Above: A rare, colorized, 1907 double-postcard panorama of the University campus. Click on the image for a larger view.
For those interested in University history, collecting old UT postcards is a part of the hobby. The postcards offer views not always found in old photographs, and the notes on the back, often written by University students of the time, provide glimpses into campus life.
Among the rarest are double-postcards. Twice the width of a standard card, the sender folded it in half, wrote a message on one of the outer sides, and addressed and stamped it on the other. Of course, at twice the size, the cards offer a great landscape view. In the early 20th century, several double-cards were printed with images of the University, but the best is the 1907 panorama of the UT campus. Drawn from a photograph taken from the south side of the Forty Acres, the buildings, topography of College Hill, and the locations and sizes of the trees are generally correct. In the image, what appears to be the “main driveway” that extends to the left is the future South Mall. It ends about where the Littlefield Fountain is seen today.
Above: Both color and black-and-white versions of the card were printed. Click on the image for a larger view.
What’s on the campus? From left, you’ll find the Woman’s Building, the first residence hall for co-eds, built in 1902. It’s construction was somewhat controversial. At the time, many thought that women students would be better supervised by staying with families in Austin, and were opposed to on-campus housing. When a bill that included $50,000 for the building was introduced to Texas Legislature in 1901, the House was deadlocked in a tie and it required Speaker Robert Prince to cast the deciding vote. The Woman’s Building was later used for speech classes and the theater department before it burned in the 1950s.
Next to the Woman’s Building, off in the distance (and what might look a bit like the Capitol dome), is the Littlefield Home. George Littlefield, a local banker who served on the Board of Regents and was a generous UT donor, built his Victorian mansion across the street from the original Forty Acres. Littlefield bequeathed the home to UT in his will, and it was briefly used as a sorority house and by the music department. In World War II, it became headquarters for the Naval ROTC unit, complete with two anti-aircraft guns installed on the front lawn and a firing range in the attic! Today, it houses the Development Office and used for University fundraising. The thin, rectangular “stick” just to the right of the home is one of Austin’s now-famous moonlight towers, and also just off the campus.
Continuing to the right is the Chemical Laboratory Building, opened in 1891. The chemistry department was initially located in the basement of the west wing of the old Main Building, but inadequate ventilation – and a real danger of fire – created the need for a separate structure. Chemistry professor Eugene Schoch taught classes here, and when he founded the ‘Varsity Band (now the Longhorn Band) in 1900, the group rehearsed in one of the labs. The building burned in the 1920s, and stood about where the biological ponds are today.
At center stage is the old Main Building. The first structure on the campus, limited University finances required it to be built in three segments. The west wing was opened in 1884, the middle section and north wing (which housed a library and an auditorium) was ready in 1889, and the east wing completed in 1899. Made of pale yellow Austin pressed brick and limestone trim quarried from nearby Cedar Park, the building was Victorian Gothic in style, popular for college buildings in the 1880s. Old Main was reluctantly razed in the 1930s to make room for the current Main Building and Tower.
To the right of Old Main is the original Engineering Building, the “newcomer” to this portrait of the campus. Constructed in 1904, it is the only UT building on the postcard to survive to the present. The engineers moved on to more spacious quarters in 1930, and the building was used by the speech and journalism departments. (Legendary broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, who majored in journalism while a UT student, attended classes in this building.) In the 1980s, it became the Students Services Building and was renamed for Dorothy Gebauer, who served for decades as the Dean of Women Students. Today the Gebauer Building is headquarters for the College of Liberal Arts.
And last, but certainly not least, the structure on the far right is Brackenridge Hall, or “B. Hall.” The first men’s dorm, donated by UT regent George Brackenridge, it was opened in 1890 and intended as cheap housing for the “poor boys” of Texas. But what the residents lacked in pocket change was more than compensated by their character. It was here that The Eyes of Texas was composed, the ‘Varsity Band and student government organized, and The Daily Texan student newspaper launched, among other contributions.
Other postcards from the same time period help us to imagine a visit to the 1907 campus. Here’s a view of Old Main from the southwest corner of the Forty Acres, near where the Harry Ransom Center stands today. On the far right, part of B. Hall can be seen behind the trees.
And what about the view from campus? Here’s a look from the top floor of the west wing of Old Main, looking south toward the city of Austin. One of the moonlight towers rises abruptly just past the campus, and behind it is the Texas State Capitol, which, by itself, was the dominant feature of the Austin skyline.