by Silvia Pettem (published in the Daily Camera, November 22, 2009)
In November 1909, the people of Boulder celebrated the city’s semi-centennial. Fifty years after the community’s founding, pioneers and those who followed had participated in Boulder’s growth from a rough frontier town to a small but sophisticated city.
Part of the festivities included U.S. Senator Simon Guggenheim’s dedication of the first law building on the University of Colorado campus. Guggenheim had funded it, too, and the building became his gift to the people of Boulder.
Four years earlier, when a law school building was only a dream, Guggenheim was running as a Republican for the Senate position. At the time, CU President James Baker was soliciting private donations from the wealthiest men in Colorado. Most declined, but Guggenheim agreed to help. He was one of seven brothers who had made a fortune in their family-run smelting and refining businesses.
In 1906, after the Colorado legislators appointed him to the Senate, the Camera announced, “Law building at the University to cost $75,000 and to be reward for Boulder County’s vote for Guggenheim for Senator.”
Ground-breaking was held in January 1909. Each faculty member, faculty wife, and law student turned a shovelful of earth. A cornerstone-laying ceremony took place two months later. The brick building was, and still is, on the south side of the “grand plaza,” now called Norlin Quadrangle.
The first classes in the law building were held during the first week of November. Law students carried their books and marched from their old quarters in the Hale Science Building singing and shouting “cheers to the giver.”
Dedication ceremonies for the Guggenheim Law Building tied in with the city’s semi-centennial celebrations held on November 24, 1909. Senator Guggenheim, President Baker, Dean John D. Fleming, Colorado Lieutenant Governor S.R. Fitzgerald, and Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Steele assembled on the steps. The Camera described their speeches as short and “to the point.”
After a formal presentation by the senator and a few musical selections by the University Band, a student representative presented Guggenheim with a watch-fob as a token of the students’ appreciation. The students then led the public on tours of the building.
Offices and classrooms filled the first two floors. On the east end of the third floor was a large court room that seated 200 people and was complete with jury box, judge and clerk benches, and a railing for the bar. The law library was located in a room on the west end.
In 1958, the law school moved out of the Guggenheim Building. It was remodeled for the Graduate School and then used by the College of Arts and Sciences. The building now is the home of the geography department.
CU wasn’t the only university to benefit from the Senator’s philanthropy. Similar Guggenheim Buildings are also located on the campuses of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
The people in those cities must have favored him, too.