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Building Boom in the 1950s

Building construction in the 1950sWhen the university moved from the Voorhis campus in San Dimas to its permanent campus in Pomona in 1956, it was the start of a great building boom. There was just one problem. There weren’t many buildings when the 660 students, faculty and staff arrived in Pomona.

When the campus opened that fall, they saw an array of stucco and red-tiled buildings left over from the Kellogg Ranch days and one almost completed new structure. The two-story science building (3) included laboratories, lecture rooms, and offices for 50 instructors and staff – plus converted classrooms for the library and bookstore. At more than 72,000 square feet, the building had more space than all the facilities combined at Voorhis.

Over the next several years, Cal Poly Pomona’s campus (then known as California State Polytechnic College, Kellogg-Voorhis) began to take shape with, on average, one new building a year. They flanked the University Quad, with the Campus Center cafeteria opening in spring of 1958, followed by buildings 6 and 5. The first gymnasium (41) opened the same year for physical education classes, basketball and other sports. The facility was later dedicated to Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Darlene May in 1996.

The library’s next home was in Building 5 and its collection grew to include 16,584 volumes. When the four-story University Library (15) was completed in the late 1960s, students, faculty and staff worked together to move the more than 150,000 books. Floors five and six were added in 1989, and a $58.5 million addition and renovation project was completed in 2008.

In the 1950s, student housing was still located on the Voorhis campus, and students were bused in every day. Pomona’s first residence halls – Encinitas, Montecito, Alamitos and Aliso – opened in fall of 1960 and housed about 1,200 people. Though they were attractive and comfortable, students occasionally made disparaging comparisons with the “well-housed” Arabian horses in the magnificent Kellogg stables. At the end of the decade, Palmitas and Cedritos halls, Los Olivos and La Cienega Center rounded out the residential subdivision of campus.

Other highlights from the 1950s:

  • Cal Poly Pomona students use a bulldozer to create the CP on Colt Hill overlooking campus in 19591952: While out hunting gophers on campus, Professor Edward Appel Jr. and some of his students are chased into a building by an angry bull.
  • 1954: Students are surveyed about “What is the biggest problem on campus?” One in six says parking, and one in six says a lack of women.
  • 1957: President Julian McPhee announces that the state plans to invest $20 million to expand the Pomona campus. Enrollment stands at 700.
  • 1959: The service club Phi Sigma Chi puts the block letters CP on Colt Hill. Students began the project a year earlier, but work stopped when they learned they were outside the property line.

For more highlights from the university’s history, visit the online timeline.

*Excerpts from “California State Polytechnic University, Pomona – A Legacy and a Mission” by Donald H. Pflueger

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