Main represents the origins of Arizona State University, which has become a world renowned institution dedicated to research and learning. The building is a throwback to a time when the only classes were for teachers and it cost $5 to park your horse and let it graze while attending class.

Old Main's history is highlighted by a visit and speech from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1911. The speech lasted for thirteen minutes and was a few days after the dedication of the Roosevelt Dam located northeast of Phoenix. Education was a primary subject in his speech, with him touching on the importance of training future generations for actual work and also to love learning in general. Roosevelt touched on the stunning nature of the territory and the scenic drives.


Old Main 1890
Old Main 1890 Old Main stood out as one of the largest buildings in Valley during 1890. A woman can be seen in the foreground wearing Victorian style clothing. Photo courtesy Arizona State University. Source: Old Main, 1890’s, UP UPC ASUB O42: 11, University Archives Photograph Collection



Thomas Black, “Old Main,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/67.