WPA funded university’s first buildings

By Thomas Garcia, PNT Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the final in a three-part series of stories about New Deal/WPA projects in Roosevelt County marking the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plan to pull America out of the Great Depression.

The first building that established Eastern New Mexico University in Roosevelt County was built with New Deal and Work Projects Administration funding.

In 1927, Portales was chosen as the site for Eastern New Mexico Normal School despite having no funds, buildings or even a campus, according to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form.

Appropriation of funds and land for the school began in 1928 and the approval of the plans and construction of the first building began in 1930 in an open field west of Portales.

“As a boy I used to hunt rabbits in a field where ENMU now stands,” said historian Joe Blair.

Built in 1931, the Administration Building at ENMU was the first of many buildings, located on and off campus, constructed using New Deal and WPA funding.

The three-story brick Gothic Revival style building was designed by Orville R. Walker of Lubbock. Walker’s architectural design became the dominant style of architecture at ENMU.

The building was designed with a steeply pitched roof, entryways marked with cast concrete pointed arches and wooden door. The exterior of the building has shallow relief shields or coats-of-arms between floors.

The first wing of the building was completed in 1931 costing $55,000.