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The Origin of California Institute of Technology (Caltech)


This is a story that must be told!

From its humble beginnings to a world renowned University of Science and Technology it has no equal!  So how did it start?   

It began in 1891 as Throop University founded by Amos Troop.  He was a successful retired politician and businessman from Chicago, Illinois who decided to come to California and establish his home in Pasadena.  


Quickly, he immersed himself in civic and social activities becoming the mayor of Pasadena, establishing the Unitarian Church, and a university in Pasadena which he strongly felt was needed.  Since he had no formal training, it would be a hands-on university focusing on Manual Arts Training and Liberal Arts.  He felt this was the best way to learn.  His university was located at the coroner of Fair Oaks and Kansas Street, now called Green Street. 



In 1907, George Ellery Hale, the nationally renowned astronomer at Mount Wilson joined the Board of Trustees, and convinced them to change the college to one of science and technology.  It would be an all-male university.  Hale, a visionary, saw a great potential and many opportunities in Los Angeles.  His dream was to have a university which would reflect the life style and climate of Southern California.  


Due to his commitment, he began his crusade!   He met influential people like Arthur Fleming and convinced him to contribute to the new university.  Fleming purchased 22 acres of orange grove land in Pasadena for the new university campus.  It‘s borders were Wilson on the west, San Pasquale on the north, Hill Street on the east and California on the south.  Architects, Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey, were selected as the master architects, and they began their plans for the first building called Throop Hall.

In 1915, Hale visited Balboa Park in San Diego for the grand opening of the Panama California Exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.  Hale was enthralled with the Spanish Colonial buildings designed by Bertram Goodhue, a renowned New York architect.  He again convinced the Board of Trustees that Goodhue should be the master architect to build the new ideal campus, and it would be Spanish Renaissance in design expressed with arcades, courtyards, reflecting pools, and beautiful decorative tile work. The campus would be classic, scholarly and would capture the climate and style of Southern California!  


Goodhue designed a blue tiled dome building which would be the focal point of the whole campus.  It would have a reflecting pool with Cyprus trees on either side leading up to a miniature Taj Mahal, like the one in India.  Unfortunately, Goodhue passed away in 1924, and the domed building was never built.  However, Goodhue completed five buildings, four of which remain, and eleven more buildings were completed of the original scheme.  (Show photo)

Hale was on his way to realize his dream and vision, building one of greatest universities in the world.



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  • Judi Cowell
    commented 2020-05-26 16:55:52 -0700
    at the bottom of each piece put references. Teasers to the other things that people can enjoy