Did USC Steal Our Library?

I don’t always do a good job of getting through all the emails and comments on my posts but I was intrigued by one from yesterday:

Melissa: Do you know if the old story is true, that the USC library was orginally designed by Ralph Adams Cram for Rice, but he sold the plans to USC because Rice didn’t have the funds?

Another commenter helpfully linked us to this photo of USC’s Doheny Library:

And here’s one taken head-on during the late 1940s:

It certainly does have a familiar look and frankly I wish it were ours. I’m particularly taken with the twin palms out front, which I’d be willing to bet Cram drew in the plans.

But while the family resemblance is powerful I feel fairly sure it was designed specifically for the place it’s in. We do have a 1927 drawing of a proposed library for Rice that is substantially different although in the same style:

As for the financial issue, in 1927 Rice had just completed the expensive Chemistry Building. The trustees in those days were extremely cautious about spending money and they likely wanted to wait a bit before beginning the next project. Unfortunately, a Depression broke out in the meantime. There wouldn’t be another academic building constructed on campus until the end of World War II.


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5 Responses to Did USC Steal Our Library?

  1. marmer01 says:

    I think you’re right. He wouldn’t have mirrored the Sallyport. Of course, Cram never intended for the library to be where it wound up, anyway.

  2. Elizabeth McGuffee says:

    That is so cool……

    I am out of town for a bit, but hope we can get coffee toward the end of the month. best Liz

    Elizabeth M. McGuffee Director of Development and Communications Rice 360° Institute for Global Health lizmcguffee@rice.edu

    Designed to address the leading causes of newborn death, NEST technologies will allow clinicians to provide quality newborn care in low-resource settings. Help us save one million small and sick babies and inspire one million young leaders.


  3. almadenmike says:

    Cram and Ferguson’s 1927 library proposal drawing looks like it might be a rear view. Are there any other drawings in the proposal and look more like a front-entrance view?

  4. almadenmike says:

    “The firm’s Doheny Library at the University of Southern California (completed in 1932 in collaboration with Samuel E. Lunden) might well have been the Rice Institute’s library, so liberally did Cram and Ferguson borrow from the style evolved for the administration building twenty years earlier.”

    (Source: pp 76-77 of the 1980 Architecture at Rice Monograph 29, “The General Plan of the William M. Rice Institute and Its Architectural Development” by Stephen Fox (

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