New Mexico State University began as Las Cruces College in a two-room adobe building near downtown Las Cruces in 1888. It became New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1890 when it received 100-acres of land from Jacob Schaublin, becoming the territory’s land-grant agricultural school. The first building constructed on the campus was McFie Hall, in 1890. All that remains of that building today is the cornerstone. Only a few other buildings were erected in the college’s early years. In 1907, the Board of Regents commissioned Trost and Trost Architects out of El Paso, Texas to come up with a plan for the campus.
Trost and Trost Architects, a family business run by brothers Henry, Adolphus, and Gustavus Trost, formed in 1905. Henry C. Trost, chief architect of the firm, was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1860. He attended art school and worked as a draftsman before moving west in 1880. After working with several firms in Pueblo, Denver, Tucson, and other cities, Henry moved to El Paso where his brother Adolphus was overseeing the construction of the Carnegie Library. Gustavus joined the brothers in 1908 as a structural engineer. The firm was responsible for the design and construction of hundreds of buildings throughout West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Mission Revival, Prairie School, Art Deco, Victorian, Pueblo Revival, and Bhutanese styles, among others, influenced Henry’s ever-evolving design aesthetic. A few recognizable buildings still standing around Las Cruces are the Las Cruces Country Club clubhouse at 2700 N. Main St., the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Mesilla Park–originally built as a residence for college president Winifred Garrison, the Herbert Holt residence at 833 N. Alameda and the T.H.R. Smith mansion across the street.
Trost’s plan for campus called for the construction of thirteen buildings in the Spanish Renaissance-style laid out in a horseshoe shape–open on the west with the main building placed on the curve to the east and a grassy quad in the middle. Drawing inspiration from the Spanish missions of California, Trost’s plan included six buildings on either side of an elaborate administration building connected by arched arcades topped with red tiles. Of the thirteen planned buildings, only eight were built. And of those, only six were designed by Trost and Trost.
The buildings constructed from Trost’s plans were an administration building (Hadley Hall), a freshman dormitory, an agricultural building (Wilson Hall), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) quarters, a gymnasium (later the Armory), and an engineering building (Goddard Hall). Additionally, a president’s residence was built in 1918, but it was not part of the “horseshoe” design. Most of these buildings were constructed between 1907 and 1911. Young Hall, completed in 1928, was the last Trost designed building built on campus. Of these seven buildings, five remain today. They are the YMCA building, now known as the William Conroy Honors Center; the gymnasium, now heavily remodeled and part of the music complex; Goddard Hall, Young Hall, and the Nason House (former president’s residence). A fire destroyed Wilson Hall in 1937, the freshman dormitory was torn down in 1964, and the old Hadley Hall was demolished in 1958 after plans to save the building were deemed too expensive.
While many buildings run along Trost’s horseshoe, the growth of the university required building beyond his original concept. Campus architecture style saw a departure from Trost’s vision around the mid-1900s, but the university’s current master plan calls for a return to the Spanish Renaissance style. Many of the newer buildings on campus are topped with red tile roofs, decorative eaves, and feature natural colored stone and buff stucco. Developed over 100 years ago, Trost’s vision for our campus is still being realized to this day.