The Big Enormous Building

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Above: The original west entrance to the Business-Economics Building.

For the business school, it was a dream come true. On February 2, 1962, the swanky new Business-Economics Building, the largest teaching facility yet on the Forty Acres, hosted its first classes. Business Dean John White was elated with the new digs. So were the students, who promptly dubbed the edifice the “Big Enormous Building.” Though much of it has been renovated over the past half century, the original “BEB” was, in many ways, a modern marvel and campus trend-setter.

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spurgeon-bellAt the University of Texas, business classes made their debut in 1912, when UT alumnus Spurgeon Bell (photo at left) was hired to found a “business studies” department within the College of Arts and Sciences. The facilities, though, weren’t ideal. As UT’s growth outpaced its funding, resources to construct new buildings simply weren’t available. Temporary pinewood shacks were built instead. Crude and without proper foundations, UT President Sidney Mezes purposely left them unpainted in the forlorn hope that the state would be so embarrassed by their appearance and replace the shacks with adequate buildings.

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Above: In 1912,”G” Hall for business studies stood in front of today’s Gebauer Building.

The business studies department was assigned to “G” Hall, located in front of today’s Gebauer Building. Poorly heated by pot belly stoves, Bell had to arrive early on cold days to stoke the coals left by the custodian overnight, and then gather more firewood from a stack behind the building. Despite the primitive conditions, the business department grew, matured, and was made a separate school in 1922.

Waggener Hall.1930sA year later, the 1923 discovery of oil on University-owned West Texas land offered the promise of better quarters in the future, but it wasn’t until 1931 that Waggener Hall was opened along the west side of Speedway Street. Named to honor Leslie Waggener, UT’s first president, the hall was intended for business administration, a message made clear though the building’s ornamentation. Twenty-six terra-cotta medallions placed just below the eaves portrayed some of the exports of Texas at the time: cotton, oil, pecans, maize, wheat, cattle, and lumber, among others. However, with space on the campus at a premium, business initially had to share the building with the math, English, and public speaking departments, along with an anthropology museum that filled the top floor.

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Above: A typing class in the late 1930s. Ceiling fans regularly hummed in the un-air conditioned classrooms.

The new quarters were a boon for the business school, but as its classes grew more popular with UT students, Waggener Hall was short on space within a decade, and then almost unmanageable after World War II, as thousands of returning veterans enrolled in the University under the G. I. Bill. It became something of an annual tradition for the business deans to lobby the UT administration for a new facility.

ut-75th-logo-1958In  1958, the University observed its 75th anniversary. Along with the many campus celebrations, a Diamond Jubilee Commission was created to “chart the University’s next 25 years.”  Appointed by UT President Logan Wilson, the commission tackled issues ranging from academic programs, enrollment, research, and student life, and created a series of recommendations intended to bring UT up to the top tier of the nation’s universities. In response, President Wilson formally launched a “Ten Year Plan,” intended to overhaul degree programs and improve facilities. A new headquarters for the College of Business Administration was among the priorities, and the Board of Regents approved the $4 million for construction.

Ground was broken in July 1959 and the building was ready for use by spring 1962. At the time, UT’s academic year opened in late September, with fall semester finals scheduled in January, just after the holiday break. With a brief, ten-day intersession, the spring semester began in February. For the business school, the 1962 intersession was a great scramble, as all of the filing cabinets, office desks, teaching materials, and library books had to be moved from Waggener Hall to the new building in time for the spring semester start on February 2nd. A winter ice storm that pelted Austin mid-week only added to the chaos.

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Above: The invitation to the Business-Economics Building dedication.

Formally dedicated at the end of March, the Business-Economics Building – the “BEB” – was touted by some as the largest business learning facility in the Southwest. The faculty initially requested a contemporary structure, both in appearance and design, but the University administration felt that some adherence to the Mediterranean Renaissance style found on the rest of the Forty Acres was preferable. While the building was definitely modern, its limestone, brick, and use of Spanish red tile still identified it as part of the campus.

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Above: The main entrance to the BEB faced west, toward the Forty Acres.

The BEB was organized into three distinct components, each designed around specific functions. On the south end was a five-story, rectangular classroom building constructed 1968-class-in-beb-room-150around a central court from the second to fifth levels; the first level of the court was occupied by a 400-seat auditorium (photo at left). Functionally, the court provided a light well for the classrooms along the inside, but also boasted two fountains with reflecting pools, landscaping, and benches.

Along with the main auditorium, the first floor held four other theater-style classrooms for 100 to 150 students each. All were outfitted with modern sound and projection equipment, and some had mounted television monitors, a medium that had become popular less than a decade before.

beb-libraryElsewhere in the building were circular seminar rooms with tiered seating – the first on the campus – along with accounting, statistics, management, and marketing labs, study halls, interview practice rooms, and a 10,000 volume business library (right) with room for 270 students.  A series of large exhibit cases fronted with plate glass simulated store front windows to show off retail marketing class projects.

Extensive use of mosaic tile was used as wainscoting along the hallways of the classroom building, with different geometric patterns – diamonds, stars, and cubes –  in blue, brown, and yellow hues on each floor.  A solar screen of  Spanish red tile in a quatrefoil design covered the outside windows along the top floor, and while the roof was flat, its broad eaves with coffered soffits were similar to those found elsewhere on campus.

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The basement of the classroom building was reserved for student recreation, with lounges, games, student organization offices, and a myriad of vending machines (photo above) that served coffee, candy, ice cream, pastries, sandwiches, cold drinks, warm soups, and cigarettes. “It’s not that the soup and coffee served by electronic magic and a few well-placed nickels and quarters taste much different from a meal at home,” explained Anita Brewer from the Austin Statesman, “It’s just the nerve-wracking uncertainty of a machine trying to be smart.” When ordering coffee, “A cup appears first. Then the coffee starts filling the cup, and for an agonizing moment, you wonder if it will shut off in time and what you will do if it doesn’t.” Along with the vending curiosities, The Daily Texan took great interest in the new automatic bill-changer that “scans paper currency and issues coins when the proffered bill passes its critical-eye examination.”

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The north end of the BEB was a seven-story office building which housed the faculty and dean, and at the time was the second tallest structure on the campus, next to the Tower. Each level was reserved for a specific department. Starting from the first floor: finance, dean and career placement offices, accounting, economics, management, business services, and marketing. For a short time, the Institute of Latin American Studies shared the seventh floor until more appropriate quarters could be found.

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In a nod to the medallions on Waggener Hall, UT art professor Paul Hatgil designed a series of fifty ceramic panels (image above) that were placed above the top row of windows around the office unit. Their blues, browns, and yellows echoed the colors used for the mosaic tiles in the classroom building. His whimsical creations not only added color to an otherwise all-brick facade, their stylistic rows of small, raised circles were meant to be reminiscent of buttons, as the many inventions of the 1950s – from computers to vending machines – had transformed the modern world into what was then called a “push button society.”

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beb-escalatorAbove: A single bank of “up only” BEB escalators on the second floor of the crossover. The main west entry to the building is seen on the right. 

A protected crossover linked the classroom and office units. It functioned both as a corridor and housed the University’s first escalator. The high-speed moving staircase, austin-statesman-headline-1962-01-18-escalatorthough, only went up; there was no down escalator. While the BEB was furnished with elevators and stairs, a persistent joke was that students and faculty would all wind up on the top floor at the end of the day.

Similar to the top floor windows on the classroom building, the mostly glass crossover was sheathed in a solar screen, this one a perforated concrete wall, to block some of the heat from the Texas sun. So, too, was the front entrance of the BEB, found on the west side of the crossover. The glass doors were covered in a deep blue diamond pattern made from steel.

Because of the sloping terrain, visitors entered at the second level. Just behind the crossover, on the east side along Speedway Street, a walled patio provided space for faculty and alumni gatherings. An alumni lounge, next to the dean’s office in the office building, was equipped with a kitchenette,  along with doors that led out to the patio.

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Above: Behind the crossover, on the east side along Speedway Street, an enclosed patio served as a space for faculty and alumni events. In the 1980s, the area was enclosed and made the McCombs School’s Hall of Honor, though alumni events are still held here.

“The Family,” a sculpture by art professor Charles Umlauf, was placed at the main west entrance, in front of the crossover. A heroic-size bronze more than fifteen feet tall and weighing over two tons, Umlauf created the piece in Milan, Italy. Its mother, father, and child symbolically represented the basic economic unit. The sculpture was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Houston, and then carefully transported to Austin, but didn’t arrive in time for the BEB’s formal dedication. Instead, a prankish student attached a placard to the front of the statue’s empty granite base that read, “Tomb of the Unknown BBA Student.”

Above: Charles Umlauf’s “The Family” guarded the main entrance to the BEB. 

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1962-ibm-comuterThe opening of the BEB galvanized the business school. As part of the University’s Ten Year plan, the undergraduate and graduate programs were reviewed, revised, and strengthened. A Business Honors Program was founded. Typing classes were discontinued (though still offered through University Extension) in favor of courses in mathematical analysis, leadership development, and the use of technology. While the BEB was under construction, Business Dean John White invested a sizable $75,000 to purchase an IBM 1620 Data Processing System (above left), a room-exciter-newsletterssize computer that could perform over 1,500 calculations per second. It was installed in time for the BEB dedication, and was a highlight of the building tour. “In preparation of the computer world of the Seventies and Eighties, all students in the College of Business explored the mysteries of this fantastic machine,” explained the 1965 Cactus yearbook.

