There’s A Hole in Brown College

Right at the end of last spring semester I got an intriguing email from one of FE&P’s project managers:

We have just begun another summer renovation, this time in the Brown College Tower. Last summer, we noticed what looks like a concrete patch in the ceiling in room 711. Well, it turns out that this patch is in the floor and ceiling of every one of the x11 rooms from what we can tell. The patch appears to be for what was once a 4’ x 4’ hole from the roof to the first floor.

This I had to see. I went over and sure enough, this is what it looks like all the way from the bottom to the top:

A search of the drawings for the building showed no such shaft and there isn’t a file with construction photos so we were stumped.

Then today she came over to look for images of Brown that might be used to decorate the refreshed space and lo and behold, look what turned up:

It certainly looks like that crane is inside the building, doesn’t it, and at the right spot too.

This gave me an idea and I went digging and found another shot from a different angle:

So now my question is: why?

Bonus: It’s definitely full blown summer around here but there’s been so much rain (another downpour this afternoon) that the grounds look remarkably lush. Usually by mid-July it’s pretty crispy, but look at this beautiful grass.

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5 Responses to There’s A Hole in Brown College

  1. Leonard Lane says:

    The crane was erected inside the building frame. That’s not unusual. They are sometimes on the side of a building, too. It depends on the horizontal “reach” of the crane and where the staging areas are on the ground, relative to the building. When the crane was no longer needed, they dismantled it and filled in the floor slabs. Good thing you had the construction photos.

  2. Mike Benza says:


    Are you sure? 4’x4′ seems a bit small for a tower crane.

  3. I have a friend that was a crane operator. The crane is called a “jack up crane” and is used in the construction of tall structures, He has worked on building as tall as 50 to 60 stories tall. I always enjoy listing to him talk about his work and the travel he had to do. He did get paid very well.

  4. dlknirk says:

    Melissa, You find the most interesting things about Rice!  I can barely appreciate the amount of manual searching you do in your job. I retired last Nov. My 44 year career after Rice ’72 spanned multiple disciplines, multiple roles, and multiple companies. My PhD was in theoretical chemistry, but I ended up as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, an expert in system and software quality engineering. As I go through my accumulated collection of trash and gems (valuable only to me), I estimate my efforts at 1000th of 1 percent of what you do to produce your posts. BTW, I live in the high desert in New Mexico. We’ve just passed the 3″ mark for rain this year since Jan 1. I grew up in Michigan and surely appreciated your photo of the green grounds in this post. Simply can’t afford to make such a lawn here. My wife calls this “the land of dirt” and tells folks elsewhere that the state color here is “brown.” Thanks for your regular stream of mementos and memories.  


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