A lot of Rice people are vaguely aware of some story about a guy with a pig farm near the Administration Building. There really is such a story—Mr. Weber had just over seven acres between the south end of the building and Main Street. Although there seem to have been some pigs on it, calling it a “pig farm” might imply a level of organization not strictly applicable. He was an old man and he didn’t want to leave, so he held out, extracting in the end over $7,000 per acre for his land from the Rice trustees. (The average amount paid to the other sellers was less than $700 per acre.) Unfortunately, the 1910 agreement also allowed him to remain on the premises for three and a half years. Unsurprisingly, his continued habitation became . . . . problematic. Here’s a picture I came across today among the early construction materials. That’s his house at the top, approximately where Cohen House is now:
You can see just how close it is to the Administration Building. What you can’t really see yet is that it’s even closer to the road that curves through campus. This picture I posted last week of the construction site in 1911 lets us see how close the road passes to the farm:Difficulties arose when Weber repeatedly fenced off his property in such a way as to cut off the road. By the time it was all over, the Rice board, weary and knowing that they would need that roadway for the opening procession, gave Weber an additional $800 to vacate the premises before the Institute’s formal opening. The fence was removed only days before the event.
Weber promptly used some of his new fortune to buy a ten acre farm in what is today Southampton. You can see it here at top right on this map drawn by a surveying class in 1922:
Bonus: There’s a new sign at the back of the library. It’s a little stylish for Rice, but I like it.