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Clipping recalls construction of first buildings for McCook college

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

OSB boards cover the hole created in the north wall of True Hall, on the McCook Community College campus, to turn the former gym into the college's physical resources facility, for housing buses and equipment.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- The board president of the Museum of the High Plains in McCook, Nebraska, recently unearthed a 1935 newspaper story that shows land upon which McCook Junior College will build its campus and the City of McCook plans a park, swimming pool and pool house.

Museum board president John Hubert points to a grainy, yellowed newspaper clipping that shows a photograph of a scale model of the college's first building called McMillen Memorial, as well as a combined classroom building/dormitory, an auditorium and a gymnasium -- the gym that McCook Community College, with the completion of its new events center, is now turning into a bus barn.

Across the street west of McMillen Memorial is what the newspaper reporter called an "athletic field," an athletic "bowl."

In 1935, McCook Junior College was building "McMillen Memorial Hall." True Hall -- the college gym that is now being revamped into a bus barn -- was in the plans, but didn't exist yet.
(File photos)
According to the Feb. 4, 1935, edition of the McCook Daily Gazette, Seattle architect Sheldon Brumbaugh was in the process of designing McMillen Hall, and Conrad Fabrenbruch (Fahrenbruch?) had built a scale model of the college grounds and the land to the north across the street on which the city planned a park.

Construction on the McMillen building was expected to be "well under way in early April," and would be ready for students in the fall of 1935. Construction of the football "bowl" was to begin also in the early spring of 1935 -- "as soon as frost leaves the ground."

The Gazette reporter pointed out, "Modelled to accurate scale ... are not only the projects to be immediately developed but those which it is hoped to take up in the not distant future." He continued about plans for a dorm/classroom building, auditorium and gymnasium, "All these, except McMillen memorial, are dreams of the future, to be built if the school's expansion and McCook's growth warrant such a development."

The reporter concluded, "Except for the McMillen building, the athletic bowl, ... the buildings shown are 'part of an ultimate scheme,' in the words of the architect."

Brumbaugh, who was the son-in-law of McCook business owners Mr. and Mrs. Louis Suess, designed McMillen as the central structure of any additional campus development. It was to be a two-story building of light tan brick trimmed in stone. A small basement would house the heating plant and a store room.

The ground floor included a library, general offices, lounge rooms for men and women and two classrooms. Upstairs, Brumbaugh drew physics, zoology and chemistry labs, a lecture room, a kitchenette and a teachers' office. Two classrooms would open up to form a large auditorium and stage.

McMillen will have facilities for about 150 students, "a number somewhat greater than the school's present enrollment," the reporter wrote.

The footfall field is "to be developed along the lines of a sunken garden," and the southern incline of the natural bowl will accommodate concrete seating for 2,500 spectators "at next fall's football games."

On the north side of M Street were the city's new tennis courts. Not visible in the photograph of the scale model are miniatures of a swimming pool and club house, "also dreams of the future," according to the reporter.

The college's new events center sits today where the city's tennis courts were laid out in 1935.

McCook Community College, founded in 1926 as McCook Junior College, was the first two-year college institution in Nebraska. Its first students registered on Sept. 6, 1926, meeting on the second floor of the YMCA building in downtown McCook.

In September 1935, the college moved from the Y into its newly-completed Cecil McMillen Memorial Hall. The football field, originally named "Kelley Bowl," was finished in time for fall football games.

In September 1939, McCook Junior College opened another new facility, an auditorium, gymnasium and classroom complex named "True Hall" after J.A. True, the superintendent of McCook Public Schools who also served as the college's first president. It was located further east than plans showed in February of 1935.

The Brooks dormitory was completed in early 1960, and doubled in size with new construction finished in the spring of 1990.

The student center, known then as "The Wigwam," opened in time for classes to start in the fall of 1966.

Tipton Hall opened in 1969 and provided music and maintenance facilities.

The von Riesen Library and Barnett Hall opened in the spring of 1972, and the Wrightstone Fine Arts Building opened for classes in the spring of 1976.

Walsh-Brady Hall opened for classes in the fall of 1987.

Remodeling of and an expansion to McMillen Hall was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2003.

The college's new $10 million, 53,400 -square-foot events center was dedicated on Aug. 22, 2012.

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I lived at the north end of East 6th Street in 1935 and that year started kindergarten at East Ward with Miss Kallen and remember this well. It was the year of the great flood. Subsequently I graduated from MJC in 1950 as did Stan Scott, Curly Carlson, Alan Peterson, Dave Urling, Joe O'donnell, Dan Hinricks and many others who went on to successful, Spirit filled lives. A daughter of my Cousin Cliff Randel is now associated with McCook College. We had teachers who cared about each of us. It was a great school! It was my first adult step in life and I only now fully realize what a great gift attending MJC was! Thank you McCook and MJC for that truly great gift of education! Jerry McIlmoyle

-- Posted by GEMCILMOYLE on Wed, Dec 5, 2012, at 2:37 PM

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