California has few century-old buildings. Earthquakes, fires and floods have taken their toll, but more often the wrecking ball clears the way for a new vision.
In 1973, the final bell tolled for one of Cal Poly's earliest buildings, the 67-year-old agriculture education building. It was part of a trio that overlooked the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.
Though it is not definitive from the article or photos, it appears to be the last of the trio to razed.
It was built in 1906, a time of change.
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That year San Francisco would suffer the Great Earthquake and Fire in April.
Electric power and automobiles were just coming into fashion.
A pair of stories shows how different times were then.
The Dec. 15, 1906, Tribune carried the tragic story of Miss Helen H. Lyons who was heating hair-curling irons with a small alcohol lamp. She had overfilled the lamp, and fire spread from the table to her dressing gown. She died shortly after at the Paso Robles Hotel, where she was staying.
On Nov. 27, 1906, The Tribune carried the story of a Sunday drive that went bad. Dr. J.E. Waterbury, his wife and Mrs. W.R. Stewart were injured when the car they were in rolled off the road. They were traveling the grade between Oilport and Ontario House (now Highway 101 between Ontario Road and Shell Beach) when they pulled over to allow room for a fractious horse, frightened by the car.
The road bed crumbled, flinging the occupants out of the vehicle. All the adults suffered broken bones. Two little Waterbury sons were unharmed.
It would not be many more years before automobiles would dominate the right-of-way.
Cal Poly in 1906 would celebrate the graduation of the school's first class.
Entrance exams in English and history were scheduled for Sept. 11 for those students who had not completed grammar school. Out-of-town students had enrolled from Pasadena, Watsonville, Riverside and Goleta. Attendance increased enough that by October an assistant instructor was added to the staff to help with mechanical drawing and chemistry classes.
An open house was planned during the week in mid-October; teachers and others curious about the school were invited to drop by "at such time as they may find most convenient."
The fledgling school was trying to build visibility and good will in the community.
"It may be helpful to visitors to know that the forenoons are given up largely to recitations and classroom work, while afternoons from one to four are occupied with laboratory and shop work, including sewing, cooking, forging, carpentry, gardening, livestock judging and electric laboratory."
The California Polytechnic was so underdeveloped the football field had no turf.
The Sunday Dec. 9, 1906, Morning Tribune carried the story of the San Luis Obispo High School drubbing of the Polytechnic school the afternoon before (no lights).
Here are the first few paragraphs:
"On an adobe field which was as slippery as glass, thereby giving their opponents a great advantage, the local High School defeated the team of the California Polytechnic by the score of 15 to 0 yesterday afternoon.
The game was fiercely contested from the opening to the end, the Polytechnic lads making the wearers of the orange and black fight for every inch of ground that they gained.
The High School won by superior team work and exceptionally fast playing.
With more experience and a slight shifting of the men in the team the Polytechnic school will have a team that will defeat any high school team in the central part of the state. The state school lost several times on trick plays.
The team has not played long enough together to execute these plays with smoothness. Near the end of the game they commenced to play straight football and went through the High School line at will.
If these tactics had been started ten minutes sooner they would have undoubtedly scored."
Though students tried to save a building as old as their grandparents, the effort failed.
No doubt extensive retrofitting would be required to keep a building from 1906. Codes have changed in the areas of earthquake, fire, plumbing, ventilation and electrical. It is hard enough to retrofit buildings for Wi-Fi.
The front page of the Telegram-Tribune carried what would serve as an obituary for the old building on Sept. 7, 1973:
'Old Ag Ed' gives way to modern times
The old agricultural education building which has stood on the western edge of the Cal Poly campus since 1906 was coming down today.
"Old Ag Ed," as it was called during a long but unsuccessful student drive to save it, was being battered down by a big crane and clamshell machine.
The Mead House Wreckers of Pasadena won the bid for removal of the structure to make way for construction of a $4.2 million architecture building.
Mead is being paid $6,790 to remove the building in a maximum of 10 days.