Along with academics, the business school used the BEB to initiate an outreach program. In 1960, an Advisory Council was created to both help with fundraising and “provide an avenue of direct liaison between the faculty and the business community.” The school’s first alumni newsletter, The Ex-Citer, was published three times a year, and special events, including an annual homecoming during football season, were held on the alumni patio.

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There have been several renovations to the BEB over the years. In 1975, the Graduate School of Business Building was added to the west side, which eliminated the crossover entry and moved the main entrance to the south side of the building. By the early 1980s, business school enrollment topped 10,000 students, the largest in the nation and nearly a quarter of the entire University. The University
Teaching Center was built across the street to the south in 1982 to ease overcrowded classrooms, and a pedestrian bridge added to connect it to the rest of the business 1985-business-school-renovation-hall-of-honorschool.  A few years later, the BEB underwent a significant renovation. The central courtyard was covered to create an atrium (top left), classrooms were retooled and upgraded, the original decorative tile along the hallways was removed, and the alumni patio enclosed in favor of a “Hall of Honor.” (photo at right) The complex was renamed the George Kozmetsky Center for Business Education and formally dedicated in 1986. A later, minor renovation was completed in 2008. Citing problems with pigeons nesting among the tiles, the solar screen along the top row of windows of the classroom building was removed.

Above: Business Dean Robert Witt (left) inspects the progress of the 1980s renovation to the Business-Economics Building. The mosaic tile on the wall – a different pattern for each floor – was removed. 

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Above: A then and now look at the Business-Economics Building from the UT Tower observation deck. The image on top was taken in 1968, while the Jester Center residence hall was under construction. “The Family” statue can be seen in front of the west entry into the BEB crossover. The old Law Building (1908) was then home to the anthropology department. The photo above was taken in 2012. The Graduate School of Business Building was connected to the BEB in 1975, and later renovations enclosed the courtyard of the classroom building. Click on an image for a larger view.

The Main Building Seals

The seals of a dozen universities are on the Main Building. Why?

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“In a large group of buildings, be it a city, a world fair, or a university, there is always a certain part of the whole which provides the image carried in our memory when we think of the place.” – architect Paul Cret, 1933 University of Texas Campus Master Plan

ut-tower-aerialFormally dedicated more than 80 years ago – on February 27, 1937 – the University’s Main Building was designed to serve a variety of purposes. Functionally, it was meant to house the central library. Its grand reading halls and special collection rooms were assembled around a massive tower, which held the book stacks. To accommodate future growth, the library was intentionally planned to be larger than needed, which prompted the Board of Regents to reserve a portion of the building for UT administration.

Stylistically, architect Paul Cret blended the needs of his clients with his own desires. The limestone exterior, red-tile roofs, Spanish-themed reliefs, and a spacious, seven-arched loggia all expressed the Mediterranean Renaissance idiom first seen in Cass Gilbert’s 1911 Library (now Battle Hall), a style which the Board of Regents deemed appropriate for Texas and its historical connections to Spain and Mexico. But Cret added Classical elements as well. Simple Doric columns enclosed the two front extensions along with the belfry at the top of the Tower, while the south facade was decorated with a row of dentils, and pilasters with Ionic capitals. Cret felt strongly that, as America was a modern democracy, its public buildings should evoke some sense of those democratic origins in Ancient Greece, and dubbed the style a “New Classicism.”

main-building-south-facadeRight: A line of dentils – those square “teeth” along the top of the image – along with an Ionic capital atop a pilaster, are among the Classical decorations on the Main Building’s south façade, all carved in place during construction. Click on an image for a larger view.

Symbolically, Cret intended his monumental Tower to be that iconic image “carried in our memory when we think of the place,” and sought to give it an “appropriate architectural treatment for a depository of human knowledge.” The ornamentation on the building spoke to its purpose as a library as well as to the mission and aspirations of the University. Names of literary giants were carved in limestone under the tall windows along the east and west sides. Displayed in gold leaf on the north side of the Tower were letters (or cartouches) from five dialects that contributed to the development of English language: Egyptian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The biblical quote inscribed above the south entrance, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” was selected by the Faculty Building Committee as suitable for
those who came to use the library. “The injunction to seek truth as a means to freedom is main-building-athenaas splendid a call to youth as we can make,” explained committee chair William Battle. (See “The Inscription”)

Placed alongside the literary images were familiar Classical symbols. The lamp of learning, the face of Athena as the goddess of wisdom (photo above), and rows of scallop shells – associated with Venus as the goddess of truth and beauty – were all added to the south façade, carved in place by Italian stone masons. Learning, wisdom, truth, and beauty: values long associated with the purpose of higher education.

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Above: Along the east side of the Main Building are six university seals.

The most colorful ornamentation was placed along the east and west sides of the building, just below the broad eaves, where artful representations of a dozen university seals were meant to convey a history of higher education, as well as proclaim UT’s own aspirations to be a “University of the first class.”

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Above: The west side of the nearly-completed Main Building in 1936.

The seal project began in the spring of 1932, as the initial phase of the Main Building was under construction.  Cret’s design allowed for something to be placed under the eaves, but left it to the University to determine the specifics. The idea to display university seals originated with the Faculty Building Committee and its chair, Dr. William Battle.

Which universities would be included? Battle consulted with Professor Frederick Eby, then the campus authority on the history of higher education. Eby provided a list of fifteen candidates: Bologna, Paris, Salamanca, Prague, Vienna, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, Geneva, Leiden, Edinburgh, Harvard, Yale, Virginia, and Michigan.

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The roster was heavy on European schools and, in part, charted a genealogical line. Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088, is widely regarded as the first degree-granting modern university, followed closely by the University of Paris. Oxford developed in the mid-12th century after King Henry II prevented English students from traveling to France. A dispute in 1209 between the town of Oxford and its university caused some of the local scholars to leave in protest and begin a new school in Cambridge. Four centuries later, among the Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in North America, a group of Cambridge alumni created what would become Harvard. Located in the tiny hamlet of Newtowne, the group changed the name of the village to Cambridge in honor of their Alma Mater.

Two state universities were also included. Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia had been a role model for many colleges in the South, though Eby told Battle, “The influence of Michigan on state universities has been greater than that of any other in my judgement.”

earnest-w-winkler-ut-librarianThe Faculty Building Committee considered Professor Eby’s suggestions. After some discussion, Yale, Leiden, and Vienna were eliminated to trim the list to twelve. Additional input came from Ernest Winkler, the UT librarian (photo at right). “Should not the seal of the University of Mexico, the ancient university, be used also?” said Winkler. “It was created by decree of Charles V in 1551, as was put in operation in 1553. Printing was introduced into Mexico ten years earlier. These cultural forces appeared in New Spain (Mexico) much earlier than they did in any of the other Spanish possessions in America. These are facts which may be pointed to with pride. It seems to me we ought to include the University of Mexico seal.”

The committee readily agreed. Mexico’s university predated Harvard, was the oldest in North America, and its connection to the history of Texas made it an obvious and appropriate choice. Mexico was substituted for Geneva.

The Board of Regents gave its approval at their meeting on June 17, 1932, but allowed the committee to make minor changes if needed. In early July, John Calhoun, the University Comptroller and a member of the committee, suggested that a female college be added to recognize the inclusion of women in higher education. As a final change, Vassar College replaced the University of Prague.

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Above: From left, the seals of Salamanca, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna on the west side.

With the list finalized, Battle set out to acquire printed copies of the seals or coats of arms. Some were found in books in the UT library, others obtained through correspondence.  “I wonder if you can help me out in securing a copy of the arms of the University of Bologna,” Battle asked the secretary of the Italy America Society in New York. “What I am looking for is a black and white print or Photostat of one from which our designer can evolve the form appropriate to the space at his disposal.”

While Battle required a black and white image to start, he also needed the correct colors. “The only place on which our seal appears in color,” said Frank Robbins, the assistant to the president of the University of Michigan, “is the flag which is annually carried at the head of the Commencement procession.” Robbins sent a copy of the 1931 graduation program, with an image of the UM seal printed on the front, and in pencil drew arrows to the various parts and listed the colors he saw on the flag.

Vassar College proved to be the most challenging, as it didn’t yet have a printed version of its seal to send. Instead, Battle received two imprints of the seal embossed on a single sheet of white stationery. “This is our only emblazoning and it is not used with colors,” explained a brief note from the president’s office. “Unofficially, the colors of the college are rose and gray.” A pair of short clippings of rose and gray ribbon was attached with a paper clip.

edinburgh“How do we best proceed to get them made?” Battle asked Paul Cret. The ornamentation was to be in the form of oval-shaped cartouches, not circular, formal reproductions of the seals, so there would be some artistic license in the finished product. “I am not easy in my mind by heraldic designs made by Texas artists. They do not know even the first principles of the art.”

The highly regarded Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in Perth Amboy, New Jersey was chosen. Headquartered just southwest of New York City, it was only 75 miles from Cret’s firm in Philadelphia, and Battle wanted Cret to oversee the design. The cost to produce the twelve cartouches was just under $1,400.

Above right: A terra cotta rendering of the University of Edinburgh seal.

Through the fall of 1932, sketches of the cartouches were prepared in Philadelphia, and then sent to Perth Amboy to be fashioned in terra cotta. They were installed in early March, 1933.

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Above: The process. From a drawing of the University of Virginia seal in Paul Cret’s office, to a rendering by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, to finished cartouche. 

