Memories of Throop

Long before ducks made their nests among turtles and squirrels in what is now known as Throop Memorial Garden, the very first building on the Caltech campus called that space home. Where there are now ponds stood the pillars of what was called Pasadena Hall, built in the early 20th century. The building held up by those pillars was renamed Throop Hall in 1920—the same year the Throop College of Technology became the California Institute of Technology—to honor the school’s founder, Amos G. Throop.

When the building opened in 1910—jam-packed with classrooms, laboratories, and administrative offices—it was said to be earthquake proof. The 6.6 San Fernando temblor of 1971 seemed to disprove that notion, leaving behind deep cracks in the facade of the great hall. Engineers, lacking the original construction plans and thus unable to know if the building was likely to be savable, recommended demolition. When a wrecking ball started to smash away at the concrete exterior, however, it revealed large amounts of steel rebar. The building, it turned out, likely could have stood for many more years.

But that was not to be. In 1973 Throop Hall came down, and it was soon replaced by the lush gardens seen on the site today. However, physical reminders of this historic heart of the campus still remain . . . if you know where to look.

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Header photo by HC Van Urfalian