Rustling through some oversized materials yesterday I came across this great shot of what seems to be more than a groundbreaking yet much less than an opening of Autry House. A dedication, I’m guessing. It’s dated June 5-6, 1921, which coincided with Rice’s baccalaureate service and commencement. I like the view of the Institute in the background. Without any sizable trees in the way you can really tell how close Autry House is to campus: I recognize William Ward Watkin, the architect for the building, and of course Dr. Lovett but I don’t know who the other men are. There’s one other thing I recognize as well–the sort of channeled tiles that make up the wall behind them. I’ve seen those before, inside the walls of Baker Commons when they renovated in December, 2011: Bonus: I don’t know what they call this new style of lamp post but I like them.
UPDATE: I have this from a generally reliable source.
The man in the center was the commencement speaker for 1921. (Editor’s Note: If I had five minutes I would look this up but I don’t. Also, there is no editor.)
To his right is the Rev. Harris Masterson, Jr., (uncle of Harris Masterson III), who began the Episcopal church’s ministry to Rice and was responsible for building Autry House.
To Fr. Masterson’s right is the Rev. Peter Gray Sears, rector of Christ Church, who would become the first rector of Palmer Memorial Church after it ceased its short lived function as a student chapel, the Edward Albert Palmer Memorial Chapel, and became a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
Further, and just as interesting in my opinion: The building material is hollow tile block, the most commonly used load-bearing masonry material for building construction in Houston in the 1910-1940 period.
The man on the far right is the Rev’d Peter Gray Sears, the first rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, to which Autry House is attached. I can’t identify the fellow next to him — it is not entirely clear whether he is wearing a clerical collar under that robe*, so he could be another priest from the church or simply a lay volunteer (e.g. an acolyte) assisting with the ceremony.
You should spend some time at the Palmer campus — the historic ties to Rice all over it.
In an interesting detail, note the cross with crossed palm leaves embroidered on the robe — Palmer Church has incorporated palm leaves in its symbols from the beginning.
I also note stoles over long surpluses. I had thought that was a more recent innovation.
Perhaps the laying of the cornerstone?
Boy, that sounds right. Thanks!
The cornerstone was obviously important to the photographer. An untimely gust of wind caused the curtain to obscure Mr. Autry’s name, and he went to the trouble of manually altering the photograph, but, surprisingly, not the date.
Also, I updated this post with more information about the other gentlemen.
More precisely, it is the commencement homilist, Herbert Lockwood Willett, from Chicago. The commencement speaker, Harvard’s Charles William Eliot, was 87, and unlikely to have looked quite so young. (1921 Commencement bulletin linked below)
Many thanks! Indeed, that fellow is not even close to 87.
Here’s a link to a photo of a younger Dr. Willett: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/tc/id/15567. The accompanying text says he’s “probably the most popular Bible lecturer in America.”
And here is a link to the 15-page text of Dr. Willett’s Baccalaureate sermon, “A Faith for the Times”: https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/8525/article_RI091026.pdf?sequence=5
There’s another picture of the same cornerstone laying event, in an article from the Rice Historical Society Winter 2008 issue that confirms the people on the platform:
The commencement speaker was Charles William Eliot, President Emeritus, Harvard Univ.
The man behind the Harvard Classics – Five Foot Shelf of Books!
The channels on the wall looks to me more like they are in the middle of applying some sort of adhesive to the walls prior to putting something else up. (mortar or mastic or something like that. I have not done that myself, and it is long enough ago that things are truly different anyway, but I have seen that kind of thing at construction sites.
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