“The university shields are now in place and as a whole have excited general admiration,” Battle wrote to Cret. “They give very attractive spots of color, and the designs in most cases can be made out well enough to understand them.” Unfortunately, the Salamanca, Virginia, and Vassar cartouches, “being all in one color, and that a dull one, can hardly be made out at all from the ground.” While not entirely colorless, most of the renderings for these three were a natural light grey, which made it difficult to see details. An oil-based paint was applied to brighten the hues and provide additional contrast.

On the Main Building, the university seals are arranged in order of the years they were founded.

Along the west side, from south to north:

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bolognaBologna (1088): The original seal of the University of Bologna (left) was pressed into hot wax to authenticate official documents, and its design was purposely intricate to discourage forgery. As it was too complicated to be easily understood as a cartouche, Cret and Battle opted to use the city of Bologna’s coat of arms instead.

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Paris (1200): Along with Bologna, Paris is one of Europe’s oldest universities. Here, the design was simplified. The flour-de-lis designs were eliminated to feature the “hand of God” delivering knowledge and wisdom from the heavens. Though the present University’s seal is blue and gold, Cret, a native Frenchman, used blue and red, the national colors of France.
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Oxford (1167): The Latin motto on the Oxford University seal on the open book is Dominus Illuminatio Mea – “The Lord is my light.” But look closely. The top left line reads “Domi,” and the second line “nus.” A slight error in the making of the cartouche has the top line “Dom” and the second “inus.”

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Salamanca (1230): In medieval Europe, the University of Salamanca, Spain was best known as a law school. The cartouche on the Main Building was the only attempt to stay true to the intricate design of the original university seal. Officially black and white, university colors were selectively applied to highlight the many details.

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Cambridge (1281): The Cambridge University coat of arms was granted in 1573 and consists of a red background and a cross of ermine fur between four gold lions. A book, placed horizontally with the spine at the top, is in the center.

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Heidelberg (1385): As with the University of Bologna, Heidelberg’s cartouche is a representation of the city’s coat of arms.

Along the east side, from north to south:

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Mexico (1553): The oldest in North America, the University of Mexico’s seal features the castle and lion, symbolic of the Spanish crown when Mexico was part of New Spain. It’s also seen on the Salamanca cartouche.

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Edinburgh (1583): The coat of arms for the University of Edinburgh features the blue, St. Andrew’s cross of Scotland with an open book of learning at the center, an image of Edinburgh Castle at the bottom, the thistle – the national flower of Scotland – at the top.

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Harvard (1636): The oldest university in the United States, Harvard’s motto – Veritas, or “Truth” – dates to 1643. At a New England regatta in 1858, Harvard crew members Benjamin Crownshield and Charles Elliot hurriedly supplied crimson bandanas to their teammates so that spectators could easily distinguish them in a race. Elliot was named Harvard’s 21st president in 1869, and served in that capacity for four distinguished decades. In 1910, the year after he retired, crimson was officially named the University’s color and added to the seal.

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Virginia (1819): Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia’s seal features an image of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, standing in front of the original mall and buildings of the campus, which Jefferson termed an “academical village.” As the seal was colorless, Cret’s office had to artistically add UVA’s orange and blue to the design.

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Michigan (1817): The University was founded in Detroit two decades before Michigan became a state, and its seal has been through several revisions. Currently all blue and maize, the description Battle received in 1932 included a red shield in the center. The design was simplified for artistic reasons – the sun and rays were eliminated – and the red shield became the predominant hue, though blue is still seen on the motto, Artes, Scientia, Veritas – Art, Science, Truth.

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Vassar (1861): Now co-educational, Vassar was founded as one of the first women’s colleges in the United States. The seal wasn’t approved by its Board of trustees until 1931, only a year before Battle requested a copy for use on the Main Building. The design features an image of Athena as the “patron of learning,” holding an olive branch as a symbol of civilization, and with a view of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in the distance. As with the Virginia seal, there were no colors yet assigned to it, though the College’s colors were unofficially rose and grey. Cret’s office had to make artistic decisions, and oil-based paint was used to color the cartouche.

Garrison Hall is 90!

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Above: Garrison Hall, just before it was opened in 1926.

This year, Garrison Hall is 90 years old. Nestled in the southeast corner of the Main Mall, peeking out from behind a canopy of live oaks, the building is often overlooked in favor of its better-known neighbors, Battle Hall and the UT Tower. But Garrison Hall is an architectural gem with a distinctive history, a treasure on the campus for those who take the time to explore it.

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Above: The University of Texas campus from University Avenue, circa 1920. 

In 1921, a crowded and growing University of Texas first acquired land beyond its original forty acres. A bill passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Pat Neff purchased property to the east and southeast. The campus tripled in size, and extended past Waller Creek.

The following year, the Board of Regents appointed Herbert Greene of Dallas as the University Architect. Greene succeeded Cass Gilbert, who had designed Battle and Sutton Halls, but because he was based in New York City, was a victim of mounting political pressure to have an in-state architect for the University. Greene was highly respected as a building designer, but his experience in campus planning was limited. In 1923, the regents recruited James White, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois, as the consulting architect who would provide an overall campus master plan.

White submitted his first campus scheme in fall of 1924. Eager to take advantage of the long, gently sloping hill that extended east into the new portion of the campus, White proposed a significant re-orientation of the campus, to face east instead of south toward downtown Austin, and designed a single mall, 175 feet wide, that connected the crest of the hill at the center of the Forty Acres – where the old Main Building stood and where the Tower is today – with Waller Creek at the bottom of the slope. Campus structures were arranged in a series of concentric rings that spread outward from the hilltop.

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Above: John White’s 1924 campus master plan, which would have emphasized an east-west orientation. On the left, Battle Hall would have been enlarged and become the focus of a large square, while a broad East Mall would have continued down the hill to the right toward Waller Creek. The football stadium is at the bottom right. Below: The future position of Garrison Hall is circled. It was changed to an L-shaped building to help define the edge of the central square and the East Mall. Click on an image for a larger version.

1924-white-campus-plan-garrison-hall-placementWhite envisioned the University Library (today’s Battle Hall) as the focus of the campus, removed the Old Main Building entirely, and replaced it with a large square plaza, 450 feet long on each side. The library was to be enlarged so that its façade was roughly three times the length of the original building, and would be centered on the plaza’s west side. Across the plaza on the east end, two buildings were planted as part of the first concentric ring and also intended to visually define the width of the mall.

Surprisingly, the Faculty Building Committee, the University President and the Board of Regents all approved this radical new design, with a few important alterations. The two buildings immediately to the east of the central plaza, instead of being part of a circle, were retooled as L-shaped structures. One was to be placed near the southeast corner of the plaza and face the library; its north-south wing would define the limit of the plaza, while it east-west wing would define the boundary of the mall. As its counterpart, another L-shaped building was intended to be near the northeast corner of the plaza.

Once White’s campus plan was ratified, the regents declared a new classroom building (and a new home for the history department) its top priority, and directed the building planned for the southeast corner of the plaza to be constructed first.

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Above: Garrison Hall seen from the UT Tower observation deck. 

Almost immediately, though, the administration began to have second thoughts. William Battle, Chair of the Faculty Building Committee, wrote to White, “The University has been facing Austin and the Capitol so long that it would not be easy to abandon this front even if it were thought desirable.” Within a year, the regents concurred, rescinded their decision, and asked White to try again. But the process for the new structure was well underway, and rather than wait for a new scheme, construction was allowed to continue. The building’s odd placement – it doesn’t line up with the entrance to Battle Hall or the flagpoles on the Main Mall – would be an issue for future campus planners.

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view-from-garrison-hall-1920sOpened in 1926 at a cost of $370,000, Garrison Hall was host to a collage of academic departments; English, government, psychology, sociology, philosophy, economics and history initially shared the facility, though the building was really always intended for history, and the other departments have since found lodgings elsewhere on campus. The building’s namesake, George P. Garrison, joined the University faculty in 1884, served as the first chair of the history department, and was a founding member of the Texas State Historical Association.

Above: The 1920s view of the campus from the north side of Garrison Hall. Old Main is on the right, with the library (Battle Hall) across the mall. Click on image for a larger version.

1925-garrison-hall-cornerstone-ceremonyThe cornerstone, as with the cornerstones of most of the buildings on the Forty Acres, is hollow, something like a permanently sealed time capsule. Among the objects placed inside: a 1925 Cactus yearbook; a catalog, course schedule, and student directory for the 1925-26 academic year; an alumni directory, copies of The Daily Texan; a souvenir “Book of Views” of the University; a source book on the history of Texas; and articles and letters authored by George Garrison.

Right: Images from the cornerstone ceremony in December 1925.

Along with its unusual location, Garrison’s ornamentation also represented a departure from earlier UT buildings. Classical icons adorn architect Cass Gilbert’s Battle and Sutton Halls. Owls, an ancient symbol of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, were placed under the eaves of Battle Hall, while Sutton Hall was decorated with scallop shells, emblematic of Venus, the Goddess of Truth and Beauty.

garrison-hall-longhorn-skull

garrison-hall-austin-windowGarrison Hall continued the same Mediterranean motif of Gilbert’s designs, constructed of Lauder limestone quarried from France, multi-colored bricks similar to Sutton Hall, and a red-tile roof imported from Spain. Its ornamentation, though, is unmistakably “Texan.” Limestone carvings of longhorn skulls, along with terra-cotta cacti and bluebonnets decorate the entrances. Imprinted below the eaves and corner windows are the names of founders of the Republic of Texas, among them: Houston, Austin, Burnet, Jones, Travis, and Lamar.

