On Dec. 12, the Aggie “A” symbolizing Colorado State University’s agricultural roots will celebrate its 100th anniversary. If you’re a Fort Collins, Colorado, local, a CSU student, or simply driving through town, it’s a striking view that once people see it, they won’t soon forget it.

As students get back in the groove of the school year, it is worth looking back at the rich history of the Fort Collins letter “A” landmark to see its humble beginnings along with the numerous attempts to change or eliminate it completely.

How Did Colorado State’s Aggie ‘A’ Get on the Fort Collins Hillside?

CSU Archives and Special Collections
CSU Archives and Special Collections
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Well, it’s a funny story. The plan was devised back when Colorado State was called Colorado Agricultural College and was a project between Oliver Pennock, a civil engineering professor, and his students.

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On Dec. 12, 1923, students went up into the Larimer County foothills to paint on the Fort Collins “A.”

After painting it, they quickly realized there was a problem: it was far too small. So, the following September, they had to go back up the mountain to size it up to 450 feet high and 210 feet wide.

Luckily, these proportions made it much more visible from town, and it is how we currently view it to this very day.

Colorado State Aggie’ A’ History: Quite the Survivor

Colorado State University
Colorado State University
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Nowadays, it is hard to imagine the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, without the “A” on the mountainside. But some students throughout history certainly wished for a future with it forever changed or removed altogether.

For one, once Colorado State officially changed its mascot from the Aggies to the Rams, some saw the Fort Collins “A” as an outdated reference to the school’s not-so-distant past. There were a couple of proposed changes that suggested turning it into a “C,” an “R,” or simply having the mountain read “Colorado State University,” all of which failed.

There were even suggestions in the 1960s and 1970s by students to get rid of the “A” completely, with some students believing tradition was not a sufficient enough reason to keep it around.

Some students were worried about its environmental impact, and to be fair, the school previously used lead paint to coat the mountain. Luckily, CSU has since remedied this by using a much more environmentally friendly alternative.

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Facebook // CSU Alumni Association
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Recently, the CSU Alumni Association used this ecologically safe paint to give the “A” a new sheen. The repainting of the “A” takes place every year, and while it is usually an honor for incoming freshmen, CSU alumni can join in on the fun, too. Students and volunteers got the “A” looking better than ever.

The Continued Impact of the CSU Aggie “A”

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Facebook // Colorado State University
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The Aggie “A” has withstood the test of time to become a classic symbol of the town’s collegiate roots and is seen as a sense of pride for the Fort Collins community.

It has since been included in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. While its place in the Fort Collins college town has been questioned in the past, it is hard to imagine the city without its most iconic landmark.

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