Who was George Brimhall?
An early graduate of Brigham Young Academy, George Brimhall returned to the school as its president in 1903 when the current president Cluff went on an expedition to South America. He was appointed as the president the next year and served until 1921, when medical limits prevented him from continuing in his position. He left a lasting impact on the school and brought it through very difficult times.
Soon after the completion of the Maeser building, school administrators knew that they would need more space soon. They needed space for woodworking and iron working classes as well as the new auto mechanic classes that William H. Snell that were planned to start soon. With the passing of the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, the university would receive federal funds to help teach agriculture, trades, and industry. As the school was in desperate need for finances, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Administrators drew up plans for a new building to house a technical school.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place on October 8, 1918, when a plow was drawn around the future walls of the building. Soon after, the building was completed. It was named the Mechanic Arts building, to emphasize its use in the teaching of the trade. However, in its first few years, it was primarily used to house soldiers of the Army Training Corps, a group of soldiers who were stationed around the country to train and encourage patriotic zeal throughout the country. Once the First World War ended, the soldiers returned home and the building was again used for mechanics.
By the early 1930’s, the building had grown too small for the needs of the school and plans were drawn up to increase the height from one story to three. The architects tried to keep true to the original style used in 1918, but added some modern touches. The two floors were completed in 1935, and in a special ceremony to commemorate the recently deceased George Brimhall, the building was renamed in his honor.
After the renaming, the building housed various departments. It was soon turned over to some of the science departments, notably the Chemistry and Zoology departments. They also housed the Bacteriology, Agronomy, Botany, Horticulture, Visual Arts, and Landscape Design Departments for various times. It was used as a catch-all for various departments as old buildings were torn down and new ones created, as it was not to come down for a very long time. In 1984, it was renovated and updated, with some further expansion.
Today, the Brimhall building houses the BYU School of Communications and some of the newspapers around campus. Advertising and marketing classes are held within, and its indoor courtyard is a popular place for students to study. One of the oldest buildings on campus, it stands as a reminder of the school’s past the and the growth that it can expect in the future.