Above: The names of the founders of the Republic of Texas appear on the building, along with 32 cattle brands. Here is the “W” of the King Ranch.

Most striking are the 32 terra-cotta cattle brands, carefully chosen among hundreds of candidates, to represent various periods of the cattle industry in the State of Texas. Garrison Hall is the only college building anywhere to have cattle brands on its outer walls. The unusual choice received national press while the building was under construction.

garrison-hall-cattle-brands-st-louis-times-dispatch

Above: The inclusion of terra-cotta cattle brands on a college building to mark the history of the Texas cattle industry received national press. This is a clipping from the Saint Louis Times-Dispatch.

The idea came from Dr. William Battle, then chair of the Faculty Building Committee. Though he was, ironically, a professor of Greek and Classical Civilization, Battle claimed not to be “stuck on” classical icons for UT buildings, and suggested the use of images that pertained to the academic departments housed inside them.

garrison-hall-linoleum-tileInside, more than 3,500 square feet of linoleum tile was used in the extra-wide hallways. Greene advocated using “battleship green,” but Battle was concerned that the color wouldn’t hide the dirt, scuffing, and general wear as well, and preferred brown. In the end, a compromise was reached, and both colors were used. Rooms were equipped with ceiling fans, and a modern water cooling system was installed for the drinking fountains to make the un-air conditioned building bearable in the warmer months.

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garrison-hall-1930s

Once opened, the broad arched doorway on the north side of the building soon attracted a population of bats, and the attention of Goldwin Goldsmith, then the head of UT’s Department of Architecture and for whom Goldsmith Hall is named. A brief letter exchange between Goldsmith and Battle, found in the University Archives, reads:

October 28, 1931

To: Dr. William Battle, Chairman, Faculty Building Committee

Dear Dr. Battle:

I noticed that the north entrance to Garrison Hall is a harboring place for bats. It is evident to the senses of both sight and smell.

