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The 2004 OSU Campus Master Plan set in motion the development of a historic preservation plan. The guiding principles for the master planning process were to preserve OSU’s history while providing direction for new development. Any new construction or development would become an extension of the historical elements and continue to shape and define the campus’ physical character.
In 2006, OSU began the process to submit to the National Register of Historic Places an application for a OSU National Historic District. The two-year project identified 55 historic buildings, and 4 historic open spaces. Included in the submission were three (3) significant and unique criteria: 1) The historic campus master plan first defined by the Olmsted Brothers Firm, founded by Frederick Law Olmsted; 2) Campus architect John V. bennes who designed over 50 buildings during his tenure at OSU.
On June 25, 2008, the Department of the Secretary of Interior approved the listing of the OSU National Historic on the National Register of Historic Places. The OSU National Historic District is the first public and/or private higher education institution in the State of Oregon.
The State Agricultural College of Oregon developed from the east to the west and then south. Benton Hall, OSU's first campus building, was built in 1887, faced the town of Corvallis, and was built upon the top of a slight rise west of the historic commercial center. The hill became known as College Hill.
The earliest campus buildings were located on College Hill and included Benton Annex (1889), the Valley Gymnastics Center (1898), Kearney Hall (1900), and Education Hall (1902). These buildings are oriented in alignment with the original town layout, which oriented the streets parallel to the river rather than on a typical north-south orientation. The earliest building on campus realigned on a north-south grid was Fairbanks Hall (1892).
The Olmsted Brothers Firm hired by President William Jasper Kerr in 1909, proposed the north-south realignment for future campus development. OSU still develops the campus from the framework established the original Olmsted Campus Plan.