1940s deco look recaptured on Houston Hall

David Detwiler, president of Integrated Construction Solutions, expects work on the venerable Houston Hall at Mesa State College to be finished for fall semester. The building is named after former college president Clifford Houston.


Houston Hall history

1937 — Land purchased for Mesa College’s first building at 12th Street and North Avenue.
1938 — Construction workers break ground on the building.
1940 — Houston Hall, then called The Old Main Building, is dedicated.
1959 — Old Main renamed Houston Hall in honor of former Mesa College President Clifford Houston and his father, Elmer, who served as building and grounds superintendent at the college.
2010–11 — Houston Hall renovated using $15 million in bonds to be paid with a 2 percent tuition increase approved by students.

Source: “The First Seventy-Five Years” by Louis G. Morton.

Mesa State College students and faculty returning to campus in August will notice modern touches blended with hints of history inside the newly renovated Houston Hall.

It’s not the oldest building on campus. That honor belongs to Albers Hall, which was not part of the original college property. But 71-year-old Houston Hall was Mesa College’s first building after the school changed its name in 1937 and moved from a smaller site at Rood Avenue and Fifth Street to 12th Street and North Avenue.

The intricate brickwork is still there, and contractors did their best to match the exterior patterns on the original building and the new addition on the building’s west side. Contractors also saved as many old trees on the site as possible and selected tile colors and designs to give the building a “1940s deco” look, according to David Detwiler, president of Integrated Construction Solutions and owner representative for the Houston remodeling project.

With the addition, the building has: 29 classrooms, including a psychology lab with a two-way mirror for observing a focus group in another room; four computer rooms; and eight, tiered-seating classrooms and lecture halls. Study rooms and areas are scattered throughout the building, and there is space for offices and testing and tutoring rooms.

The two front entrances have been removed and replaced with one central entryway. A balcony has been built on the second floor above the entrance, and a cafe with flat-bread sandwiches and paninis will be just inside the front entrance.

The project began after classes let out in spring 2010 and is scheduled for completion by the time classes begin Aug. 22, Detwiler said.

The remodeling cost $15 million and will be paid for with a 2 percent tuition increase approved by students in 2010.

The building includes large energy-efficient windows, a welcome change from the precast ornamental panels that once lined the south end of the building.

The windows and other measures, including hooking the building’s heating and air conditioning units to the college’s geothermal heating and cooling system to cut energy costs in half, have helped “green” the building, Detwiler said.

Houston Hall is likely to earn three globes out of a maximum of five in an energy-efficient-building rating system called Green Globes.

“The three globes, we felt like, got good payback for investment,” Detwiler said, adding any higher ranking probably would not be cost-effective for the college.

The general education, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences classes housed in Houston Hall moved temporarily last school year into modular units or the Maverick Pavilion, a white, tented structure originally erected next to Monument Hall to house a cafe, bookstore and cafeteria during construction of the College Center. The pavilion has been taken down and will be used for sports practices in its new location by the Maverick Center.

Mesa State will complete another residence hall construction project before classes begin. The temporarily named Bunting Avenue Residence Hall will open to 328 students in August.

The residence hall cost $15 million and will be paid for with rent on the rooms.


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