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Chico State

Chico State: Then and Now

Chico State has had many changes since 1887 when John Bidwell first donated eight acres of land to build Chico Normal School. When the campus opened in 1889, there were 90 students and five faculty members. Today, Chico State is home to more than 17,000 students and 900 faculty members who walk through the 119 acres of the main campus. While a lot has changed, many traditions and landmarks from decades ago are still around. These photos revisit places and people of the past and showcase the always-evolving spirit of the campus.

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Kendall Hall

A year after a fire destroyed the original Normal Building in August 1927, construction began on a new building on the original site. The building was designed in a Romanesque Revival style by Chico architect Chester Cole who also designed Trinity Hall and Laxson Auditorium. It was named Kendall Hall in 1979 in honor of former president Glenn Kendall.


Before The Orion, Chico State’s student newspaper was called The Wildcat. In 1977, The Wildcat left the University, became an independent publication, and changed its name to the Chico News & Review. The Orion printed its first issue in spring 1975 and continues publishing weekly to this day. It is considered one of the best collegiate newspapers in the country with a spot on the Associated Collegiate Press’ hall of fame.


The wildcat became Chico State’s mascot when it was adopted by the student body in 1924. Long before our current Willie the Wildcat, the mascot was named SOCS up until the early 70s. Willie’s current iteration was introduced in fall 2000 and was designed by campus illustrator Chris Ficken.

Laxson Auditorium

Construction on Laxson Auditorium began on May 2, 1930; it was built in 13 months at a cost of $288,703. The first event held in the auditorium was an assembly to induct new student body officers on June 4, 1931. Today it hosts world-class performers and guest speakers for the campus and community to enjoy.


There are nine bridges on campus that span Big Chico Creek. The Physical Science Building bridge will be replaced in summer 2016 to accommodate larger emergency vehicles.


Chico State has had 14 presidents since 1897. Glenn Kendall’s 16-year administration covered tremendous growth from 1,540 students to nearly 6,000 and faculty increases from 78 to 305. During Paul Zingg’s tenure, Chico State reached its highest graduation rates in recorded history, and he oversaw nine new buildings and capital improvement projects on campus. Zingg will retire at the end of the 2015–16 school year.

Trinity Hall

Trinity Hall was home to Chico State’s library until 1959. When the library moved to its current location, Trinity Hall became a student center that housed student government offices, lounges, and a student bookstore. Today it is home to faculty offices and the University Art Gallery.


Robert G. Main became a professor in the Department of Communication and Design in 1976. Main was a mentor of Communication Design Professor John Roussell during his master’s program at Chico State and influenced Roussell to pursue a career in academia. Professor Main was named professor emeritus in 2015. Professor Roussell received the Outstanding Teacher Award in 2013.


Chico State’s student radio station KCSC premiered on March 14, 1951, as part of a class in the speech and drama department. KCSC was originally located in Ayres Hall before it moved several times, including once off campus by Fifth and Ivy Streets. Its current location is inside the Bell Memorial Union.


Taylor Hall’s iconic mural Academe was demolished in 2014 to make way for construction of Chico State’s new arts and humanities building. Muralist John Pugh returned 34 years after completing the original work to re-install his mural on the east side of the new building.

Archive photos courtesy of Meriam Library. Both Academe photos and all present-day photos by Ernesto Rivera. Chico State: Then and Now was made possible thanks to the following: Kate Post, Tom Patton, Meriam Library, Michael Watts, The Orion, John Domogma, Christine Zuniga, Mark Plenke, Madison Holmes, Risa Johnson, Miles Huffman, Emily Teauge, Sam Rivera, Taylor Sinclair, David McVicker, Amanda Abad, Rachel Ward, Willie the Wildcat, Chico State Athletics, Jeff Kragel, Mason Masis, Zach Phillips, Veronica De La Cruz, Prin Mayowa, Jason Halley, Paul Zingg, John Roussell, KCSC Radio, Jeffrey Fox, and John Pugh.