Physics Stairs Through the Ages

I got a lot of input in both the comments and my email about the stairs on the west side of the Physics Building. I went looking for a better view and I was surprised to find this exceptionally clear shot, dated 1916:

Physics Back 1916

And here’s an even better look at how the staircase was put together circa 1925:

Physics back c1920s

It’s definitely different now, both the railing and the landing at the top, but I don’t know when or why they changed the set up. My best guess is that something broke and this was the easiest and cheapest way to fix it:


There just aren’t very many photographs of this spot. My favorite is this one of a young Franz Vander Henst, who came to Rice in 1920 to take charge of the Physics shop and was here long enough to have worked for many years in the Bonner Lab:

Van der henst c 1920

Bonus: Out of town today, be back tomorrow.



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7 Responses to Physics Stairs Through the Ages

  1. Leoguy says:

    Originally, there was a step at the door of the Physics Building. The landing was raised by the height of that step to create a level exit from the door. This changed the entire landing and resulted in a new guardrail. Thanks for finding these other photos and clearing up this mystery. Now, on to the next one!

    • Richard Schafer says:

      As I’d thought. The question now is why someone felt a level exit was needed. Perhaps people were missing the step at the exit and falling.

  2. effegee says:

    I recall a building code issue that arose several years after Mudd Lab opened about the west entry of Mudd Lab which had a similar step at the doorway, perhaps even modeled by the architect on the one in the picture. By the 1980’s apparently code prohibited stepping down as one passed through an exit door. Perhaps the exit on Physics was rebuilt to bring it up to code.

    Coincidentally, the issue at Mudd was brought to our attention by a member of the Physics faculty.

  3. Owlcop says:

    I am supprised at the size of the trees along the sidewalk, considering how large they are today.

  4. marmer01 says:

    I think Farrell is exactly right. I’ll bet there are similar details at the entrances of other legacy buildings on campus.

  5. tfw18 says:

    Does the bonus photo capture part of 432 Park Avenue in New York City by any chance?

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