Saving Old Main, the UA's Oldest Building
Old Main encapsulates the UA's history, traditions, legacy and success. A major fundraising initiative is now underway to ensure the building's restoration and renovation.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
Oct. 1, 2013


Old Main, one of the UA's most visible and iconic buildings, is undergoing a major renovation effort. Crews are respecting and preserving Old Main's history while making important structural improvements to modernize the building.
Old Main, one of the UA's most visible and iconic buildings, is undergoing a major renovation effort. Crews are respecting and preserving Old Main's history while making important structural improvements to modernize the building. (Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

front porch of the University

Exactly 122 years after the first classes were held in Old Main, University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart and UA Foundation President James H. Moore Jr. launched a $13.5 million fundraising campaign for the building's restoration and renovation.

"Our commitment to this institution is past, present and future," Hart said during the "Save Old Main" kickoff event held in front of Old Main on Tuesday. The building opened its doors to the first six UA students on Oct. 1, 1891.

The "Save Old Main" fundraising campaign will help fund the renovation project, which is slated to be completed during the summer of 2014, marking the most significant renovation and restoration effort in the history of Old Main, arguably the UA's most iconic building.

Old Main encapsulates the history, legacy and success of the UA, Hart said, and is an important visual reminder of the UA's range of achievements, including: its continued efforts to expand access to higher education; being home to leading scholars in a broad range of fields, including arid land studies and planetary sciences; being chosen by NASA to lead the OSIRIS-REx mission; housing highly regarded museums and art collections; and consistently earning high rankings nationally and internationally.

"'Save Old Main' is serious, and we mean it," Hart said. "We want this building to be here for students for generations and generations to come."

The UA has invested in repairs and renovations at Old Main over the years. In 2008, the building's lower level was renovated.

The current project will address more significant needs, such as a damaged foundation and exterior veranda, general decay, moisture damage and cracked masonry columns. Also, Old Main's ventilation, heating, cooling and fire protection systems need to be updated.

Sundt Construction Inc. is the design-builder for the renovation project. Once it is completed, Old Main will be occupied by senior UA administrators and key student services. But beyond serving as a first point of contact for students, the building will be a space for Wildcats past and present — with meeting space for alumni and other events.

UA alumnus Thomas W. Keating, vice chair of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees, said that Old Main – the building and the surrounding space – touches members of the campus community on an emotional level.

"The plan to repurpose this building and to have more and more interactions with families and students is exciting," said Keating, the namesake of the Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building.

"Save Old Main" will preserve the beloved building as a persistent symbol of the University's pride and spirit, Moore said.

"We are excited about what it will do for our campus," he said. "It really is going to be a special thing for all of us. We are going to be celebrating this project from start to finish."

Extra info

The $13.5 million "Save Old Main" campaign is underway. More information is available on Twitter, at @SaveOldMain and users can tag #saveoldmain.


To make a donation, visit the UA Foundation's donation page online to provide a one-time or recurring gift. Also, if you have a story about Old Main, you can share it online.


A condensed history of UA's Old Main:

  • When Old Main was constructed, it was built 6 feet into the ground to reduce the interior temperature. It was originally called the School of the Mines.
  • The UA opened its doors Oct. 1, 1891, with six students admitted as freshmen.
  • In the early days of Arizona, running on Old Main's balcony Old Main would cost a student 10 demerits.
  • The Memorial Fountain located west of Old Main commemorates 12 UA students killed during World War I. The fountain was dedicated in 1920.
  • Old Main was slated for demolition, having been condemned, in 1938.
  • The Naval Training (Indoctrination) School, which was based at Old Main from 1942 to 1945, trained more than 10,000 men during World War II.
  • Sundt Construction Inc. is renovating Old Main's porches, stairs, roof and second floor.
  • In 1972, Old Main was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Current construction complies with the Secretary of the Interior's guidelines to ensure that the building remains on the list.
  • One tradition among the UA family is to be dunked in the Memorial Fountain west of Old Main after becoming engaged.
  • A live stream of renovations at Old Main is available online.
  • To view historic images of Old Main, visit the Special Collections page.
  • More information about the project is available at

Sources: Various UA offices and units, including Special Collections, Marketing, the UA Libraries and the UA Foundation



Resources for the media

Stephanie Balzer

UA Foundation



Peter Dourlein

UA Planning, Design and Construction