Goldwin Goldsmith

~~~~~

November 8, 1931

My dear Goldsmith:

Thanks for your letter about bats. I do not see how to protect entrances from these loathsome creatures, but Miss Gearing tells me that the Comptroller’s office has an excellent way of dealing with them. It is apparently by using fire extinguishing apparatus.

Yours very truly,

W.J. Battle

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Paul CretPaul Cret (photo at right), appointed in 1930 to replace James White as consulting architect, developed his own campus master plan, which included the Main Building and Tower, and attempted to resolve the issue of Garrison Hall’s placement. Born in Lyon, France and trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Cret has immigrated to the United States and oversaw the architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania when he was hired by UT. With an emphasis of straight lines and balanced masses, he placed the flagpoles on the Main Mall to line up with the entrance of Battle Hall.

To anticipate future growth, Cret suggested adding wings to existing structures, rather than construct new buildings in open areas that might disturb the layout of the campus. Garrison Hall was included in the idea. Though not implemented (at least, not yet), Cret envisioned a north wing to Garrison Hall that would allow its main entrance to be re-positioned where it would still be in the center of the front façade, and also line up with Battle Hall.

paul-cret-1933-master-plan-1

Above: A bird’s eye view of Paul Cret’s campus plan, with a close-up of the Main Mall. To plan ahead for growth, Cret advocated adding wings to the W.C. Hogg Building and Garrison Hall. This wouldn’t disturb the overall plan – actually, it better defined the start of the East Mall – but the wing to Garrison would also allow the front door to be moved to the north and centered with Battle Hall and the flag poles.

Below: A closer look at the W. C. Hogg Building on the left with a wing extending south, and Garrison Hall on the right with an addition to the north and its front entrance relocated.

cret-campus-plan-garrison-hall

Source: Detail from 1933 University of Texas Perspective of Future Development, The University of Texas Buildings Collection, The Alexander Architectural Archive, The University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

garrison_hall-burnet

The Great Jester Center Food Fight

John Belushi.Animal House

Above: “Food Fight!” shouts John Belushi as the irascible John “Bluto” Blutarsky in the film Animal House by Universal Pictures.

It was stress time. For UT students in the spring of 1982 – as it is today – the dreaded last week of classes was about as popular as an Oklahoma Sooner at a Longhorn tailgate. Professors smiled as they distributed yet another round of tests (Don’t forget your blue books!), semester-long projects and research papers were due, and final exams loomed just over the horizon. The harried inmates of Jester Center, the University’s largest and at the time only co-ed residence hall, were up at all hours and bleary-eyed, living off caffeine as they sprinted to the end of the academic year.

That’s when the flyers appeared.

They were everywhere. Posted along the hallways, in the elevators, on the bulletin boards, in the bathroom stalls, no one could miss them. And in those ancient and primitive times before email, the internet, and social media, flyers were one of the best ways to get the word out about something. Students took notice.

Food Fight Flyer“Don’t be left out in the cold. NOW’S THE TIME.” With great fanfare, the flyers announced the first annual John Belushi Memorial Food Fight, set for Thursday, May 6th on the second level of the Jester Cafeteria. Belushi, famous for his performance as the college degenerate John “Bluto” Blutarsky in the film Animal House, had died two months previously in early March.

A food fight?! In the Jester cafeteria? This didn’t seem like the usual program the dorm’s resident assistants (RAs) would organize. But there it was, plainly printed on the bottom right hand corner of the flyer: “Sponsored by the Jester Division of Housing and Food services.” That sounded official. And how thoughtful for the housing office to provide a way for students to let off a little steam before final exams.

Above: The infamous food fight flyer, created by cutting out words from magazines and newspapers, taping them to a sheet of paper, then running off copies at the nearest Xerox machine. Old school technology. Click on the image for a larger view.

Of course, the housing office had not organized, approved, sanctioned, endorsed, or in any way condoned a food fight in the cafeteria. Most of the flyers were removed post haste. Most, but not all. The RAs did their best to spread the word that food fights were a definite no-no. But college students, especially those cramming for tests, sometimes have selective hearing.

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Jester City LimitsToday, the Jester Center eatery is divided into two facilities. Downstairs, the Jester City Limits resembles a food court at a posh shopping mall, and offers a broad selection to satisfy the choosiest of appetites. (Check out today’s menu here.) Upstairs, “J2” is an all-you-can-eat buffet style cafeteria with an expansive salad bar. As college fare goes, today’s Housing and Food Services does an outstanding job.

In the early 1980s, though, Jester’s dining options were decidedly more limited. Students trudged through one of eight cafeteria lines – four on each floor – and chose between two entrees. One line on the second floor served greasy hamburgers as the lone culinary alternative. Around campus, the Jester potato balls were the stuff of legend, and everyone was wary of the unpredictable and mysterious effects of the Jester chili-mac.

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On the appointed day, a much larger crowd than usual gathered for dinner on the second floor. Some students arrived with umbrellas or in ponchos, even though it was a clear, sunny day. One couple unabashedly showed up in matching garbage bags with holes cut out for heads and arms. Everyone had an appetite, or at least their plates were full. The salad bar could barely keep up with the demand. Spectators loitered along the second floor open hallway outside the cafeteria, trying their best to look nonchalant even though they were three persons deep.

Tink! Tink! Tink! Tink! Tink! At precisely 5:30 p.m., the sound of a lone knife clinking against a glass was heard in the northwest corner, soon joined by others until a cacophony swelled through the dining hall. Heads were on swivels, eyes alert for a surprise attack. Once the first biscuit was launched, the armistice was over, and for one brief, shining moment, the Jester Center cafeteria was a scene from Animal House.

DT.1982.05.07.Jester Food Fight

Above: Headline in the Daily Texan.

Not an all-out battle, it was a quick series of skirmishes. Students dove under tables with their ammunition and then fired when they thought it safe. Chicken wings found flight one last time. A spoonful of corn became scatter shot. Garbonzo beans were surprisingly accurate. The crowd outside the dining hall roared with approval. Amidst the confusion, RAs braved the cross-fire and rushed to confiscate the student IDs of anyone doing more than just ducking for cover.

It was all over in a few minutes. Some of the participants faced stern disciplinary action with the Dean of Students, and at least one of the authors of the flyer was asked to take a semester off from the University and elected not to return. Why be in a food fight? “I couldn’t help it,” was the popular reply. “I was under the influence of Jester chili-mac.”

 

Remembering Old B. Hall

B Hall Color Postcard

 “You may tear down the Alamo, but never B. Hall!” – B. Hall Alumni Association

In the storied annals of Texas history, few places could ever compete with the spirit and lore of the Alamo. But for a select group of students who lived on the University of Texas campus from 1890-1926, the Alamo took a back seat to B. Hall.

Nestled on the eastern slope of the Forty Acres, within earshot of the ivy-draped old Main Building, Brackenridge Hall, or simply, “B. Hall,” was the University’s first residence hall. Opened December 1, 1890, it was intended to be an anonymous, unceremonious gift, a low-cost building to provide cheap housing for male students. But the gift of B. Hall grew to be much more.  For decades, the hall and its residents were central to campus life. A stronghold of student leadership, the birthplace of UT traditions, championed as a bastion of “Jeffersonian Democracy,” the hall sheltered future Rhodes Scholars, professors, philosophers, lawyers, physicians, state and national lawmakers, U. S. ambassadors, college presidents, a governor of Puerto Rico, and a Librarian of Congress. For a time the hall became so well-known nationally that letters addressed simply to “B. Hall, Texas,” were known to reach their destination. When it was finally razed in the 1950s, the legacy of the hall wasn’t simply a building and its donor. The gift that was B. Hall rested with the indelible contributions its residents had made to the University, and, later, to the world.

Ashbel SmithDormitories were not originally planned for the University. Ashbel Smith, the first chair of the Board of Regents (photo at left), was flatly opposed to them. “It is even worse than a pure waste of money. Nor should there be a college commons where students eat in mess. Experience is decisive on these points.” By experience, Smith knew of the raucous student rebellions that had plagued Harvard and Princeton and left their dorms in shambles, and of a violent incident at the University of Virginia in which a professor was shot and killed. All of these events involved young men housed together on the campus, which left many college authorities hesitant to build dorms. Cornell’s first president, Andrew White, hoped the hometown citizens of Ithaca, New York would provide room and board. White wrote in 1866, “Large bodies of students collected in dormitories often arrive at a degree of turbulence which small parties, gathered in the houses of citizens, seldom if ever reach.” Manasseh Cutler, a Massachusetts botanist who helped to settle Ohio and found Ohio University, was more direct: “Chambers in colleges are too often made the nurseries of every vice and cages of unclean birds.”

Old Main.1890

Above: In 1889, only two-thirds of the old Main Building was completed. The two children in the front are sitting among bluebonnets about where Sutton Hall is today.

As the University of Texas opened for its seventh academic year in the fall of 1889, enrollment exceeded 300 students for the first time, with almost two thirds of them men. As there was no campus housing, most students found room and board in private homes around Austin for about $25 per month. Additional costs included an annual matriculation fee of $10, a $5 library deposit, and the purchase of textbooks. Tuition for in-state students didn’t yet exist, so that a year at UT could easily be had for less than $300.

That might sound inexpensive, but the cost of living in Austin was too high for many college-aged youth in Texas. At the time, almost 90% of the state’s population was classified as rural, struggling against the Southern agricultural depression of the late 1880s. Poverty conditions were widespread among the farms and ranches of Texas, where eggs brought in just two cents per dozen, cotton netted four cents a pound, and a healthy steer earned five to eight dollars. Young men raised in these conditions, known as the “poor boys” of the state, sought a way out, and looked to the University as a promising opportunity for social mobility.

When the Board of Regents convened in February 1890, George Brackenridge, a wealthy San Antonio banker and University regent, offered up to $17,000 to build an economical residence hall for the state’s poor boys. He preferred to keep his donation anonymous and requested the building be named “University Hall.” His fellow regents, though, wanted to encourage a similar gift for a dormitory for women, and persuaded the reluctant donor to allow the building to be named for him. (They did, though it was from Brackenridge again.) Students would later shorten the name from Brackenridge Hall to simply “B. Hall.”

B Hall Original.1890

Above: The original B. Hall, opened in 1890. The house down the hill to the right sat along Speedway Street and would today be in the middle of the East Mall.

Completed on December 1, 1890, the original hall was a plain, no-frills structure, made from pressed yellow brick and limestone trim. Four stories tall, with simple bay windows and two front doors facing west, it better resembled a pair of low-cost city townhouses adrift on the Texas prairie.
1899 Cactus.Campus from 21st and Guadalupe

Above: The Forty Acres in the 1890s as seen from 21st and Guadalupe Streets. Old Main is in the middle of the campus, with B. Hall to the right.

Initially, Brackenridge Hall housed 48 men and could accommodate more than 100 persons in its ground floor restaurant, which doubled as the first campus-wide eatery. Rent was initially set at $2.50 per month for a room, and meals could be had for less than $10 monthly, half the usual cost of living in Austin by half.

1892 B Hall Menu

Above: The B. Hall menu for Thanksgiving Day, 1892. Check out the prices and the inside jokes with the quotations. Source: UT Memorabilia Collection, Box 4P158, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

