Creating the “Y” on the Mountain.
A mischievous prank played in 1906 by Brigham Young University‘s Class of 1907 led to the construction of the giant “Y” on the mountain easy of Provo.
The pranksters formed the date “1907” on the slope, which enraged the seniors in the class of 1906. Before they could retaliate with a prank of their own, an editorial in the school newspaper suggested that a giant “BYU” should be fabricated high on the mountain to advertise the local university. The class of 1906 jumped on this suggestion.
The idea caught on and a student committee was formed to study the project. Its members thought that three letters was too ambitious and decided that just a “Y” formed out of slaked lime on the highest possible site on the mountainside would be sufficient.
Professor Ernest D. Partridge designed a plain letter “Y” and supervised the survey of the letter. It was elongated so that it would appear normal when viewed from the campus. Three of his students staked out its outline on the mountainside.
Despite threatening weather on May 15, 1906, the make student body went to work. They cut scrub oak, cleared the surface, and constructed the rock frame of the giant letter. As soon as the outline had been prepared, the young men formed a bucket brigade and passed up all of the lime necessary to cover the letter about one inch deep.
At about 5:00 p.m. the work was completed and a giant white letter brightened the mountainside. Some 200 female students arrived with a very welcome picnic. The student body triumphantly paraded through the street of Provo, being very proud of their work.
In succeeding years, students whitewashed the “Y” each spring. They also gradually added rocks and concrete to the interior of the letter and constructed serifs on it’s base and on its tops to make it a “Block Y.” More recently, the giant symbol has been encased in solid concrete. Electric lights now illuminate the outside of the “Y” on special occasions rather than the tedious and sometimes dangerous method of using open flames.