Parking Heaven

I’ve had several comments and questions about the parking lot that we can see out the door in this picture of Abercrombie. This is, in fact, one of my favorite topics. Although today it seems like something out of the dark, mystical past, it wasn’t really that long ago that we had an abundance of convenient parking places.

Abercrombie interior c1950

I can actually narrow this down pretty well using some aerial shots that I’ve already scanned. The lot doesn’t exist in this 1948 construction photo:


But it does in this shot from 1950:

Aerial 1950

How long did it exist? I can’t tell from the photos I have on hand but I’ll see what I can find when I get back in the Woodson tomorrow. It clearly got smaller when Herman Brown was built in 1968:

Aerial c1967

I also can’t resist showing this image that was taken on July 3, 1956. It’s beautifully crisp and it’s also educational–this is a great snapshot not only of the parking lot but also of campus after the immediate postwar construction boom but before the next big wave began in the 1960s. You can see here Anderson, Fondren, Abercrombie, the new gym and, if you zoom in and squint, the president’s house:

Aerial July3 1956


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17 Responses to Parking Heaven

  1. Richard A. Schafer says:

    When did the drive up to the front of Mech Lab and Abercrombie disappear? It’s gone by the 1968 picture, and I’d never realized such a drive (complete with hedged median) had ever existed.

    • marmer01 says:

      That’s part of a bigger question: when did the road through the Academic Quad passing by Willy’s Statue go away? It ran from Main Street to Mech Lab; its bordering trees can still be seen between Sewall Hall and Rayzor Hall. I think we’ve discussed this before; apparently traffic would back up into the Quad at rush hour as people were waiting to turn onto Main.

      • effegee says:

        Ken Kennedy mentioned its existence while he was a student. He left in that capacity in 1962. It was gone with all traces eradicated by Fall 1969 except the obvious spacing between the trees across the quad and down to where the roadway started at the Main-Street-side of the west end of Allen Center. The road was reopened as far as the loop around the quad sometime after the late ’90s.

  2. effegee says:

    Parts of the lot in question lies under Herman Brown, Mudd Lab, Mech Engineering, and some additions to Keck Lab (the old Chemistry Building). The roadway between Ryon and Mudd, Herman Brown and Mechanical Engineering, and up to the loading dock survives. It would be about a car length west of the barriers visible at the edge of the parking lot.

    By time Mudd Lab was built (82-83), the lot had been divided into inner and outer parts by a walkway that was an extension of the line of cloisters running in front of Ryon Lab. It ran from islands dividing it from the roadway between Ryon and Mudd to a wide sidewalk dividing it from the Hamman horseshoe. I believe there were hedges around the lot. A walkway run from this lot perpendicularly to the north lobby of Herman Brown. This outer portion was known at that time as Lot E until Mudd Lab was built on top of it with its own cloister overlaying the walkway. (The Lot E designation was moved to what is now called the North Lot after that.)

    The inner lot had been reduced by 1970 had been reduced to a wide head-in parking area on both sides of Herman Brown. I can’t recall if this area was part of Lot E or had another designation. There was enough room to back out and turn between the parking spaces and an island that ended at the west side of the surviving roadway. The parking north of Herman Brown was eliminated when Mudd was constructed for architectural reasons. I’m not sure if the parking on the south side of Herman Brown is still there or not; it was not immediately eliminated. The east side of the surviving roadway had head-in parking from just south of Ryon cloister to the present walkway south of Mechanical Engineering. This parking was eliminated by the construction of Mechanical Engineering (84-85?), the back edge of which sits on part of the parking area.

  3. effegee says:

    Forgot to note:

    When Mudd Lab was built, the foundation work encountered several buried foundations for buildings that we saw in earlier pictures in this blog. The contractor was drilling to place pilings and ran into reinforced concrete.

  4. loki_the_bubba says:

    What are the small structures in pic 5 located where the business school is today?

    • I would guess that the shed is for groundskeeping equipment. The cube looks like a cooling tower; it has a fan on top, a pipe coming out of the side, and it appears to be surrounded by a chain-link fence.

  5. Grungy says:

    Never noticed the hedge row west of the chemistry building before.

  6. marmer01 says:

    I’m pretty sure that the road by Allen Center was re-opened as part of the general parking installation. Aren’t there gates on it? Or am I thinking of the extension of Alumni Drive behind Hanszen and the South Plant?

  7. James Medford says:

    I love the view of the double hedgerows running from West Hall (Hanszen’s old section) to the track stadium in the 1956 photo. These were pulled up starting in 1957 with the construction of Hanszen’s new section.

  8. mjthannisch says:

    Did anyone else notice a reflection(?) of a second cat above the first one when magnified, just half a face?

  9. Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen '82) says:

    I was on campus yesterday for the first time in years, and I walked into Abercrombie. I am sad to see that the wonderful expansive lobby in the first picture has been filled in with walls and offices. I always liked walking into that lobby. The marble floor always mad the lobby cooler than the (usually) hot sun outside.

  10. Angela Wren Wall says:

    Climbing wasn’t necessary this time, but I know the location of the “mystery” window. Thanks, Melissa, for another adventure around Rice! 🙂

    First off, I could tell right away that the “reflection” of the second cat’s face (half in view) was NOT a reflection, mainly because I could see a faint vertical shadow (a column, no doubt) in front of the second cat’s face. And I felt so strongly that this was the case, I had to hunt down this window to verify or disprove. Come what may.

    I recognized the window style and blinds plus the bricks’ coloring and weathering as typical for a south college. First stops: Baker, Will Rice, Hanszen, Lovett. Key to the quest? Locate the most telling feature in the photo: architecture with white stone columns topped with aqua-colored… something. Then for the final ID, find the distinctive Africa-shaped blotch on a lighter-colored brick (see bottom right of the photo), and orient position to see the tree reflection, columns and aqua…something, and voila!

    It’s a first-floor window at Will Rice, probably an RA’s room. The reflections are stone columns and aqua-colored tiles on one side of the Will Rice servery, located next to the WR coordinator’s office – which is located roughly between the servery and the “mystery” window. The Africa-shaped blotch on the brick and the tree reflection checked out, so I could see that the second cat would have had to perch itself in mid-air in order for a “reflection” to appear behind the first cat.

    Now THAT kind of cat is supposed to be active in October – not April!

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