Jul 04, 2020

Keats building has storied past on campus

Following 63 years of service on the Fresno State campus, the Keats building is slated to be torn down some time in March to make way for the new University Student Union.

As the Keats was being prepared for demolition, remnants of its former self littered throughout the now crowded hallways full of shipping boxes. 

Throughout the cubicles, staff of the Keats Building decorated its walls with knick knacks and paraphernalia ranging from old pictures of staff to decorative ceramic tiles, giving each cubicle a distinct characteristic of those who previously inhabited it.

The Fresno State flag hung proudly above all of the boxes, old magazines and paraphernalia. Staff said it will be the last article taken down from the office.

The Keats Building is located just south of the water fountain in the center of the campus. The view from the building provided a vista that many in the building described as a tranquil spot to work in on campus. Its location on campus provided easy access to parking, food and entertainment, which the staff greatly enjoyed. 

Working in the building for many never really seemed like work. Frank Johnson, data entry technician of university advancement, said he often looks forward to waking up and coming to work in the Keats buildings on Mondays.

“Many people you know hate Mondays, but I don’t,” said Johnson. “The work here doesn’t feel like work. It feels like I’m coming to work with my family.” 

Supervisor of biographic and demographic information Maggie Espinoza said, “The natural, ambient noise and simply watching students walking about on campus provided for a truly unique working environment on campus.”

Espinoza described life in the building as a self sufficient one. “Everyone knew what to do. It was a laid back environment,” said Espinoza.

The Keats building began life on campus as the new university student run bookstore in 1957, costing the university roughly $82,815.

On the entrance of the old bookstore, papers filled the wall adjacent to it with notices of other students attempting to sell old textbooks.

University special collections staff member Karina Cardenas said that the building “was named after Keats Avenue and not a person.” Not much about the Keats Building has changed since its construction in 1957, except for the campus surrounding it.

In 1957, the Keats Building was surrounded by green grass. As the campus evolved physically, the Keats Building also evolved, housing multiple departments within its brick walls suiting the needs of the campus throughout the years. 

A total of 13 different departments in its 63 years of service would occupy the building. Among the more notable departments include The Kennel Bookstore, The Collegian, Learning Assistance Center and Smittcamp Honors House. 

Following the construction of the current Fresno State Bookstore in 1968, the Keats building transformed into the office of the Fresno State Collegian, which would occupy the building up until 2004.

Alongside The Collegian, the Learning Assistance Center moved into the building in 1974, staying for a total of 20 years, making it the second longest departmental stay in Keats. 

Prior to its decommissioning, Keats served as the department of KeyCard, University Development and University Communication. 

In addition, Keats served as a meeting location for heads of departments across campus who often brought gifts of food for the workers inside.

Currently Keats’ displaced workers can be found on and off campus in temporary office spaces awaiting permanent relocation due to the lack of space on campus. Espinoza and Johnson, along with their co-workers, were moved into the rather humid trailer offices located in between the McLane Hall and Engineering East Building. 

Despite losing the Keats Building, Espinoza summed the Keats experience best, saying, “as long as we are together, it doesn’t matter where we go.”

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