Fondren Library

Note the parking lot on the left side of the building. There was a bigger one around back.

I’ve been quite busy over the last few days, busier even than normal (or for what passes for normal in the approach to the centennial). As the demands on my time have grown, I’ve gradually become more aware of my deep need for the quiet of the library. The first time I ever came to the Rice campus—over 20 years ago now—it was for a meeting with Dr. John Boles, whose office was on the fifth floor of Fondren where the History Department was then located. With a couple of short exceptions, Fondren has been my home ever since. In stressful times, it is nothing less than a refuge for me, a place to read and think and study pictures. I simply love it.

As refuges go, it’s perhaps not the most attractive. But I was looking today at some images taken not long after it was completed in 1949, and while you couldn’t exactly call it beautiful I think it was a more coherent building before the additions. The smaller arcade across the front, which ends right where the front door is, seems almost graceful.

We have a lot of pictures of it in all it’s various stages and I’d like to spend some time looking at them and piecing together the changes. There are surprises everywhere. Look at this, for example:

The first fifty times I looked at it I missed the car.

This picture of the original building, though, is the one that tugs at my heart. I know what that feels like, being in the library at night.



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2 Responses to Fondren Library

  1. James Medford says:

    Speaking of being in Fondren Library at night, you should read Larry McMurtry’s “All My Friends are Going to be Strangers”, if you haven’t already.

  2. Leoguy says:

    Thank you very much for posting these photographs of the library, Melissa. I have always been bothered by what Stephen Fox describes as “the cloister extension” that was added to the front of Fondren Library when Rayzor Hall was constructed. Fox, in “The Campus Guide” states “The cloister extension masks the exercise in projection/recession [architect] Staub engaged in, and leaves the front of the library, as the urban designer Drexel Turner observed, looking like it had been ‘warped’ to produce an asymmetrical result.” How true. I had not seen photographs of the original Fondren Library facade and Fox does not include one in his book. These older photos of the unaltered facade cause me to appreciate the building a bit more. However, I still believe the design, particularly the massing, was not appropriate for this location on the central axis of the campus.

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