Ye Olde College Inn, 1920

One of the unexpected things I found in that big box last week—in fact, the thing that was right on top—was this lovely drawing by Rice’s first architecture professor, William Ward Watkin, for a “College Inn.”

College Inn wrc02988

Quite some time ago I wrote a post about the original snack shop out by Rice, The Owl. At some point George Martin came to own this but after the Episcopal Diocese decided to build Autry House right there as a student center, Martin made plans to open a more formal restaurant further down Main Street, just across from the brand new Rice Fieldhouse. This drawing must have been produced by Watkin for that project. And by chance one of the things that turned up during all the moving around that came with the Tudor Court renovation a few years ago was a very nice Ye Olde College Inn scrapbook. (Thanks, Don Knodel!) One of the things it held was this photograph, taken just after the building was completed in 1920. It looks like Martin built it pretty much just as Watkin drew it.


I do have some images of the interior, but I don’t have them where I happen to be working this afternoon. They are pretty swell so I’ll try to post them later this week.

Bonus: Again, this is the type of thing that brings out the rebel in me.

Use this door architecture 2012

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25 Responses to Ye Olde College Inn, 1920

  1. Leoguy says:

    1. I’m only an architect, but that drawing of a door in plan is too small and only 2-dimensional. A human couldn’t use it. As a professional, I prefer using real doors like the one to which the drawing is attached. Or, am I missing the point?
    2. The rendered elevation of the College Inn is beautiful and not unlike the actual building. Exactly where was this building located and when was it demolished?

  2. joni says:

    I actually went there with a Rice graduate student when I arrived in Houston for grad school at Baylor College of Medicine. I believe it was located near South Main at Holcomb in a plethora of commercialization – just a bit different than the picture shown today! Don’t know exactly when it was demolished – maybe sometime around when the Shamrock was? I know there are many more knowledgeable Rice folks out there that will know the answers!

  3. Richard Schafer says:

    I am once again struck by the beauty and artistry of Watkin’s drawings. The greenery draped across the legend. The chauffeur driven car at the left. Marvelous!

  4. effegee says:

    I recall it being north of the present-day Medical Towers building which is bordered by Dryden on the north side. I found an address of 6545 South Main for Ye Old College Inn in That appears to place it between University and Dryden. Bill Williams’ Chicken House (with the campfire, frying pan, and the pair of supposed native Americans) occupied the south end of the 6500 block of Main at Dryden. There is a Houston Chronicle blog entry saying that the Chicken House was sold to Methodist, closed in 1973 and was subsequently demolished. It seems likely that Ye Old College Inn met the same fate.

    • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

      Scurlock Tower is built on top of YOCI I believe. The Marriot and the parking structure are where Bill Williams was. I have a very vague memory though of it being on the north side of University right up against what was then Houston International Hospital and the old Baptist student center on Fannin which would put it under Smith Tower instead

  5. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

    I ate at YOCI once or twice.
    It was of course too expensive for any Rice students.
    Bill Williams was another matter. One person ate, and the second person helped devour the unlimited delicious hot rolls!

    However, when I look at your posted picture of it after it was completed, I expect to see Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Machine Gun Kelly all run out and get in those vehicles and scram!

    Someday I’ll tell y’all about when my wife and I used to eat at DelMonico’s (I think).

  6. marmer01 says: and Google Earth historic imagery show the building there in 1973 and gone by 1978. I hadn’t been to lately and they’ve added some years for Houston.

  7. joni says:

    Timing makes sense. Forgot to mention I was there in 1974-75. It was getting dated, but still seemed like a time-honored tradition.

  8. anne symonds says:

    I have a picture of my father and me at Ye Old College Inn in 1950. He took me out to celebrate good grades. I think I may even have a corsage! The picture is at home, I am in Park City. My parents spent a ton of time there. Anne Symonds

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I bet you were adorable! I’d love to see your picture sometime.

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

        Melissa, if she doesn’t send you one of hers, I’ll send you one of mine.
        I used to have a jim-dandy one pictured in a “Campanile” snap shot, at Galveston beach, in a black-and-white horizontally striped turn of the 19th C. “bathing outfit”.

        That was when the beaches were all open.
        Who remembers those days?

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      I tried finding you in the 2003 Alumni Directory and in the Alumni base.
      No luck.
      Are you sure that you are NOT Billie Jo Babineau from Klute, TX? She favored eating corsages at YOCI, as I recall.
      And Park City, where? Utah?

      But Merry Christmas to you.

  9. If Gene hadn’t had so many slices of bourbon-pumpkin pie at YOCI, he’d remember that the city where I went to high school is spelled “Clute!” 😉

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      Thanks for that info.
      I was just telling someone the other day that I believed Clute/Klute had a high school once.
      The spelling of that revered/reveared/reveered town was NOTSL, so how was I to know?

  10. People from Lake Jackson, which is a much larger town, go to Brazoswood High School in Clute. There was once a cultural rivalry between Lake Jackson and its immediate neighbor Clute, as Lake Jackson was newer, larger, and generally wealthier. Of course, once you get away from the area you realize that a cultural rivalry between two little Texas towns on the periphery of the Houston metropolitan area is pretty much absurd. There are various not-safe-for-polite-company “explanations” for the name, generally involving something splashing into water, but the general consensus is that one of the early landowners after the plantation era was named Clute. There were comedy short cartoons featuring a Sheriff Hoot Klute, as I recall, shown before movies in the 60s and this may have contributed to the confusion about spelling

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      Sheriff Hoot Klute:
      They just don’t make ’em like that any more.

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

        One would think I could get the “Kloot” correct, inasmuch as Hawley Pratt was so insturmental in some of that animation and stuff like that.
        But ol’ Hawley never would speak to me again after I requested he pay me royalties for using me as his template for the “Speedy Gonzales” character. You know It really wasn’t my fault that the public kept making obscene jokes about “Speedy”.

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  13. Thomas Duncan Nichols says:

    As a Rice graduate student, I was honored to dine there about once a month with many different honorable and distinguished Rice students.
    YOCI had a great wine cellar.
    I never ate at the “varsity table’ which was reserved for Rice football, basketball, track, or baseball players. YOCI did not …at that time, unfortunately know what female athletes were. Saw the table. Have seen photographs of it. May not exist today.
    During the senatorial election between Bush and Yarbough, I invited Mickey Leland and Yarbough to dinner at Ye Olde College Inn, before a political address, Yarbough was to give. Leland ordered only a beer. I think he feared that I would ask him to pay for his part of the bill. Yarbough’s staff of two, sitting at the next table sent a note to me, asking if I was going to pay for their meals. I had calculated the expenses carefully, and was prepared to pay for Leland, Yarbough, and student leaders form UofH and St, Thomas, but not Yarbough’s staff. I said “No”. I do not think they ordered any DRC.
    Senator Yarbough gave at Miller Theater, the quintessential worst political address of which I could ever dream. Can’t imagine how he could ever been elected as a Texas Senator. I supported him because of his support of Big Thicket areas, which the timber industry wanted to destroy, which of course they eventually did.
    Miller Theater was 97% empty. CBS, Channel 11, was there to photograph the
    crowd. They only used close ups.
    Thomas Duncan Nichols PhD, MD

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