Barto Hall is named after Harold Peter “Pete” Barto, a graduate of the University of Oregon and World War II veteran, who arrived at Central in 1931 to serve as assistant football coach and history professor.
In 1942, Barto became the school’s registrar, while also continuing to teach history classes. He continued his dual role until 1946, when he returned to teaching full-time and, for about a year, also served as chair of the Division of Social Sciences. In 1947, he co-authored the well-regarded textbook, History of the State of Washington.
He retired from teaching in 1961 and lived, with his wife, Martha, in Ellensburg until his death in 1963.
Shortly after his retirement, the university constructed a three-story residence hall, which was named in his honor. The 174-bed, 52,800 square-foot building opened in 1962.
In the mid-2000s, the university determined the building was no longer adequate for student housing and decided to demolish and replace it. Demolition took place 2011 and construction began immediately on a new, larger Barto Hall.
The new structure, which opened in time for the 2012 academic years, has 117,000 square feet spread over four floors and 188 double-occupancy rooms. It also boasts study rooms, lounges on each floor, and two apartments for residential staff.
In addition to teaching and coaching for nearly three decades, Barto and his wife were known for their charity and hospitality. In the book, Central Remembered: An Anecdotal History, Rein Randall, an art professor during much of the time Barto was at Central, wrote that “Pete and Martha Barto, who had no children of their own, fed, housed and counseled many a bewildered student trying to make it through school.”
The Barto’s commitment to Central extended to establishing the Harold and Martha Barto Scholarship, for students studying history, which was established in 1984, shortly after Martha’s death.