A decade after it opened – thanks to another donation from George Brackenridge – the hall was renovated and expanded to house 124 students. Wings were added on the north and south ends, an open community room was built  above the top floor, and towers, turrets, and a red tin roof helped to improve its humble facade.

B Hall Color

Above: In 1899, wings were added to the north and south sides of original building.

B. Hall provided young men in Texas with limited finances the opportunity to attend the University. Many of them were the sons of pioneers, born in log cabins and raised with few luxuries. Practical, self-motivated, and individualistic, all of them were poor. Often equipped with a single change of clothes, some would ride into Austin on horseback, sell their horses, and use the money to help pay for a year’s stay. Almost all held part-time jobs while they were students.

What the hall’s residents lacked in pocket change, they more than made up for in character. From the Texas range they brought with them the best attributes of frankness and determination, and their shared economic status provided them with a common motivation. With limited opportunities to attend school in rural Texas, many had no high school diplomas. They had to prepare themselves for college-level classes and were conditionally admitted through examination. Ages varied from 18 to just over 30.

Sometimes shunned by more affluent UT students, the occupants of B. Hall developed their own fraternal, close-knit community. Academics were taken seriously. Most of the honors students, along with the University’s first Rhodes Scholars, lived in the hall. Professors were frequent guests for dinner and often stayed for the post meal “pow-wow,” held in the dining hall or in the shade on the east side of the building. For an hour or so at dusk each evening, faculty and students engaged in a lively conversation on current affairs, campus issues, or academic topics. “The student that missed the daily pow-wow,” wrote one B. Hall alumnus, “never knew what University life at its fullest really meant.”

B.Hall.1904.Engineering Roommates

Above: Two engineering roommates in B. Hall.

Strong friendships developed between the hall’s residents, as mutual support was always encouraged, and sometimes required. The University’s first visually impaired students lived in B. Hall, among them Olan Van Zandt, who graduated from the Texas School for the Blind to enroll in the law school. None of the texts were written in braille, and recordings weren’t available. Instead, Olan’s fellow denizens spent untold hours reading to him and reviewing torts, contracts, and equity.  Van Zandt graduated with honors and went on to serve in the Texas Legislature: four sessions in the House, and another four sessions in the Senate.

Eyes of Texas First VersionAlong with classes, B. Hall occupants took an active part in UT affairs, voted for themselves in student elections, and were recognized as campus leaders. Their contributions to the University were many and long lasting. The origins of The Eyes of Texas, Texas Taps (“Texas Fight”), student government, The Daily Texan, UT’s first celebration of Texas Independence Day, the Longhorn Band, and even the purchase of the steer that became the longhorn mascot Bevo are all connected to B. Hall. Three of the hall’s alumni: Dr. Harry Benedict, the first alumnus to be appointed UT president; Dr. Gene Schoch, a noted chemical engineering professor who founded the Longhorn Band; and Arno Nowonty, the immensely popular Dean of Student Life, have campus buildings named for them.

Above left: The original lyrics of The Eyes of Texas, written on a scrap of laundry paper in room 203 of B. Hall by John Lang Sinclair.

1901 Cactus.Varsity Band

Above: In 1900, Gene Schoch purchased 16 musical instruments at a downtown Austin pawn shop, and then recruited a group of B. Hall residents to form what is today the Longhorn Band.

While most college dorms were heavily supervised by campus administrators, UT officials allowed the hall’s denizens to largely manage themselves. While there was a hired steward to look after finances, the students created their own B. Hall Association, wrote a constitution and by-laws, and enacted their own regulations. A suit and tie was required dress for all meals, musical instruments could only be played between 1-2 pm. and 5-7:30 p.m., and card playing was expressly prohibited.

Rusty Cusses.1908

Above: The Rustic Order of Ancient and Honorable Rusty Cusses was a very non-serious social club of B. Hall men who hailed from farms and ranches around Texas. Several campus organizations were born within the confines of B. Hall, including the Texas Cowboys and the Tejas Club.

That doesn’t mean life in the hall was all serious business. With little money for entertainment, the hall’s occupants often had to create their own diversions, and a favorite pastime was staging elaborate practical jokes.  One student discovered he was a great voice impersonator and, pretending to be University President Sidney Mezes, called professors and instructed them to “be at my house tonight at 8 to discuss a serious matter.” Harried faculty members showed up unexpectedly at Dr. Mezes’ front door. Another B. Haller physically masqueraded as the UT president and registered most of the freshmen with fake papers, which resulted in a very interesting first day of class. A lost donkey was led into the women’s dorm as a late night gift on Halloween. In search of a new morning wake-up alarm, some hall residents “borrowed” a bell from the Fulmore School in South Austin. When a few B. Hallers tricked the Texas Legislature into officially inviting a world famous pianist to the State Capitol to “sing” his most famous piece, the incident created national headlines. As Engineering Dean Thomas Taylor, a regular guest at the hall, once remarked, “Barely a week passed by that some freakish cuss did not spring something entirely original, and not half of it ever got into the newspapers or magazines.” Many of the antics became legendary and the stories were passed along to succeeding generations of students.

After graduation, when the “poor boys” of B. Hall had completed their hard won degrees, they set out to make to the most of their education. Along with an impressive list of professors, lawyers, judges, authors, state legislators, engineers, and physicians, the alumni roster included a Librarian of Congress, a governor of Puerto Rico, multiple U.S. ambassadors,  Morris Sheppard and Ralph Yarborough as U.S. Senators, and Sam Rayburn as Speaker of the House.

Most of the alumni maintained a lifelong, cherished attachment to the hall, often visited when they were in Austin, and were welcome guests. Prodded by the current occupants to tell stories of the “old times,” alumni shared their UT adventures, along with their experiences after graduation, and in the process inspired the generation of students.

B. Hall from Main Building.1945By the 1920s, as University enrollment surpassed 4,000 students, B. Hall was still the only on campus men’s dorm. Though it was no longer a designated refuge for the “poor boys” of the state, it was still less expensive than other housing options and in high demand. The hall’s popularity meant that most rooms went to upperclassmen or older students, who were solid academically and already involved as campus leaders.

Above left: Where on campus was B. Hall? This photo, taken from the Tower observation deck in the 1940s, shows the hall straddled what today is the East Mall. Immediately behind the building is Waggener Hall and Gregory Gym, with the stadium in the upper left.

However, the building itself was in the way of future campus development. In 1925, the Board of Regents decided that B. Hall was too close to Garrison Hall – then under construction – to remain a dormitory. Garrison was to be a co-ed classroom building. According to the regent’s minutes, “young women should not be required to attend classes in full view of the bedrooms of men, particularly in a dormitory where freedom in matters of clothing is well-known.” Alumni of the hall loudly protested, organized into a formal B. Hall Alumni Association, and threatened legal action. (The Association’s president was, appropriately, Walter Hunnicutt, the composer of the “Texas Fight!” song.) Before the situation became too tense, University officials and alumni settled on a compromise: the current B. Hall could be re-purposed if a new Brackenridge Hall was built on a more appropriate site.

The hall was closed in 1926, renovated, and served, among other things, as the first home of the School of Architecture until it moved into more spacious quarters at Goldsmith Hall. In 1932, a new Brackenridge residence hall was formally dedicated on 21st Street.

Brackenridge Dorm.1930s.

Above: A new Brackenridge Hall was opened in 1932, just south of Gregory Gym.

B Hall was finally razed in 1952 to clear the way for the East Mall. As it was being demolished, the contractor did his best to satisfy the many requests from alumni for specific bricks, doors, floorboards, and other pieces of the building. Former Austin Mayor Walter Long also ensured that some parts of the hall were kept and preserved by the University. One of those pieces, a decorative pediment from the roof, spent decades in storage at the Pickle Research Center, but has been restored and is now on display in Jester Center, just outside the auditorium.

B Hall Pediment.

Above: it’s still possible to see a piece of old B. Hall. A decade ago, the author discovered a decorative piece from the building in a warehouse at UT’s Pickle Research Center in north Austin, sitting on top of a pile of dusty boxes that contained the clock from the old Main Building (upper left). Thanks to funding from the UT Division of Housing and Food and the Texas Exes, the six foot tall piece was restored and is now hanging in Jester Center (above center), complete with a story board. The piece comes from the top floor of B. Hall (upper right, highlighted in brown).

1900. B Hall from Speedway

The University’s First Thanksgiving

UT Campus.Mid 1890s.

Above: The University of Texas campus in the early 1890s, seen from the corner of 21st and Guadalupe Streets. An unpaved Guadalupe runs along the bottom of the image. On the campus, from left: the Chemistry Labs (where the biological ponds are today); two-thirds of the old Main Building, not completed until 1899; and old B. Hall (near the present day intersection of Inner Campus Drive and the East Mall). The campus was surrounded by a wooden fence to keep out the town cows.

Thanksgiving has always been on the University calendar. A national holiday since 1863, celebrated on the last Thursday in November, the Board of Regents has dutifully ordered a suspension of classes for the day since UT opened in 1883. At the time, the University followed the quarter system. The fall quarter usually started in mid-September and classes were held six days a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday). Thanksgiving was the first opportunity for a break in the academic routine, though it only lasted a day. Classes resumed on Friday.

Students from Austin spent the day with their families. Out-of-towners either took the train home if it wasn’t too far, or celebrated together at their boarding houses or local restaurants. For its first seven years, UT had no residence or dining halls; the Forty Acres was a quiet, lonely place on Thanksgiving.

B Hall Original.1890On December 1, 1890, the University opened Brackenridge Hall, known on campus simply as “B. Hall.” A $17,000 gift from San Antonio Regent George Brackenridge, the building (photo at left) was intended to provide inexpensive housing for the state’s poor boys, who otherwise couldn’t afford to come to Austin and attend the University. A no frills structure, built from yellow pressed brick and limestone trim, it better resembled a pair of city slum houses adrift on the Texas prairie. Rent for a room was $2.50 per month. Expanded and improved a decade later, B. Hall became legendary. A stronghold of student leadership, the Hall was the birthplace of many UT traditions and campus organizations, including: the Longhorn Band, The Daily Texan, Student Government, The Eyes of Texas, Texas Cowboys, and the Tejas Club.

While the upper floors were student rooms, the ground floor of the hall housed a restaurant. Designed to accommodate more than 100 patrons, it was the University’s first campus-wide eatery. Outfitted with oak tables and chairs, tablecloths, heavy china plates and bowls, utensils, and glassware, each table was provided with salt and pepper shakers, sugar, cream, and a porcelain pitcher filled with water. A popular prank was to add a few minnows from Waller Creek to a pitcher. Waiters, usually B. Hall residents working their way through school, delivered meals from a fully stocked and staffed kitchen on the north side of the hall. Food was modestly priced. A student could eat well for $5.00 per month.

B. Hall.1890s

Above: B. Hall residents assemble for a group portrait in the 1890s.

AAS.1891.11.26.University Thanksgiving HeadlineThe following year, November 26, 1891, the first Thanksgiving Day meal was served in B. Hall. As most of the residents were too poor to afford a train ticket home, the hall’s steward, Harry Beck, had a feast prepared and a special menu printed on 4 ½ x 7 inch cards. Though the menu has not survived, it was published in the Austin Statesman.

B Hall.1891 Thanksgiving Menu

Above: The menu for the first Thanksgiving Day feast served on the Forty Acres, re-typed from an issue of the Austin Statesman. (The original version, found on microfilm, was difficult to read.)  Look close! B. Hall Steward Harry Beck had some fun with the listings. Do you recognize everything?

