Business and Finance.

historic preservation - Moeur Building

Moeur Building (originally the B. B. Moeur Activity Building)

Architects/Builder:Lescher & Mahoney
Historic Use:Women’s Activity Center
Present Use:Administrative Offices
Style:Federal Moderne
National Register Status:Listed
Location on Campus

The B.B. Moeur Activity Building is historically associated with Dr. Benjamin Baker Moeur, a Tempe physician and Governor of Arizona for two terms (1933-1936). He served as secretary to the Board of Education for Arizona State Teachers College (ASU) for many years. As a member of the Constitutional Convention for the State of Arizona, he wrote the portions of the Constitution pertaining to education, creating the basis for development of the state’s educational system.

The Moeur Building is significant for its architectural value. The combination of Moderne style and use of adobe in construction makes this building unique and the only example of its type in Arizona. Large public buildings incorporating adobe in the 1930s are rare, and the Moeur Building is the best known and largest example of such construction in Arizona. The building is also known as the largest structure of its kind to be built in Arizona by the labor of the Works Project Administration (WPA). The building retains most of its original integrity and spatial configuration despite functional changes and loss of original wall murals. The building interior was remodeled 1963.

The Story of Construction (from The Arizona State University Story by Hopkins, p. 239-40)
“How the Moeur Activity Building was constructed was a story long told. Only $7000 has been provided for this structure in the PWA loan. Yet is was a women’s gymnasium that actually cost $155,000, and was worth many times that amount. First, WPA pick and shovel workers excavated the basement and piled the earth outside. Next, this earth was hand tamped by WPA labor into large-sized building blocks, using a new process that made the blocks much stronger than ordinary adobe. Next the walls were put up and stuccoed, all by hand.

Outsiders grew interested and donations began to come in. The large windows cost nothing, nothing, too, the hardwood floors, and the wiring and fixtures. All were donated by Arizona business firms. So was much of the roofing material. When the inside finishing stage was reached, large curtains were needed, and these were made by hand. Bales of raw cotton were donated by the cotton growers, women who were on the WPA worked inside the building and hand spun that cotton into yarn, great wooden looms were erected and the women wove the curtains on those looms. The work they did was beautiful, and these curtains were the pride of the place. Finally, artists who were on the WPA, as many good artists were, painted the murals.

The hand-made Moeur Activity Building gave employment to hundreds, took three years to construct, and thoroughly refuted those architects who had forgotten that a permanent building could be constructed by hand and were apprehensive because there was no steel in its construction. Something about the entire self-help process appealed to Arizonans and the dedication of the building in 1938 became a public event. The Arizona State Teachers College women’s gym became the most famous educational structure in Arizona in the post-depression recovery period… the sturdy building that came out of its own basement.”