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:
And here’s an even better look at how the staircase was put together circa 1925:
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:
Bonus: Out of town today, be back tomorrow.