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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

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Aztec Center was completed in 1968. Aztec Center was completed in 1968.

Decades Ago at San Diego State

Special Collections and University Archives takes a look back at when Aztec Center first opened.

The future LEED Platinum-certified Aztec Student Union will not open until the fall of 2013. While the campus waits, the Aztec community can look back on the now-vanished Aztec Center, which for nearly 43 years hosted SDSU students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as San Diegans, as a center for recreation, socializing, eating and drinking, performances, free speech, study and much more.

According to Raymond Starr's "San Diego State University: A History in Word and Image," plans for a student union dated to 1940 when faculty member Sue Earnest began a fund to build a gathering place for students on campus.

Aztec Center was finally made possible in 1963 when 72 percent of San Diego State College students voted for a fee increase to pay for the new building. Completed in 1968 and designed to serve 17,000 students, the Daily Aztec student newspaper followed the final stages of construction, the gradual opening of facilities such as the Daily Aztec offices, the alumni office and “Monty’s Den,” and the grand opening that occurred over 10 days in September 1968. Later, the northwest steps of the Aztec Center became the free speech area and were later named the Free Speech Steps.

Aztec Center featured murals, a bowling alley, a billiards center with arcade games, a barbershop, a craft center, a general store, Henry’s Place, The Back Door and several other venues for performances. The center was the site of the San Diego Folk Festival for several years and everything from chess tournaments to peace marches took place there.

About Decades Ago at San Diego State

The SDSU Library's Department of Special Collections and University Archives presents the weekly series "Decades Ago at San Diego State." Special Collections and University Archives staff members collect articles and photos from archived issues of The Daily Aztec, providing a glimpse of the university's past and its memorable events, people and programs. 

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