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Home of the Washington State University, and a commercial, grain storage, and shipping center, lies on the eastern edge of the wheat belt, only six miles west of the Idaho Line. On three sides of the town are the fertile, treeless hills of the Palouse, and on the east, beyond a rolling plain, are the forested foothills of the Moscow Mountains. Flowing through the town in a northwesterly direction is South Fork, a branch of the Palouse River.

The business district of Pullman centers at the intersection of Grand Street, identical with US 195, and Main Street, once the route of a Native American trail, and spreads over a hollow formed by three valleys. Modern stone, brick, and concrete buildings line the paved streets, with a few older structures standing here and there. Adjacent to the business area on the northwest is the industrial section, where numerous grain elevators, produce houses, and warehouses bordered the many railroad sidings.

Pullman began in the late 1870s when Bolin Farr, a young cattleman, and two others filed homestead claims here. In rapid succession two stores, a tavern, a sawmill, a land agency, a school, and a church were established as settlers came to Three Forks, the name given the townsite when it was platted in 1882. Two years later, the town was renamed for George Pullman, the sleeping-car magnate. In 1885, the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company’s railroad was completed as far as the town, and in 1888 the Northern Pacific’s branch was extended from Spokane. Succeeding years were marked by the rapid expansion of farming in the surrounding area and a corresponding growth of Pullman. Newspapers started and failed; twice the town was nearly destroyed by fire; artesian wells were developed. Depressions came, with the accompanying low price for wheat, failure of business houses, and closing of banks; but recovery followed, and slowly the town grew into the modern city of today.

Pullman is the commercial and cultural nerve center for the agricultural area around it; but in addition the town has another life, derived from the Washington State University. The thousands of students who flow into the town during the school year build a world of their own there, and the influence of the institution flows out into the surrounding countryside.

Shortly after Washington became a state, a commission was appointed to select a place for an agricultural land-grant college. When the citizens of Pullman learned that the commissioners were due to visit their town, word was sent out for everyone to appear in the streets on the day set, to create an impression of great bustle and enterprise. The strategy proved successful. The commissioners found Pullman with the air of a boom town—cattlemen on horseback, farmers in their buckboards, pedestrians crowding the sidewalks and stores, two artesian wells spouting. The city offered 150 acres of land and $12,000 in cash, and on January 13, 1892, the Washington Agricultural College opened its doors as a co-educational institution to 46 students. In 1917, the name was changed to the State College of Washington (commonly called Washington State College), and in 1960 to Washington State University.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Washington State University

Washington State University is situated between Campus Ave., College Ave., Oak St., and College Farm. The main entrance is at Thatuna St. and Campus Ave. Since the college opened in 1892, it has grown from one building and fewer than 100 students to the second largest educational institution in the state. The university is housed today in several large, modern red-brick buildings, grouped in harmony with a landscape of park-like woods, flower-bordered walks, and spacious lawns. Although begun as an agricultural college, it has expanded its curriculum to include a full spectrum of programs, including engineering and mechanical arts; mining and geology; home economics; veterinary medicine; pharmacy; education; music, literature, and fine arts; physical education; and military science and tactics. Supplementing classroom and laboratory work, a practice farm and an experiment station provide the opportunity to put theory into practice.

E. A. Bryan Hall

E. A. Bryan Hall, a three-story, red-brick structure, with a square tower rising two stories above the main facade, was originally the center of non-athletic extracurricular activities. The south wing originally contained the College Auditorium, a serviceable stage, and a pipe organ. The entire north wing was originally occupied by the College Library, second largest land-grant college library in the nation not supported by endowment. The building was named for President Emeritus E. A. Bryan, who served as active head from 1893 to 1916.

College Hall

College Hall, a four-story building, originally housed the departments of English, Business Administration, Pharmacy, and Education. The print shop and offices of student publication The Evergreen, were originally in the basement of College Hall.

Albert W. Thompson Hall

Albert W. Thompson Hall, was originally the central structure of the group. Built in 1895, the four-story building was used as the administration building until 1968 and is listed on the National Register and Washington Heritage Register.

