Western Oregon University Has The Oldest Building Among Oregon’s Public Universities

Storm destroyed bell tower
Campbell Hall
Western Oregon University’s Campbell Hall in 1871.

Campbell Hall stands squarely in the center of Western Oregon University’s campus. It’s endured a fierce storm, economic downturns, overcrowding and more. It stands as a symbol of the commitment of pioneers past and present to provide a high-quality education for students.


  • The university’s second president, Thomas Franklin Campbell raised the funds for the university’s first building in 1869. 
  • Inspired by the buildings at his alma mater, Bethany College in West Virginia, Campbell Hall was started in 1871 using local clay bricks to build the Gothic Revival style structure.
  • Construction continued with the additions of the south wing and bell tower in 1889, the north wing in 1898 and the second floor of the south wing in 1917. The university’s first library was on the first floor of the north wing of Campbell Hall from 1899 to 1951.
  • Until 1936, the building was nameless, though often referred to as the main, administrative, brick or normal building. The building was finally named Campbell Hall to honor the President Thomas Franklin Campbell (1869-1882) who started the building and his son, President Prince Lucien Campbell (1889–1902).  Their portraits are in the Hamersly Library.
  • Since 1962, Campbell Hall is used for the art department and Cannon Gallery of Art. 
Campbell Hall
Campbell Hall in 1898.

Historic moment 

  • The collapse of the Bell Tower during the Oct. 12, 1962 Columbus Day Storm was photographed by Wes Luchau and featured on the cover of Life magazine. The south wing suffered extensive damage and had to be demolished. 

A bit of trivia

  • Campbell Hall has the unique distinction of being the oldest building in Oregon’s public university campuses, the oldest landmark in Monmouth and the first old building in Oregon to have a state-of-the-art earthquake-resistant foundation.
  • The 1887 graduating class planted the sequoia tree outside Campbell Hall. The tree is decorated with lights for the university’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting celebration. 
  • An all-women archery club used to practice at an indoor shooting range in the basement of Campbell Hall, according to a yearbook announcement from the 1940s. 
  • The original 100-year-old cornerstone of Campbell Hall was opened in 1971. Coins, newspapers and other materials from 1871 were found inside a metal box. In 1972, a new cornerstone was installed with the opening scheduled for 2072. 
Top of a building
Campbell Hall, present


To learn more, visit WOU Living History: Unique Sites.

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