Rice’s First Classrooms

The Woodson has quite a nice collection of glass plate negatives, which is the source for many of the iconic images of the early campus and the opening ceremonies that have been on display during the centennial year. But there are also a good number of things in there that are rarely seen. I’ve meant to look through them carefully for a long time but only sat down to start this afternoon. I was almost immediately rewarded with these photos of the first real classrooms at the Institute. I think they were taken right around the time classes began.

Large classroom in Admin Building 1912 GPN

In the beginning, as I’m sure you recall, there were only two buildings on campus that housed academic functions. The Mech Lab was crammed full of all the labs and drafting rooms–the pressure would only be relieved when the Physics Building was completed–and the Administration Building was home to most of the classrooms. I didn’t have time today to figure out precisely where they were located, but I’m fairly certain that we have what I need to do that. I’m also fairly certain that some of those chairs are still in the basement.

Classroom in Admin 1912 GPN

As is so often the case, these pictures reminded me of something else. This is one of my favorite photos from the scrapbook of Carl Knapp, ’16:


It’s labeled “Between Classes, 1913.”

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9 Responses to Rice’s First Classrooms

  1. joni says:

    Were ceiling fans in common use then?

  2. Richard A. Schafer says:

    Seeing that between class picture once again reminds me of how out in the middle of nowhere Rice was at the time. I occasionally wonder why anyone would decide to study at Rice or any other university that is just starting, particularly one so separated from a big city. Were many of the first class from outside of the Houston area? And how would they have been recruited?

  3. James says:

    I love looking at pictures like the ones posted and always look in the back ground at various items no one else probably cares about. The second picture with the full view of the instructors desk and full view of the doors in the background, the door knobs caught my eye. They looked very intricate with the design they had on them. Do you know if any of these doors or door knobs still exist around campus?

  4. Bill Johnson says:

    The door knobs and plates look to be the same as was in old south hall. There are two peacocks on the 3 by 7 inch brass plates. On the back is the makers name SERGENT & CO. with the model number 1600 PH. How many of these knobes and plates were used and where? It must have been a lot.

  5. By coincidence I was at a dinner last night in Lake Jackson and one of my table-mates was a lady who had been in the Class of 1944. She said that sometimes the professors would refuse to run the fans because of noise or too much air movement blowing stuff around and it was very, very, very uncomfortably hot.

  6. Sam says:

    I’d occasionally have class in Herzstein and there was a time when our classroom (whose windows faced the sun) did not have AC. Even in our shorts/T-shirts and Sperry Topsiders we were still hot. I could not imagine going to class back then when one had to wear a suit much less sit in those rooms without any cooling mechanisms.

  7. Kathy says:

    Houston before airconditioning? Yes, ceiling fans were a necessity!

    I also think I might have sat in some of those chairs 1967-71…

  8. Hugh Welsh says:

    Most of the students in early years of Rice were from the Houston area-the 1920 Rice Calendar Yearbook lists hometowns -over 90% from this area for incoming freshmen.

  9. Jim Heg says:

    I remember sitting in those desks when I took Math 100 a,b in 1969-1970. I believe it was in the Engineering Building. The textbook was Calculus by Michael Spivak.

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