A CAMPUS WITH A MOUNTAIN
When the University of Montana-Missoula was established in 1893 it owned no land or buildings. For the first two years classes were held at an old public school loaned to the university by the city. The South Missoula Land Company, a subsidiary of the Missoula Mercantile Company, and the C.P. Higgins Estate donated two 20 acre plots of land at the base of Mount Sentinel in 1895. The Higgins Estate wanted the main campus entrance to face north, emphasizing their donation, but the University Building Commission disagreed and elected to place the first building facing west, toward what was soon renamed University Avenue.
In his 1896 annual report, University President Oscar J. Craig wrote that planning for the newly acquired land had begun. He emphasized that plans were being drawn with a “look to the future,” while “accommodating the needs of the present.” Craig wanted the campus plan to provide the university with a solid foundation upon which to expand and to eliminate the need for reconstruction over time.
The Northern Pacific Railroad gifted the lower 40 acres of Mount Sentinel to the university in 1902. Four years later the federal government gave the university an additional 480 acres of land on the mountain that extended all the way up to the top. The purpose of the government’s gift was to provide the university with a suitable site for an astronomical observatory. The observatory was not built but the mountain soon became an integral part of the campus with trails leading up the face and the construction of the first M. President Craig declared "we now have a campus with a mountain."