  • ConsommeA flavored, clear broth soup.
  • Oleaginous Porcine with Apple Sauce“Oleaginous” is a word for “greasy,” while “Porcine” is to resemble a pig. This is really roast pork with apple sauce.
  • Crushed Hiberian SpudsHiberia is an island off the coast of Ireland. These are mashed Irish potatoes.
  • Baked Convolvulus BatatasA botanical reference to sweet potatoes.
  • Punk-In-PiYou guessed it. Pumpkin Pie.

At 1 p.m. in the afternoon, about 55 hungry UT students, mostly B. Hall residents and a few others, enjoyed a full Thanksgiving Dinner. According to several accounts, “all spoke in praise of the excellent fare.” A round of speeches and toasts followed the feast, including a special tribute for Harry Beck. “He was warmly cheered by the boys and his sentiments of friendship were greatly appreciated by them.” The festivities continued through most of the afternoon.

Our “Hook ’em” Hand Sign is 60!!

Harley Clark. 2013 Gone to Texas. Marsha Miller

Above: Harley Clark, flashing the Hook ‘em Horns hand sign at the 2013 Gone To Texas freshman convocation. Harley passed away in October 2014. Photo by Marsha Miller

1955FootballScheduleHarley Clark loved to tell the story. It was the second week of November, 1955, and the University of Texas football team, “high on brain power, but low on brute force,” was preparing for an important contest against the 6th ranked TCU Horned Frogs. The game was to be played in Austin on Saturday afternoon, November 12th, at the usual 2 p.m. kick-off.

The UT squad hadn’t fared all that well. Though Memorial Stadium had just been outfitted with lights and night games were played for the first time, the team was 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the Southwest Conference. But league front runner Texas A&M was on probation for recruiting violations and not eligible for post-season play. If Texas could pull a mighty upset over TCU and then win out, the Longhorns would spend New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The week before the game, Texas fans did all they could to support the team. Signs were hung on the Texas Union. Impromptu football rallies were held almost every night in front of Hill Hall (later expanded to Moore-Hill), the residence for most of the athletes. The red candle tradition was employed. First used in 1941 to “hex” the Texas Aggies, candles burned brightly in store windows along the Drag, in offices downtown, and in homes all over Austin. Local businesses found it difficult to keep red candles in stock.

Harley Clark for Head Yell Leader

Above: To campaign for the Head Yell Leader spot, Harley distributed cards that fellow students pinned on their shirts.

At the center of all this activity was Harley Clark, who’d been elected Head Yell Leader in a campus-wide election the previous April. In the 1950s, the position was highly prized. The Head Yell Leader was responsible for the health and well-being of the Texas Longhorn spirit, and Harley took the assignment seriously.

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Harley Clark.Head CheerleaderA government major, Harley and his trademark crew cut was an easy figure to spot on the Forty Acres. He seemed to be involved in everything: gymnastics team, Texas Union committees, freshman orientation, Friar Society, Texas Cowboys, and the Tejas Club, his home base, where he roomed with his close friend (and future Austin mayor) Frank Cooksey. Harley would eventually be elected student body president – the first to serve while enrolled in grad school – and earn three UT degrees, a BA and MA in government, as well as a law degree.

Elected Head Yell Leader at the end of his sophomore year, Harley spent part of the summer of ’55 backpacking through Europe with fellow UT student Speed Carroll. Occasionally, the two would write or phone their whereabouts to family and friends in Austin, and Willie Morris, then editor of The Daily Texan, would report on their adventures in the newspaper. “The Eiffel Tower,” said Harley, “is taller that UT’s and has the added attraction of being quite free of English professors.” Along with taking in the sights of the Old Country, Harley was also hatching plans for the upcoming fall term. The stadium, he thought, was far too quiet during football games, and he wanted to do something to boost the decibel level.

Personal Megaphones

Above: Ten-inch plastic megaphones were distributed at the Texas vs. Baylor game. Fans used them for the rest of the season.

On their way back to Austin, Harley and Speed first stopped in New York, and, not yet recovered from jet lag and without making any appointments, spent two days pestering every advertising company they could find along Madison Avenue. They were looking for a company to sponsor ten-inch plastic megaphones to be distributed at a football game. If the fans had their own megaphones, Harley reasoned, the stadium would certainly be a little louder. Just before they had to push on to Austin, Old Gold Cigarettes (It was the 1950s, remember.) agreed to provide 10,000 orange and white personal megaphones with the company logo printed on the front. The order didn’t arrive until the Baylor game in early November, but they were a big hit with the students and were used for the rest of the season.

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1955.UT Cheerleaders

The official Texas vs. TCU football rally was set for Friday evening, November 11, 1955 in Gregory Gym. A torchlight parade of several thousand students, led by a Dixieland Band on a flat-bed truck, set out from the northwest corner of campus, marched south on Guadalupe, then east on 21st Street to the gym. There was rousing music by the Longhorn Band (with its newly acquired “world’s largest bass drum,” dubbed Big Bertha), yells by the cheerleaders, and spirited talks by Dean of Students Arno Nowotny, Head Coach Ed Price and Team Captains Herb Gray, Johnny Tatum, and Menan Schriewer. Then, at the end of program, Harley decided to introduce something new.

A few days earlier, while in the Texas Union, Harley was talking with classmate Henry “HK” Pitts, who suggested that the hand sign with the index and little fingers extended, looked a bit like a longhorn, and might be fun to do at rallies and football games. The Texas Aggies had their “Gig ‘em” thumbs-up sign, inspired while playing the TCU Horned Frogs. With the TCU game coming up on Saturday, why can’t Texas fans have their own hand signal?

TCURallyHookEm

 Above: The Moment. The “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign is shown for the first time in Gregory Gym. At the lower left, someone is trying out the new signal for themselves. The head at the lower right belongs to Longhorn Band Director Vince DiNino. 

Harley liked the idea, and decided to introduce it at Gregory Gym rally. He demonstrated the sign to the crowd, and promptly declared, “This is the official hand sign of the University of Texas, to be used whenever and wherever Longhorns gather.” The students and cheerleaders tried it out (some seemed to have it backwards), and Harley led a simple yell, “Hook ‘em Horns!” with hands raised.

Immediately after the rally, Harley was confronted by a furious Dean Nowotny. “How could you say the hand sign was official?” the dean wanted to know. “Has this been approved by the University administration?” Harley admitted that the idea hadn’t been approved first, but the cat was already out of the bag – or the longhorn was already loose in the pasture.

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Sometimes, when recounting the story, Harley said that Dean Nowotny also demanded, “Do you know what this means in Sicily?!!” Or Italy. Or Europe. I asked Harley if it were true, did Nowotny really saythat, and Harley admitted that it was the only embellishment he added, mostly just to get a laugh from his audience. For accuracy’s sake, while Nowonty was unhappy that Harley hadn’t first cleared the idea of an “official” hand sign with the administration, the reference to Sicily, didn’t actually happen.

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The next day at the football game, the student section practiced what they had learned the night before, and the alumni were quick to follow. By the end of the game, the stadium was full of “Hook ‘em Horns” hand signs. And while TCU won the day (47-20) the University of Texas had a new tradition it would cherish for decades to come.

AAS.1959.11.13.Hook em.TCU Game - Copy

Above: A 1959 issue of the Austin Statesman. The “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign hand already become a well-established UT tradition.

The Longhorns’ Secret Weapon

Texas Cal Cheerleaders.1961

Above: UT alumnus Bill Bates (fourth from left) and the cheerleaders he recruited for the 1961 Texas vs. Cal football game in Berkeley. Oh my…

Texas Cal Helmets

The 1961 Texas Longhorns were ranked 4th nationally as they prepared for their season opener against the Cal Golden Bears. Expectations were high, but both head coaches – Mark Levy for Cal and Darrell Royal for Texas – knew very well that first games often came with surprises.

Texas fans, excited about their prospects, planned to be at California Memorial Stadium in droves. The UT alumni association chartered its first ever football excursion. A package price of just under $200 included round-trip airfare, two nights stay at a San Francisco hotel, ground transportation to Berkeley, and a ticket to the game. Also scheduled was a pre-game reception at Cal’s Alumni House. UT alumni president John Holmes was so taken by the facility, it inspired him to spearhead an effort to build an alumni center in Austin, which opened in 1965. (See: The Alumni Center Turns 50!)

1961 Cheerleaders

Above: Five of the members of the 1961 UT cheerleading team.

Notably missing from the game, however, were the Longhorn Band and Texas cheerleading squad. At the time, there simply weren’t enough funds in the athletic department’s coffers to help fly the students out to the Golden State. This meant that UT fans would be, well, leaderless, as far as cheering was concerned.

920x920Enter Bill Bates.Originally from Tyler, Texas, Bates transferred to UT for his junior and senior years, 1949-1951. An art major, he had classes with Fess Parker (who would become famous as Disney’s Davy Crockett as well as the Daniel Boone TV series), and for a time dated Cathy Grandstaff, the future Mrs. Bing Crosby. A UT cheerleader, Bates was also a artist for The Daily Texan. He would later travel the world as artist-in-residence for Royal Viking Cruise Ships, then settle in Carmel, California as a cartoonist for the local Carmel Pine Cone. Twice Bates was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He passed away in 2009, survived by his wife and daughter.

In 1961, the 31-year old Bates was just getting his start as a cartoonist for The San Francisco Examiner, and was very disappointed that the UT cheerleaders wouldn’t be present for the all important Texas vs. Cal game. What to do? What any resourceful Texas Longhorn would do, of course. Get replacements. And not some run-of-the-mill substitutes, either. Just as UT strives to be a university of the first class, Bates went looking for the best stand-in cheerleaders he could find.

365 ClubBates was a regular at Bimbo’s 365 Club (photo at left), a nationally known San Francisco nightclub. Founded in 1931 by Italian immigrant Agostino Giuntoli – nicknamed “Bimbo” by friends who had trouble pronouncing his name. (Unlike the current American slang, “bimbo” comes from the Italian “bambino,” a young boy. The nickname was fairly common.) The 365 Club was a place to see and be seen through much of the 20th century. Hollywood celebrities were frequent customers. Rita Cansino, better known as the actress Rita Hayworth, was discovered there. Now more than 80 years old, the 365 Club continues to thrive in downtown San Francisco.

In the 1960s, among its varied nightclub acts, the Club was also known for its leggy chorus line, something like the New York Rockettes. Bates spoke with Bimbo about his problem, a deal was made, and Bates hired six members of the chorus line to be substitute UT cheerleaders for a day.

The weather was perfect for the 1:30 p.m. kick-off on Saturday, September 23, 1961. Clear, sunny California skies and 70 degrees greeted the 41,500 fans at Cal Stadium. Exactly how Bates won permission to bring his cheerleading squad into the stadium isn’t known, but the girls lined up in front of the Texas fans in white, low-neck dresses and high heels, and, having practiced with Bates beforehand, began to lead the crowd in traditional UT yells.

LA Tiimes.1961 HeadlineA football game was taking place on the field, but a good many fans – and players – were more than a little distracted by the spectacle on the sidelines. “University of Texas rooters more or less disrupted the Cal – Texas football game Saturday by hiring a half dozen chorus girls from a San Francisco night club to act as cheerleaders,” reported The Los Angeles Times (photo right). “The girls, scantily clad in lowcut playsuits and wearing high heels, attracted nearly as much attention from the fans as did the football players.During the times-out and half-time ceremonies, thousands of binoculars stayed glued on the field to watch the girls,” which likely included the reporter. “At halftime a mob scene developed where the dancers were sitting as thousands of college students gathered around just to look.”

