Our History

Not long after its completion in April 1876, the University of Colorado’s main building was described as “…an imposing structure…Its head above a barren and wind-swept plain…A monument of patience, looking down upon the frontier village…Removed from any sidewalk by nearly a mile of mud.”

Known since the 1890s as Old Main, the building housed the entire university for eight years, including President Sewall and his family, the janitor, the library and all of the classrooms. It has withstood threats of nature and constant use by students for more than a century.

Because Old Main served the university so long and well, and because it is CU’s continuing link between its beginnings and its present, funds were raised to completely renovate and refurbish the building. The renovation project was completed in 1982 at a cost of $1.7 million. During the spring and summer of 1985, alumni volunteers and consultant Mary Ward Metzger collected and assembled the displays in the Heritage Center, which opened in Sept. 21, 1985.

The building renovation and creation of the CU Heritage Center ensures that Old Main will remain the “imposing structure” which has always been the focal point of the University of Colorado.

Old Main

A composite of Old Main by CU photographer Casey Cass that shows its early days and now.

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