For almost three decades, Old Main was the sole home to academic life at Bellingham's new college on Sehome Hill. During those years, the original three-story structure grew to its current footprint and secured its legacy as a landmark building at Western Washington University.
In 1895, legislators OK'd $40,000 for a building for New Whatcom State Normal School. After a functional design patterned after Boston's public library was accepted, construction began on the brick-and-sandstone structure.
The school opened its doors in 1899, and rapid growth resulted in three expansions of Old Main by 1914. It wasn't until 1928, when the main library was built, that another academic building rose on campus.
In 1964, fire nearly destroyed Old Main when armadillos knocked over heating lamps in their research cages. Remodeling after the fire added offices but left the stout stair railings intact. Today, Old Main houses administrative offices, classrooms, support services and a theater.
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