Day 43: Old Main

By on November 19, 2013

Main building in 1918 with students and faculty

Main building in 1918 with students and faculty

Today is Day 43 in the Countdown to UTEP’s Centennial Year.

Old Main is the oldest building on the UTEP campus, having been built in 1917.  It’s the first building to incorporate the Bhutanese architectural style for which UTEP is known.

Old Main has served a variety of purposes over the decades, including a gathering ground for pep rallies, meetings, and competitions in its earliest years.

From 1920 to 1921, Old Main served as the library, housing the school’s small selection of books.

In the 1930s, the basement of Old Main served as a museum until the opening of the Centennial Museum in 1937.  During the 1930’s & 1940’s, the building’s 1st floor housed a snack & souvenir shop.

The building was simply known as “Main” until 1950, when its name was changed to the Math & Physics Building.  The name change didn’t last long, though, and became officially known as “Old Main” in 1967.

The Texas Historic Commission listed Old Main as an official Texas Historic Landmark in 1982.

Old Main temporarily closed in the 1990s for a 2-million-dollar renovation.  More windows were added to the first floor and the interior became more airy, bright, and contemporary.  In 1996, Old Main re-opened its doors to house the Department of Sociology & Anthropology.

Jessica Molinar Muñoz is the director of communications for UTEP's Centennial Office.

  1. Willie Quinn
    November 19, 2013

    Another interesting fact about Old Main relate to the fact that there was no occupied ground floor when the building was first built in 1917 since it was built on solid andesite rock. It was not until 1931 when Prof. (1914-1941) John W. “Cap” Kidd (1880-1941), who got his nickname “Cap” from the fact that he carried dynamite blasting caps in his pants pockets, decided they needed more rooms in the building. So without further ado, he proceeded to excavate the ground floor by blasting the solid ground rock in order to make this space. All of this dynamite blasting went on while the classes were being held on the first and second floors of the building, without any disruption other that the booming clouds of dust that poured up the stairway with every blast. [Ref.: Fugate, Francis L., “Frontier College: The First Fifty Years,” page 56, El Paso, Texas Western Press, 1964]
    Other reference sources on Old Main may be read at the Transformations Post located at: which is repeated in the UTEP Encyclopedia Portal at:

    Thought you might be interested,
    Willie Quinn
    Member, Heritage Commission