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Historical columns on the University of Washington campus


The only parts of the original university left standing today, these four wooden columns were moved from their downtown location to Sylvan Grove.

Archive photos courtesy of Tyee yearbook, Office of Student Publications. File photos contributed by The Daily.

Our history

By Danielle Palmer-Friedman

The UW moved to its current location from downtown Seattle in 1895 and has since experienced more than 120 years of growth and change. A school of 533 students has become a community of more than 40,000 people. While some campus buildings are almost as old as the UW’s purple and gold colors, others have only recently made their mark on campus. Here are some photographs, courtesy of the UW Tyee Club, of the UW campus and its community in the past.

Not far from Red Square is Drumheller Fountain, built in 1909 for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, which greatly impacted both Seattle and the UW campus. Rainier Vista was created in order to show off the natural beauty of Seattle and its surrounding wilderness. Above is a snapshot of Rainier Vista in 1956. Today, several other buildings surround the view of the great mountain, but the site remains the most photographed on campus.

The Suzzallo Library is a central component to life at the UW. The library opened its doors in 1926 and was named after university president Henry Suzzallo when he passed away in 1933. The powerful Gothic style of Suzzallo’s architecture has heavily influenced many other buildings around campus. In 1970, construction began on the “grassy plaza” that sat outside Suzzallo’s doors. This grassy terrain would, after a few years of disruptive construction, become one of the most well-known spots on campus today, Red Square. The 1970 Tyee Club describes the change: “[The students] watched in awe as a three level underground parking garage materialized out of mud.”

Back in the days of the old UW forestry program, Drumheller Fountain was the major location of an annual UW tradition called “Garb Day.” Garb Day included activities such as tree-climbing, log-rolling, and (tree-) chopping contests. The log-rolling competitions were held at Drumheller Fountain. Brave students who didn’t mind getting wet would put their stamina and balance to the test. In later years, other competitions were added to the mix, including a competition for the longest and bushiest beard. Garb Day ended with an event called “Loggers’ Brawl” where a “King Ole” and “Timber Queen” were crowned.

Some past monuments of the UW’s campus are no longer prominent in today’s community. For example, an old water tower turned chimes tower was lost in a fire in 1949. Before that, since 1911, the bells had been a key element of life at the UW.

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Suzallo Library excavationThe Red Square at the University of Washington


In 1969, the field in front of the Suzzallo Library was excavated (pictured at right) and the parking garage and iconic red bricks were installed.

Log rolling competitionDrumheller Fountain


A log-rolling competition used to be held in Drumheller Fountain as part of a series of events called Garb Day, hosted by the old UW forestry program.


On a clear day, look past Drumheller Fountain’s geyser and sneak a peek at Mount Rainier. Its peak is easily obscured by the region’s notoriously overcast sky, making a glimpse of Mount Rainier a sight to see.
Rainier Vista

Bell Tower


Originally a water tower, this landmark was converted to a bell tower. It was destroyed by a fire in 1949.


Built in 1894, Denny Hall originally housed all six of the UW’s colleges of study and served all 200 students enrolled. Today it serves mostly the classics and Germanics departments.
Denny Hall


The 120-year-old telescope that calls this building home still works, and is open to the public on select days.
Theodor Jacobsen Observatory

The Quad in 1956The Quad, present day

The Quad

The Liberal Arts Quadrangle (or the Quad) remains much the same as in this 1956 photo (right), except for the Yoshino cherry trees that were planted in the ’60s.