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The Story of GCC:
Planning & Construction

Aerial image of the GCC Campus under construction.
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Early Years
1965-1970
The Stellar
1970s
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1980s
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1990s
21st Century
2000s
GCC Today
2010-

Planning and Construction

From Dream to Reality

Image of GCC column that inspired much of the campus column designs.

Like every great story, the tale of Glendale Community College (GCC) had to begin somewhere. The story of GCC begins in June of 1964 when the Arizona State Board of Directors for Junior Colleges approved building a campus at 59th Avenue and Olive Avenue in Glendale, Arizona.1 This college, known at the time as the Northwest Campus, would become the GCC of today. However, before the teachers could teach and the students could learn, the hallowed halls and walls of the campus needed to be designed and built. Below are photographs and stories of this era that capture GCC's transition from dream into reality.

A College Built on Farmland

Today, when one pictures Glendale Arizona, they imagine a thriving metropolis with streets, stores, malls and sports stadiums. However, at the time of GCC's initial construction, the city of Glendale was much different. Largely an agricultural community in the mid-1960s, the original site of the college was nestled among fields, flowers, crops, and citrus groves. This collection of photographs shows the land upon which GCC would be built.

Aerial Photograph of the Future Site of GCC

Aerial Photograph of the Future Site of GCC

This 1964 photograph is an aerial view of the future campus site of Glendale Community College. In the photo you can see the farmland upon which the new campus would be built.


Sign for the New College

Sign for the New College

The sign in this 1964 image reads: “Future Site of the Northwest Campus, a Unit of the Maricopa County Junior College Dist.”. This sign was posted at the palm lane entrance to Sahuaro Ranch, the land upon which GCC would be built. The site was referred to as the "Northwest Campus" until April 12 1965, when the new college was officially named "Glendale Community College".2


Image of the Farmland Upon Which GCC Was Built

Image of the Farmland Upon Which GCC Was Built

This is a 1964 view of the future site of the college. The land upon which GCC was built functioned as a working ranch. Note the cotton in the foreground of the photograph and the mature palms in the background that lined the palm lane ranch entrance.


Ditch at the Sahuaro Ranch, Future Site of GCC

Ditch at the Sahuaro Ranch, Future Site of GCC

This dated 1964 photo shows irrigation of cotton at Sahuaro Ranch, the future location of GCC.


Sahuaro Ranch, Future Site of GCC

Sahuaro Ranch, Future Site of GCC

Here is another 1964 photograph of the working Sahuaro Ranch that was taken shortly before the construction of the campus. Note the cotton crops in the foreground and the palm laned entrance in the background.

Architectural Drawings

Before the college could be built, it first had to be imagined. These early architectural renderings capture how the original architects and construction crews envisioned the future college.

Early Drawing of the Campus

Early Drawing of the Campus

This early drawing of the campus is labeled "Maricopa County Junior College - Northwest Campus" the original name for GCC. It captures the initial vision of the college to be built.


Design Column

Design Column

In some ways, this architectural rendering of a column served as a blueprint for many of the initial design elements of the college. Inspired by the existing 200 mature palm trees on the site, this initial column design served to unify the appearance of the campus with a consistent theme.


Early Architectural Planning Drawing of the Campus

Early Architectural Planning Drawing of the Campus

This drawing is another interesting early visualization of the campus. While it captures much of what would later be built, some items, such as the bushes and fountains, would not be a part of the completed campus.


Planning Drawing for the GCC Library

Planning Drawing for the GCC Library

This architectural rendering of the GCC Library captures the early architectural vision of the building and campus. This rendering from architects Varney, Sexton, and Sydnor allowed architects, planners, and construction workers to visualize how this building would appear after construction.


Planning Drawing of the Campus

Planning Drawing of the Campus

Here is an architectural rendering of the GCC campus with a fountain and a pathway. In the photo, students walk beside buildings and palm trees to the backdrop of mountains. These early renderings offered the first imaginings of the future college.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Before every major undertaking, there is often ceremony. The construction of Glendale Community College was no exception. On April 27, 1965, GCC held the groundbreaking ceremony for the campus, the first symbolic step towards the building of the college. This collection showcases photos from the event.

