Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: Price, E.C., Architect (firm); Van Fossen Contracting Company (firm); E. C. Price (architect); George Washington Van Fossen (building contractor/lawyer); Harden A. Van Fossen (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1893-1894

3 stories

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8th Avenue
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA

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Building History

This building, named for the Washington State Normal School's first President, Benjamin Franklin Barge (1834-1926), an educator brought to the teacher's college from IL, opened in 1894.

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer classified advertisement of 1893 indicated that the architect of the building was E.C. Price: “Notice to building contractors: Sealed proposals will be received up to 1 o’clock p.m., June 30, 1893, for the erection of the normal school building, located at Ellensburg, Kittitas county, Wash., plans and specifications of which can be seen at the office of the architect, E.C. Price, or the office of the secretary, Fred W. Agatz, Ellensburg, Wash. All bids must be directed to the secretary of the board and be presented on or before 1 o’clock p.m., June 20, 1893. Each bid must be accompanied by a certified check of $2,500 payable to the order of the trustees, as a guaranty that if the bid is accepted he, the contractor, will promptly carry out his agreement and furnish a good and sufficient bond with sureties, who must reside in the state of Washington, that he will faithfully perform his contract, according to plans and specifications. W.R. Abrams, President, Dr. T.J. Newland, Fred W. Agatz, Secretary, Board of Trustees. Ellensburg, Wash., May 29, 1893.” (See “Washington State Normal School,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 06/10/1893, p. 6.)

In 02/1895, charges were leveled against the Washington State Normal School's Board of Regents that they failed to obtain an adequate bond from Barge Hall's building contractor, G.W. Van Fossen. An investigation was imminent in Olympia, as noted in an article in the Tacoma Daily Ledger: “A storm is brewing over the heads of the regents of the state normal school at Ellensburg. Charges have been drawn up, and are ready for presentation to the legislature, calling for an investigation into alleged crookedness during the construction of the college building. One of the charges is to the effect that the regents did not require a good and sufficient bond from the contractors, Van Fossen & Co., and that, in consequence, many creditors of the contractors are unable to collect amounts aggregating several thousand dollars. Material men and laborers, it seems, were swindled, and some of them bankrupted, through the operations of the contractors. Another charge stipulates that the regents allowed fraudulent material to be used in construction. John Shoudy, the founder of Ellensburg, heads the signers of the charges, and is backed up by E.C. Price, architect, and John Nash, superintendent of the building. G.W. Van Fossen, of Tacoma, has been lobbying hard all day to try to suppress the charges, but the harder he works the more certain it becomes that the investigation will be prosecuted. The committees on state schools will take up the subject tomorrow and probably make reports to both branches at once.” (See “More Charges to Look Into,” Tacoma Daily Ledger, 02/19/1895, p. 1) George Washington Van Fossen (born 12/04/1839-d. 10/04/1896 in Tacoma, WA), a lawyer, operated the Van Fossen Contracting Company, with a relative, Harden A. Van Fossen (born c. 1859 in PA-d. 12/09/1932 in San Diego, CA), in 1895. (See Tacoma, Washington, City Directory, 1895, p. 613.)

Building Notes

The new Washington State Legislature established the Washington State Normal School in Ellensburg on 03/28/1890, with the first classes for teachers occurring at the Washington Public School in town on 09/06/1891. These quarters proved inadequate, and plans for a new campus were formulated. This campus's first, main classroom/office building, Barge Hall, was a complex amalgam of styles, materials and forms. To cut costs, it was built of brick, but to add flair, Richardsonian Romanesque, rusticated masonry trimmed the main entrance. Windows of various sizes had trabeated openings, segmental arches or round arches. Wall dormers typical of Chateauesque architecture, lined the roof. Its irregular plan and profusion of ornamental details suited late nineteenth century tastes. (See Paula Becker,, "Ellensburg -- Thumbnail History," published12/23/2005, accessed 06/15/2011.)

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 1976): ID n/a

PCAD id: 15583