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NMSU’s Goddard Hall has rich architectural history, famed namesake

Release Date: 16 Apr 2020
NMSU’s Goddard Hall has rich architectural history, famed namesake

Goddard Hall is one of the oldest and most iconic buildings on the New Mexico State University campus. Constructed in 1913 on the south side of “The Horseshoe” and designed by architect Henry C. Trost, it is one of the few surviving buildings that formed the original core of the NMSU campus. It’s also an example of an architectural style that the campus has occasionally applied for over a century. Currently, Goddard is home to NMSU’s College of Engineering and the Kiplish School of Electrical Engineering. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Architectural history

In 1907, Trost was commissioned by New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts to design thirteen buildings set along a horseshoe-shaped drive. Trost decided to use a “Spanish Renaissance” style that featured hipped roofs with clay tiles and domed towers for the campus. Although only seven of the buildings were ever completed, five of them remain. Elements of his architectural theme can also be seen on some of the other buildings that were built over following decades (e.g. Kent Hall and Skeen Hall).

Goddard Hall was the fifth Trost building to be constructed at NMSU when it opened in 1913. It was used as the academic home for the engineering program.

Goddard was the fifth Trost building to be constructed and when it opened in 1913, was used as the academic home for the college’s “mechanic arts” (engineering) program. In 1934, the building was dedicated in memory of Ralph Willis Goddard, an electrical engineer who served as a professor between 1914 and 1920 and then as a dean until his tragic and sudden death in 1929.

Soon after his death, dedication plans began. Rock Davis, an NMSU alumnus, wrote to President Harry Kent “I just want to come back someday and hear an active Aggie say that is Goddard Hall.” Goddard Hall was dedicated in his honor on national engineer’s day in 1934.

An annex to Goddard Hall was constructed in 1936 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration and partially funded by the National Science Foundation. Otto H. Thorman was the architect for the annex. The construction was supervised by college faculty and built with student labor.

In 2000, the building and its annex underwent a major renovation. The building renovation cost $2.9 million for the annex and $2.1 million for the tower. Some of the funding came from a General Obligation Bonds, an NSF grant, severance tax bonds and gifts. The renovation was completed in May of 2001. The renovation project won recognition as a “2002 Best Buildings” by the New Mexico Building Branch of Associated General Contractors and the New Mexico Business Journal.

About Ralph Willis Goddard

Born in Waltham, Mass., in 1887, Shortly thereafter Goddard’s parents moved to Worcester, Mass. where Ralph attended Classical High School and graduated in 1907. He continued his education by going to Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In 1911, Goddard received his degree in electrical engineering. Ralph married Frances Gascogne August 14, 1911.

After graduation, Goddard worked in Boston a few years before heading west to teach at Nebraska. He taught one year before accepting a position as professor of engineering at New Mexico Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in fall 1914.

Goddard was a pioneer in radio engineering and his experiments received national attention. Among his many achievements, Goddard was the founder and director of KOB, the first campus radio station in the state of New Mexico. Goddard assembled a small radio station using leftover equipment after receiving an amateur broadcast license in 1919. Goddard and his students created a wood framed building on the side of the engineering building with a high aerial transmitting tower installed on top of the dome-shaped tower. Tragically, he was accidentally electrocuted while working on some modifications to the station’s transmitter on New Year’s Eve 1929.

NMSU’s groundbreaking radio station

Granted a license by the Federal Radio Commission in 1922, KOB soon became the most powerful college radio station in the country, broadcasting with 10,000 watts. Photos from mid 1920s show a 60-foot tall radio mast atop the building’s bell tower.

KOB aired one of the first play-by-play broadcasts of a college football game. By the late 1920s, KOB was the largest college radio station in the world.

Money problems during the Great Depression forced the campus administration to eventually let KOB’s operations be taken over by the owners of the “Albuquerque Journal.” The last broadcast from Goddard Hall was made in April 1932 before the station’s operations were moved to downtown Albuquerque. In 1936, the owners of the paper bought the station from the university in its entirety. A year later, KOB (now KKOB in Albuquerque) became a 50,000-watt clear channel station that could be heard in many parts of the country and still broadcasts today.

The birth of KRWG

Radio returned to NMSU in 1951. KNMA AM radio started broadcasting by telephone carrier. One could listen to 630 AM on a telephone with a 646 prefix in a dorm room or office. In 1953, KNMA asked NMSU’s English department for operational funds. In 1960, the call letters were changed to KRWG-AM, named for Ralph Willis Goddard.

The station limped along until Harvey Jacobs, the journalism and mass communication department head, came to NMSU in 1964. On October 3, 1964, KRWG-FM began broadcasting live from the campus. Under Jacobs’ direction, KRWG-FM became a NPR affiliate serving southern New Mexico, west Texas, and eastern Arizona. But Jacobs had another dream; providing NMSU and Las Cruces with a television station.

It took two years after the FCC approved the application before KRWG-TV began broadcasting as a PBS affiliate station. Jacobs assisted in producing a 30-minute newscast daily at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. The news was broadcast continuously, through summer sessions, spring break, winter break and holidays. The only scheduled days off were Christmas and Thanksgiving.

In 1974, after 10 years and once both AM and FM radio stations and KRWG-TV were operating well, Jacobs returned to Indiana. All three are still broadcasting today on NMSU’s campus from offices at Milton Hall.

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