Dr. Robert Hannelly speaks at GCC's Groundbreaking

Dr. Robert Hannelly speaks at GCC's Groundbreaking

Maricopa County Junior College District President Dr. Robert J. Hannelly speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for Glendale Community College


A Mighty Milestone

A Mighty Milestone

Maricopa County Junior College District Governing Board President Dr. Robert F. Easley and Maricopa County Junior College District President Dr. Robert J. Hannelly take the first symbolic shovels at GCC’s groundbreaking ceremony.


Dignitaries at GCC's Groundbreaking

Dignitaries at GCC's Groundbreaking

This photo captures a number of the dignitaries that attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Glendale Community College (GCC) in Glendale, Arizona. From left to right are: Maricopa County Junior College Governing Board Member Jim Miller, Glendale Mayor Carl Stockland, Maricopa County Junior College Governing Board President Dr. Robert J. Hannelly, Maricopa County Junior College Governing Board President Dr. Robert F. Easley, and Maricopa County Junior College Governing Board Member Robert M. Jaap. The identity of the person on the far right was not listed.

Construction: A View from the Air

Early Aerial Shot of Campus Construction

Early Aerial Shot of Campus Construction

This is one of the earliest photos of GCC's construction. In fact, much of the foundation had yet to be poured on many of the signature buildings that make up the GCC campus today.


The Foundations of the College

The Foundations of the College

In a quite literal sense, this photo depicts the very foundation of the Glendale Community College campus, as many of the buildings had yet to be raised and only the foundations and pillars had begun to take shape on campus.


Taking Shape

Taking Shape

Although this photo was taken early during the construction of the college, you can begin make out the first GCC buildings taking shape on the campus. Still, construction had a long way to go. Many of the structures were half-built, the sidewalks hadn't been poured, and the signature palm trees had not been planted.


Continued Progess

Continued Progess

This is a fantastic aerial photograph of the GCC campus in mid-construction. The photograph also captures the surrounding community which largely consisted of fields, crops, and a citrus grove.


Near Completion

Near Completion

This is a photo of the campus near completion. Many of the buildings appear to be fully constructed and the palm trees grace the walkways of the college. However, the lush greenery and landscaping that is such a prominent part of today's picturesque campus remained a work in progress.

Construction: A View from the Ground

Constructing the Campus

Constructing the Campus

In the photo, you will notice the campus’ signature pillars beginning to take shape while construction workers, cranes, and scaffolding get the impression of a college on the verge of taking shape.


Executive Dean John Prince and Student Kay Cunningham Witness Early Construction

Executive Dean John Prince and Student Kay Cunningham Witness Early Construction

Executive Dean John F. Prince and student Kay Cunningham view the early GCC construction first hand.


Crane Adds Concrete Top

Crane Adds Concrete Top

This is a photograph of a crane placing the cast-concrete top on supporting a flower column during GCC construction at Glendale Community College (GCC) in Glendale, Arizona. The original college design featured cast-concrete flower columns with a form similar to the existing 200 mature palm trees on the site. The columns served as a relating form to unify appearance of the campus.3


The Palms Are Planted

The Palms Are Planted

This photo was taken shortly after GCC's signature palm trees were planted on campus and if you look closely, you will notice the dirt at the base of each palm has been freshly dug. Meanwhile, in the background of the photograph, you will notice construction workers busily putting the finishing touches on the campus and construction.

Next Chapter: Early Years, 1965-1970




1Historical Timeline of Glendale Community College
2Felnagle, Richard. Maricopa's Community Colleges: The Turbulent Evolution of an Education Giant. Seattle, WA: Elton-Wolf Publishing, 2000. p. 71 ]
3Arizona Republic, August 8, 1965) Photo reproduced in El Año college yearbook 1966, p. 1.
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