“General View of Grounds from Foundation of Residential Hall,” 1911

I know I must have seen this photo before, but when I picked it up yesterday it struck me as surprising. We have many images of early campus construction in the files but very few of them show this kind of wide view.

General View of Grounds from Foundation of Residential Hall

As someone who was reduced to a jibbering mess by a house renovation job a few years ago, this picture is mind boggling. That’s just too much construction all at once–and bear in mind that the photographer seems to have been standing on the foundation of yet another building (South Hall). I would have been quivering in a corner.

Special Treat: Here’s the back side of the photograph.

General view verso

A later archivist adds her own label to the original label: “Miss Dean‘s handwriting.” Then she adds another label to a second label, the one that notes “Mr. Watkin, Mr. Waldo”: “Pender Turnbull‘s.” So who’s the third archivist who thought to tell me who labeled the photo in the first place? Pretty sure it was Ola Moore, who came to work in Fondren in 1962 and stayed until her retirement. (I don’t know when that was.) Just to complete our tour of beloved Rice librarians, here’s Mrs. Moore’s reminiscence (from a 1984 Flyleaf) of Sarah Lane:



Ola Zachry Moore 

Few people are as beloved as Miss Sarah Louise 
Lane; still fewer have her reputation for service to Rice. 
Thoughts of a very special friend conjure up particular 
mental images of that person. So it is with Miss Lane. 

Two qualities leap to mind immediately when her 
name is mentioned; one is her enthusiasm, the other is 
her helpfulness. In her years at Rice, first as a Rice 
Institute student and graduate of the class of 1919, later 
as advisor to women and finally as head of the 
circulation department in the library and skillful 
restorer of books, she never volunteered advice but was 
always available for counsel and willing to help with a 
problem when asked. No one can remember ever 
seeing her lose her temper or act in an unbecoming 
manner. Yet Miss Lane was never "stuffy". 

Her position as head of the circulation department 
was certainly one of the most difficult in the library and 
yet she managed it with poise and without ever being 
discourteous to an irate patron. Firm she could be but 
never impolite nor rude. Her student assistants and 
members of her staff were expected to do their jobs 
pleasantly and efficiently without shirking their duties 
but in turn, they were treated fairly and with con- 
sideration. Miss Lane ran a tight ship but a fair one. Her 
tall graceful figure behind the circulation desk was a 
familiar sight to students, faculty and staff for many 
years as was the ever-present bouquet of fresh flowers 
or a pot plant on her desk. 

Flowers and plants came under her spell too but it 
was only after her retirement from her full-time 
position as head of circulation that she had time to join 
a garden club and take up flower arranging. Here, as in 
all other matters, she entered into this new endeavor 
with characteristic enthusiasm and became in a very 
short time a much-loved member of another organi- 
zation; this time the Southhamptom Garden Club. 

Miss Sarah Lane took early retirement from the 
Fondren in 1962 shortly after I began working in the 
library. Her retirement party was held at Cohen House 
in a private dining room filled to overflowing with 
library friends. There were speeches, and gifts and 
finally a scroll with an overly-elaborate (and totally 
unplanned) curlicue attached to one of the capital 
letters caused by a wayward drop of gold ink! (This was 
my first scroll!) Our friendship began then and grew 
and flourished when she returned to the Fondren to 
start an in-house project to mend some of our ailing 
books. In this new capacity of bookbinder, restorer and 
mender of books, Miss Lane continued her long- 
established tradition of service to the Rice University. 

Miss Lane's new domain for repairing books was a 
special area on the fifth floor of the library where she 
had a spectacular view of the campus on three sides 
and, with a few steps to the front of the building, could 
see Lovett Hall on the fourth side. Here she lovingly 
worked her magic on countless distressed books in all 
stages of disrepair, spending as much time as was 
needed to return each one to usefulness. 

She had originally accepted this new challenge with 
the understanding that she receive the current student 
hourly wage for her work so she would not feel guilty 
spending extra time repairing books that needed more 
than the usual care to return them to circulation. This 
arrangement also meant that her work schedule could 
be flexible — she could travel when the opportunity 
presented itself or schedule her work early in the 
morning on those days she expected guests for lunch! 

While Miss Lane was "in residence" on the fifth 
floor of the library, she had the charming habit of 
inviting several library staff members to join her for 
luncheon from time to time. The group was always 
varied and guests were often of different ages and 
backgrounds, male and female. Such an invitation to 
lunch in her cozy little brick house on Wroxton was a 
coveted one. It was an experience to be savoured and 
remembered with pleasure long after the fact. Not only 
was the food always superb (Miss Lane was a marvel in 
the kitchen) but conversation was spirited and fun. It 
was impossible for a shy guest to remain so for long. 
The hostess was so vibrant and interested in everyone 
that she made each person feel at ease and made them 
enjoy being part of the group. 

After the meal, if there were time before guests had 
to return to work. Miss Lane could sometimes be 
persuaded to "show" and talk about some of the 
"treasures" she had brought back from her most recent 
trip. These journeys often included visits to Rice 
friends all over the world since her gypsy feet took her 
to many out-of-the-way places. Her mementos of these 
travels provided the visual images for many of her 
interesting stories about her trips. 

Because of her friendliness, her warmth and her 
interest in people, interesting things seemed to happen 
to Miss Lane. She was often able to bridge and to 
overcome the dual barriers of a foreign language and 
unfamiliar customs in countries often difficult for 
strangers, particularly Western ones. She took no pre- 
conceived prejudices into the countries she visited nor 
did she impose her own set of values on the culture of a 
host country. Instead, her genuine interest in the world 
around her made it easy for her to enjoy the culture of 
whichever country she was visiting. 

It is easy to see how Miss Lane has endeared herself 
to Rice. She attracted friends like a magnet and they 
were of all kinds and ages because she is ageless. A 
"doer" at Rice, she was always involved in some 
interesting activity that she was willing to share with 
friends. This might have been a drive down south of 
Houston for several pounds of pecans or it could have 
included a trip to a local flower show or even a visit to 
the yearly Customs Auction. But whatever the activity, 
just being with Miss Lane was sure to be fun!
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6 Responses to “General View of Grounds from Foundation of Residential Hall,” 1911

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

    My main — and perhaps only — interaction with Ms. Lane occurred in 1956.
    As co-director (with my good friend Jack Crutchfield) of the Rice Follies of 1956, I saved a virgin copy of the program of said follies and later presented it to Ms. Lane for her to save to the Rice Archives, if she wished.
    She surprised me by stating that she did NOT know whether there was such a thing. However, she would investigate and include the program if such a file existed.
    I never heard anything more about it.
    I don’t recall her asking my name or tagging it in any way.

    Because of that incident, I have often wondered how/when the Rice Archives originated.

  2. marmer01 says:

    My guess is that Rice Archives started about the time the Woodson Research Center started. Before that it was called “boxes of old junk in department storerooms.” The creation of the Woodson probably was accompanied by a University-wide call for archival material. But I’m sure that Melissa will set us straight.

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

      I do almost remember that call for mementos*, perhaps 20 years or so ago.

      * I don’t believe “memento”, singular or plural, was on THE SPELLING LIST.
      I could research it, but I am terribly lazy on softball nights, especially when I don’t hit well.

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