As the Longhorn offense began to take control of the game, The Dallas Morning News related, “There wasn’t much for the California partisans to cheer and they spent a good bit of the time ogling Bimbo’s sextet, even though the girls were ostensibly leading the cheering of a band of Texans who came here to root the Longhorns home.” The Austin Statesman called the group “Texas’ Twelfth Man” and Bate’s “secret weapon . . . The strategy worked fine.” United Press International (UPI) snapped a few photos and sent the story out on the news wires. National television newscasts discussed it on their nighttime broadcasts, and Sports Illustrated mentioned it in its next issue.

UPI Image.Texas Cal Cheerleaders.1961

Above: Not the best quality image (it’s from microfilm), but one of the UPI photos and cutlines sent out on newswires across the country.

Oh, and the game? The Texas Longhorns overwhelmed the Golden Bears, 28 – 3.

1950s Football Flare

UT Football Pin 1950s

When it’s time for kick-off, how do you show your team colors? Football fashions have been around as long as, well, football itself. In the 1880s and 1890s, fans going to a game pinned colored ribbons to their lapels to show which team they supported, though the guys often sported longer ribbons to be sure they’d have extra to share with a pretty girl who had none.

By the 1950s, ribbons were still being worn, though though they were more popular with the co-eds. Some were solid color ribbons attached with a team button (see photo at left), and perhaps decorated with “football charms” – tiny footballs, helmets, megaphones, or trophies.

At the University of Texas, paper ribbons printed with a catchy phrase about the day’s opponent were also popular. Pinned to a shirt or blouse, the ribbons were simply strips cut from a regular 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. The University Co-op sponsored the printing costs, and the ribbons were distributed in front of the entrances of the stadium as fans arrived for the game. Below is a sampling from the 1950s and 60s. (Click on an image for a larger view.)

Ribbon Image 1

Above, from left. Paper ribbons used for home games against Texas A&M, when the annual Thanksgiving Day game was often billed as the Tea-Sips vs. the Farmers, rather than Longhorns and Aggies; Oklahoma Sooners (Who else?); Rice Owls; and the TCU Horned Frogs. The “T” and longhorn logo at the bottom was used for only a few years in the early 1950s. The “yelling Bevo” icon was first appeared in 1953. 

Ribbon Image 2

Above, from left. An early 1950s ribbon for a Texas Tech game; from the 1964 Texas vs. Army bout in Memorial Stadium (UT won 17-6.); Oklahoma State was a non-conference opponent in 1963, when Texas went undefeated and claimed its first national football championship; in 1953, third ranked Baylor came to Austin, but UT students had been burning red candles to hex the Bears. Baylor fell 21-20.

Ribbon Image 3

Above, from left. Click on an image for a larger view, and you can still see the holes at the top where the ribbons were pinned. These are from the 1950s and 60s for games against Oklahoma, as well as Southwest Conference opponents Rice, Baylor, and Arkansas.

1955 UT Image

How to Build a Tower

Image

Main Building and Littlefield Fountain

It’s the Tower, the definitive landmark of the University. For more than three-quarters of a century, it has quietly watched over the daily campus bustle, breaking its silence every quarter hour to remind everyone of the passing of the day. Bathed in warm orange lights to announce honors and victories, crowned in fireworks at the climax of spring commencement ceremonies, it’s been a backdrop for freshman convocations, football rallies, concerts, and demonstrations. Architect Paul Cret intended it to be the “image carried in our memory when we think of the place,” though author J. Frank Dobie, incensed that a state so rich in land would build something better suited to New York City, branded it a “toothpick in a pie.” While academia has sometimes been called a metaphorical “ivory tower,” the University of Texas doesn’t settle for expressive substitutes. We have a tower all our own.

Old Main Library.1902.The Main Building with its 27-story Tower was to be the long-term solution to a problem that had plagued the Board of Regents for decades: how to increase the size of the library. The University library was initially housed on the first floor of the old Main Building (Photo at right. Click for a larger view.), but as its holdings increased, the space needed for additional bookshelves literally squeezed the students out of the reading room. The problem was temporarily relieved with the construction of a separate library building in 1911 (now Battle Hall), but by 1920, its quarters were again hopelessly overcrowded. A new library was needed, but where to place it?

1908 Postcard.Old Main with bluebonnets

Above: The old Main Building, surrounded by Texas Bluebonnets in the spring.

While the crest of the hill at the center of the Forty Acres was the obvious best setting for such a monumental building, it would have meant the destruction of the Victorian-Gothic Old Main. As the first structure on the campus, it was the sentimental favorite of both of faculty and alumni, and its offices and classrooms couldn’t be easily moved elsewhere. There simply wasn’t room.

Proposals included the addition of a new library north of Old Main, or, perhaps, to the south, where it would have sat in the middle of today’s South Mall and prevented the development of a grand main entrance to the University. A third scheme was to expand the existing library, double the size of the front façade, and add a 16-story tower for book stacks. All of the proposals either placed the library in an inconvenient spot or were too expensive.

Paul CretIn 1930, the Board of Regents hired Paul Cret as Consulting Architect for the University. Born in in 1876 in Lyon, France, Cret had graduated from the Ecole des Beaux Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris, at the time considered to be the world’s best university for architecture instruction. He immigrated to the United States early in the 20th century and was the head of the School of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania when he was agreed to take on the consulting position for UT. Cret was to design a new master plan for the campus, and among his first priorities was the solution for a new library.

Cret quickly realized that the library belonged on the top of the hill, and as he developed his master plan, the library building became the focal point of his designs. Because the plan was to be a guide for campus construction over several decades, Cret proposed building the library in parts, both to reduce costs – especially important during the 1930s and the time of the Great Depression –  and ease the pain over the removal of Old Main.

The back, lower half of the building was to be constructed immediately. It required only the destruction of the little-used north wing of Old Main, and a hallway would connect both structures. Officially it was to be known as the “library annex,” though at some point in the future it would assume the role as the primary University library. It was important for Cret to get at least part of the building on top of the hill, as it was the lynch pin for the rest of his plans.

Cret imagined that after 20 years or so – in the 1950s – when additional structures had been built to compensate for any space lost with the destruction of Old Main, UT’s first building could be finally retired, and the South façade and stack tower added to complete the library.

Main Building Construction.1.

Above: The back, lower part of the current Main Building was completed first, in 1934. Officially named the “library annex,” it was connected to Old Main, which can be see on the right. The Life Sciences Library, along with the Hall of Texas and the Hall of Noble Words, is still here.

The Board of Regents approved the plan in 1933, and construction for the north annex was finished the following year. It boasted a new Loan and Catalogue Room, also known as the Hall of the Six Coats of Arms. Two stories high, framed in marbles from West Texas, New York, Vermont, and Missouri, with walnut doors and screens, and illuminated by bronze light fixtures, the room featured the coats of arms of the six nations of which Texas has been a part: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States, and the United States.

Hall of Noble Words.2Two spacious reading rooms were placed on either side of the Catalogue Room. To the east was the Hall of Noble Words. (Photo at left.) The ceiling featured a series of heavy concrete beams painted to look like wood. Each side of a beam was decorated with quotes within a specific theme, among them: friendship, patriotism, freedom, wisdom, and truth. It was hoped that the students studying below would occasionally glance upward and be inspired by the exhortations above them. The Hall of Texas opened to the west. The beams here depicted periods of Texas settlement and history, from the times of Native Americans up to the opening of the University. While the Plant Resources Center takes up part of the Hall of Texas, it and the Hall of Noble Words are still open to the public, used by UT students for almost eight decades.

Main Building Construction.2..

Above: In the summer and fall of 1934, Old Main was demolished, and by the following January, steam shovels had arrived to dig out a foundation for the new Main Building’s facade. Battle Hall can be seen on the left and the West Mall in the distance. From the Alexander Architecture Archive.

Once completed, the library annex was to have hidden behind Old Main for decades. But as the Great Depression worsened, UT sought ways to minimize the number of unemployed in Austin. The University’s ever-growing building program brought with it construction jobs that helped soften the economic blow. Robert Leon White, an alumnus who was also the University’s Supervising Architect, approached UT President Harry Benedict about finishing the library sooner. Money through the Available University Fund wasn’t available, but White wanted to apply for a loan through the newly created Public Works Administration, one of many New Deal programs initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt. Benedict was skeptical, but allowed White to try.

Main Building Construction.3.

Above: With Old Main razed, work begins in front of the “library annex.” This was the view from Battle Hall on a cold, cloudy day in January 1935. Boardwalks were constructed for students to change classes. From the Alexander Architecture Archive.

White filed an application with the PWA for a $2.8 million loan, $1.8 million to complete what was labeled the Main Building and Library Extension, and the rest for three men’s and three women’s residence halls. White was optimistic, in part, because one of his childhood friends was Tully Garner, son of then Vice President John Garner from Uvalde. Using these connections, White arranged a meeting with the vice president for him and Beauford Jester, chair of the Board of Regents. The meeting was a positive one, and Garner agreed to give his support to the University’s application.  A few months later, UT received the funds it needed, and the early completion of the University’s new Main Building and Tower was guaranteed.

Main Building Construction.4.

Above: With work well underway in front of the Main Building, the Tower, which will serve as the book stacks for the library, begins to rise from the one-time “library annex.” From the Alexander Architecture Archive.

The formal dedication ceremony was held Saturday, February 27, 1937. President Benedict, and Regents Beauford Jester and Lutcher Stark made appropriate remarks. A sealed box filled with papers pertaining to the construction of the new Main Building was placed inside a cornerstone next to the south entrance in the building’s loggia.

Main Building Construction.5.

Above: By the end of 1935, the Main Building and its Tower are taking shape. From the Alexander Architecture Archive.

Designed as a closed-stack library, the Tower was intended to store the University’s general collections. Sheathed in Indiana Limestone, its infrastructure was built by the Snead Stack Company of New Jersey. Patrons entered the building through the south loggia, climbed one flight up the central staircase, and entered the Catalogue Room. After searching an immense card catalog, readers requested books at the front desk. Orders were then forwarded upstairs to a Tower librarian, who often navigated the rows of bookshelves in roller skates. Once found, books were sent downstairs in a special elevator, then to the main desk to be checked out. Newspapers and magazines were stored on the ground floor, and special collections, including rare books and Latin-American literature, were housed in separate rooms in the building. For a while, it was informally dubbed the Mirabeau B. Lamar Library, but the name wasn’t very popular. Students and faculty preferred a remembrance to Old Main that had once inhabited the spot, and simply called the library the new Main Building.

Main Building Construction.8.

Above: Exactly one year away from its dedication, the Tower is more than halfway complete. From the Alexander Architecture Archive.

Main Building.Littlefield Fountain.1938

Above: Officially opened on February 27, 1937, the Main Building and Tower served as the University Library until the 1960s, when higher enrollment and greater usage meant more than a half hour wait to retrieve a book from the Tower stacks. In 1964, the Undergraduate Library – today’s Flawn Academic Center – was opened with direct access to the bookshelves. 

Photo credits: Many of the images in the post come from the University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archive, University of Texas Libraries.