RMC Decor

I ran across a wonderful picture today. It was taken in 1970 at what seems to have been some kind of alumni reception in the RMC. I was, as always, first interested in the people–I’m pretty well acquainted with a couple of them and it’s always fun to see photos of people from before I knew them.

Then I began to notice the surroundings. This spot is right inside the main entrance to the building–the entrance to the Grand Hall is visible off to the left. I love the furniture, but it’s the art work behind the subjects that’s really eye-catching. I ran into Rice’s architectural historian, Stephen Fox, on my way home tonight and I asked him about it. It turns out to be a pretty remarkable creation, discs of heavy, fused colored glass held together with fasteners and suspended from the ceiling like a curtain. It was made by a husband and wife team, Mary Stewart and Michael Higgins, who were working with the Dearborn Glass Company in Chicago at the time the RMC was built. A successor company, Higgins Glass, still exists and is within walking distance of the house my grandparents lived in. If you’re interested in glass, here’s a short history of their work.

There were apparently two of these curtains, one on either side of the entrance, and it seems they disappeared in a remodeling somewhere along the way, I’m sorry to report.

Bonus: Yesterday afternoon in the RMC Grand Hall, before the chaos of the Friends of Fondren Book Sale.

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11 Responses to RMC Decor

  1. The art glass curtains were still there 1975-81. They were really neat, but missing a few disks, since they would occasionally get broken, mostly one of the metal rings breaking out.

    I’m sure they show up in one or two yearbook photos, perhaps “Typical Rice Student After Long Night”. Those would be black and white, though.

  2. Wendy Kilpatrick Laubach '78 says:

    I remember that curtain of deeply colored glass disks very well from the 70’s.

  3. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    I loved those glass curtains! They were still present when I graduated in 1982. Your information on placement is correct: they hung on either side of the main door, about 10 feet back from the flanking windows. There was a seating area with couches between the windows and the curtains. The curtains don’t show in the photo Walter mentions, though. That photo was taken inside the Grand Hall. (I wonder now why couches were in the Grand Hall? Floor refinishing of the lobby area over by the campus store?)

  4. Wendy Kilpatrick Laubach '78 says:

    Yes, the curtains marked off the seating area (the main body of the room nearest the windows) from the traffic area that led from the cloisters over to Sammy’s and the bookstore, past the entrance of the Grand Hall on the left.

    I don’t remember any couches in the Grand Hall, though they usually left a grand piano in there.

  5. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    I found a couple of Campanile pictures which show the curtains. Sadly, both are black-and-white.

    1981 Campanile, page 124. The glass curtain appears behind the three people on the couch. (Your first photo is better.) Now I remember that those curtains were huge. They went from the ceiling almost to the floor, and the ceiling was quite high, like 12 feet.

    1977 Campanile pages 33 and 34 has a wonderful closeup of the curtain, showing how it is constructed. My memory is that the center of each disk was blue, and the outer ring was a deep green.

  6. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    While looking through the yearbooks, I found several pictures of couches and tables set up in the Grand Hall.

  7. Helen says:

    I adored those curtains then. Now, I guess that I must mourn their having been discarded. Lee and/or Melissa, is there ANY chance that we still have those screens? I’ve now read the article about the Higgins Glass Company. I’m a big fan of glass artwork and am sick to think that someone tossed rather than repaired. When are our fellow citizens (esp. in Houston) going to learn that such deliberate details as these curtains were chosen for specific value/reason and they shouldn’t be tossed??!! Arggh.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      You’re preaching to the choir, Helen. I don’t think they’re still here anywhere. They were apparently pretty heavy as well as bulky and would probably have been tossed for that reason alone.

      That said, I’ll go look anyway.

      • Helen says:

        Dannon yogurt was introduced by Food Service during my years. Students were grateful for something to eat that had not travelled in the truck from CK to the commons! The Dannon pop-out labels from the lids were fashioned, in celebration, into a number of items. I remember seeing a particular engineering student (gal) wear a “dress” of those discs/labels, connected in a style directly mimicking those screens or curtains of glass discs.

    • Grungy says:

      Stan Barber has a set of four of the glass disks hanging on the wall in his house.
      Somewhere, in one of the many boxes, I have a similar set that Stan gave me as a present.

      The ceiling of the RMC at that point was either 18′ or 20′.
      Only the area between the elevator and the stairwell had a lower ceiling, because of the presence of the mezzanine landing. I seem to recall the front desk person once having to talk a drunk down from the ceiling, who had climbed one of the curtains.

  8. -db says:

    There were many different layouts for the RMC couches. Most of the time there were six placed in the lobby, the one on the mezzanine (where we would watch The Prisoner), and if nothing was going on in the Grand Hall, a few were set up in there near the piano for folks to use (like me) for reading or a nap.
    The gnomes probably moved them around (under orders from Mrs. Vest) just to keep them busy.
    I preferred the red burlap over the black vinyl for napping, but ended up with a blue one when they were retired. It’ll have to do.

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