I had occasion yesterday to return to the sleeves full of slides that long time biology professor Joseph Davies took on campus over several decades. Someone asked me the other day if I could bring back one person from Rice’s history and have a beer with them, who would I choose. I’m not ready to be pinned down on this just yet, but my instinct would be to pick Davies. He is deeply intriguing to me and I suspect that he’d give out the straight scoop about things. This is my favorite picture of him–he’s second from the left, the guy with the huge grin on his face:
Anyway, here are a couple of fantastic images taken looking out towards what must have still been the new football stadium. Davies took this first one standing to the side of where the architecture building is today. That’s the steps at the Chem Lecture Hall behind the trees on the right. It’s interesting that those trees, which are simply enormous now, were already big. Note also the high hedge on the right beyond Chemistry. You can’t really tell from this picture but it went off all the way to Rice Boulevard on the diagonal:
This next one was right beside the first in the sleeve. My first reaction was that the parking lot must be roughly what we currently call the North Lot Annex, but, as usual, nothing is ever that simple. Joseph Davies died in 1966 and there wasn’t a North Lot Annex until long after that. (Don’t ask when. I don’t currently know.)
So where is this? Check out these two aerials–the first is dated July 3, 1956. See the diagonal hedge?
This next photo is also dated 1956, but it must have been taken later in the year. The angle is obviously different but if you find the hedge and follow it towards Rice Boulevard, I think that’s our parking lot:
If it isn’t, I give up.
The second aerial is definitely during or after football season. The area across the road to the north of the Gym / Field House is beaten down from using it as extended parking for the Stadium.
In the July photo it had grown back from the ’55 football season.
They must have started the new additions to Hanszen, Will Rice, and Baker Colleges immediately following the July 3, 1956 photo. That’s because that photo shows absolutely no construction work in progress, but the later 1956 photo shows construction almost completed at all 3 colleges which was necessary to begin the college system in 1957. Maybe the July 3, 1956 photo was actually taken earlier. But knowing that Rice Stadium and the original Weiss College went up almost overnight, maybe construction did occur that fast.
Actually, it’s quite likely that no construction had started on the 3 college extensions as of July 3, 1956. July 1 is the start of Rice’s fiscal year and well into the ’80s major capital projects waited to start until or after July 1. This meant that a large chunk of the best time for disruptive major repairs and new construction — the summer recess — was lost. As the academic year shifted into a mid-August to mid-May and construction and major repair activity picked up in the ’80s, the problem became severe, especially when the work was on the residential colleges. A change was made allowing those projects to begin after the summer recess started rather than wait for July 1.
The second photo must have been taken before football began in the fall of 1956 because there are no lines on the field. If the first photo was taken in early July 1956 the following had to occur in two months or less: Groundwork was completed and construction started on Baker, Will Rice, and Will Rice Commons. Groundwork was begun on Hanszen, Hanszen House, Weiss House, Baker House, and perhaps Jones. A hedge lining the walkway heading southeast from Fondren was removed. Something has been done, including tree and foot bridge removal, in the still-uncovered Harris Gully southwest of the field house. And the parking lot in the Davies photo has suddenly appeared. Whew! Consider the number of cars in the parking lots, classes were probably in session when the second photo was taken. Of note is the lack of cars in the stadium lot–few students had cars in those days, and those that did could park in the Weiss lot.
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