Rogers Field and Athletic Plant

Rogers Field and Athletic Plant originally included the men’s and women’s gymnasiums and the field house; here, too, is a regulation-size football field. Rogers Field was originally an eight-acre area with a quarter-mile cinder track, a horseshoe-shaped stadium, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, and a golf course.

The State Farm

The State Farm originally included six soil-conservation plots located on the campus. Among the chief activities carried on here were experiments in plant breeding—the farm had much success in developing new varieties of wheat suited to the soil and climate of the Palouse country. Many different crops were analyzed, and experimentation is conducted in tillage and crop rotation. The State College Experimental Station, a 200-acre farm, located three miles northwest of Pullman on the Pullman-Palouse Highway, developed new methods of farming. A soil-conservation nursery was two miles southeast of Pullman on the highway to Moscow, Idaho.

College Hill Historic District

The College Hill Historic District is the residential district most closely associated with Washington State University. The portion of College Hill contained within the district boundaries was developed between 1888 and 1946, with most of the properties built after 1900. The College Hill district is significant for two reasons: Its architecture is representative of pre-World War II residential vernacular architecture; it also expresses the close ties between the growth and development of Washington State University and Pullman. Construction began along the crest of the hill (the southern boundary of the district) and proceeded northward on the north slope of the hill. During the development period, the area grew as a residential center for faculty, staff and students of Washington State University and reflected the growth of WSU. The north slope of College Hill retains a high degree of integrity despite pressures to build high density residential structures in the area.

Star Route and Palouse Street Brick Road

The vitrified brick paving of this road, built in 1913, is historically significant as a resource developed with the Good Roads Movement that swept over many communities in Washington and nationwide in the first decades of the twentieth century. Community and business leaders wanted to build an attractive and durable all-weather route to WSU, connecting the downtown core and WSU campus.

Hutchison Studio

Significant for its association with Raymond. Hutchison, a prominent commercial photographer and civic leader in Pullman from 1925 until his death in 1967. The building in recent years has mostly housed restaurants. It was built in 1926 by James D. Carson, a local farmer, to house the Hutchison’s Artopho photographic studio. The photographer had moved from Endicott, where he opened that town’s first photography studio in 1908. It was in this building, along with a small studio in Moscow, Idaho, where Hutchison carried out his photography business for more than 40 years. Hutchison achieved national professional prominence when elected president of the Professional Photographers of America in 1957 and the American Society of Photographers in 1962. Today, his photo collection is housed in the archives of Washington State University and is an important research tool for historical researchers.

Pullman Post Office

A well-preserved example of a small-town, single-purpose post office designed in the Neoclassical style, today it houses Paradise Creek Brewery. The building was constructed in 1930 and represents a stage in the evolution of federal design from the Beaux Arts tradition of the early 1900s to the modern influence of the Neoclassical style, which was used for federal buildings built just before and during the early years of the Great Depression. With its monumental pedimented entry portico, the building reflects the formality and sophistication of the United States federal government and was praised in a local newspaper article as “one of the finest federal buildings in Eastern Washington.” The post Office was the first federally constructed and federally owned post office built in Pullman, providing a link between the town’s citizens and the federal government in Washington D. C. The building is a legacy of President Herbert Hoover’s accelerated building programs established during the beginning of the Depression, and symbolizes federal aid and a federal presence in Pullman during a time of great economic upheaval.

Cordova Theater

Beginning in the early 1900s, as motion pictures swept the entertainment industry, movie houses built to showcase motion pictures were erected in a frenzy of activity across the country. The Cordova Theater was built in 1927 and characterizes the floor plans, stylistic designs, materials, decorative lighting, and building trends that were popularized during this period of American movie house construction. The theater depicts defining features of the Spanish Eclectic and Art Deco styles as evidenced in the building’s form, design, materials, workmanship, and architectural details. The theater possesses high artistic value and represents the work of Whitehouse & Price, one of Eastern Washington’s most prominent architectural firms. During its period of significance from 1927 to 1950, the Cordova Theater represented a significant social aspect of community life and served as a cultural and social center for Pullman, and as a gathering place for nightlife. The theater united citizens of the community by playing to the masses, and cut through social, economic, and political barriers to deliver entertainment. It was still in use showing motion pictures as of the early 2000s; today it houses the Pullman Foursquare Church.