In the course of looking for something else, I came across some great evidence in my mule housing mystery. We have a collection of “Rice Special Occasion” photographs that came from the Baker family. Most, but not all, of these are Commencement pictures.
The one that caught my eye is a picture of the ground clearing in preparation for the construction of the Chemistry Building in July, 1923. If you click on it, you’ll see not only a pretty impressive number of mules but also a farm house and several outbuildings behind them. (You can also see that this photo has been folded in half at some point. It’s a really big picture, too wide to reproduce here. The other half shows more mules and a very empty landscape.)
I felt a moment of elation, but began to wonder again almost immediately. The first issue to deal with is that I can’t really tell what angle this picture is taken from. There aren’t any landmarks that I can use to identify the spot. But it occurred to me that because this is clearly so close to the main part of campus, there are likely to be other photos where you can get a glimpse of these buildings. Sure enough, in this picture of the 1918 Commencement you can clearly see them in the background if you click to enlarge right over the top of the car parked on the left. They look to be roughly where the Mudd Building is today.
So, is this the house with sheds referred to in the 1933 waiver agreement? I don’t think so but I’m not completely sure. The first thing that bothered me is that the blueprint with the map of the outbuildings describes a “little house,” a one-story office with living quarters and an open shed attached. The house in this picture is a big old farmhouse. Second, another waiver allowing a Buildings and Grounds worker to live in the “little house” has turned up in the “Sundry Contracts” file, this one dated in the early 1940s. (It makes no mention of mules, however.)
But if I go back to the early aerial photo of campus, which we figured was taken in the early 1930s, and zoom in behind the Chemistry Building none of it is there. It looks as if the site has only been cleared recently and you can still see what’s left of a driveway, but the buildings are gone.
So, I’m still thinking about this. Any ideas?