“The Seventh Richest Educational Institution in the Country,” 1915

It was a rare quiet afternoon in the Woodson today, the last day of finals. This meant–even rarer–that I had some time to simply explore, meandering through the collections just to see if anything good would turn up. After a while I found myself crouched down in the rare books stacks, leafing through old books and magazines from or about Houston. I came upon quite a few interesting things but the best was this, the 1915 City Book of Houston, which featured the Rice Administration Building on its cover:

This volume contained exactly what its cover promises: reports of all departments of the city, lots of facts and figures, and a great deal of enthusiasm about all of Houston’s progress. Roads, bridges, new fire wagons, library budgets, waste disposal, etc., etc., etc. There are also lots of photographs, including several of Rice. The top two images here aren’t really breathtaking or anything but I’m reasonably certain I’ve never seen them before. The bottom one is a drawing:

The next page is where things get weird. The top photo is new to me but mundane. But the bottom one is–what the heck? It also seems to be a drawing and one that looks like it came from some alternate reality. The reflecting pools are strange enough but I’ve seen that in other drawings. There are no Italian cypresses, which I’ve never seen omitted before. But it’s the statue at the far left that really looks odd:

All in all, it’s left me feeling rather uneasy.

Bonus: I never feel completely good about this either.

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13 Responses to “The Seventh Richest Educational Institution in the Country,” 1915

  1. Paula Desel says:

    Photoshopping, circa 1915.

  2. Sandy Havens says:

    I do not recall that South Hall had a tower matching the “Faculty Tower” that was part of the dining hall. Is That image possibly also a drawing?

    • Dale Spence says:

      Hi Sandy, You may recall that South Hall had four floors that included a tower. In 1952, legend was that the tower had previously been a small library. One could step out a door of the tower on to a flat roof that was guarded by a brick wall and view the Medical Center. Hermann Hospital was the nearest structure seen in the distance.

  3. Richard A. Schafer says:

    I’m going to guess the statue is an early idea for Willy’s statue, but I’ve never heard of a previous standing design. Is there any documentation on the statue design process?

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Yes, the documentation is pretty decent and it seems to be the case that the seated statue was the only one they ever considered.

    • almadenmike says:

      A short item in the “From the Archives” column The Summer 2008 Cornerstone (publication of the Rice Historical Society – http://ricehistoricalsociety.org/images/cornerstones/Cornerstone_U08.pdf) mentions that the idea for an on-campus memorial seemed to have been first proposed by a Rice student (Max Jacobs, ’26) in a letter to the editor published in the Feb. 29, 1924, edition of the Thresher:

      I wish, if I may, to submit to the students of the Rice Institute a plan to erect on the campus some memorial to William Marsh Rice. It seems to me altogether fitting and proper that such a memorial be erected, in order that the students and visitors to the Institute shall see expressed in a tangible form the atmosphere that the munificence of Mr. Rice has established. Such a memorial should be erected, not only by popular subscription among friends of the Institute, but by the students themselves, for it is they who are benefitting by the philanthropy and confidence of Mr. Rice. Such a memorial should be a work of art, preferably a statue of Mr. Rice himself, to be executed in bronze and placed in the large court in front of the Administration building. Thus all who enter the gates of the Institute will see first of all a splendid tribute to the man who made possible the university represented by the buildings beyond. …
      The earliest mention of a Rice memorial had been in connection with the president’s house project, when sketches were submitted in October 1923, supplemented by an additional sketch in February 1924. ^’^ None of these drawings survives, but in a letter of 23 December 1925, Ralph Adams Cram reminded President Lovett of the “magnificent ‘shrine’ sketches” prepared several years earlier. ^’^ This particular piece of correspondence was the next in a chain of letters stretching over several years during which the proposed monument was considered. …

      The program at the June 8, 1930, unveiling of the statue makes no mention of the origin of the idea. (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/8634/article_RI173157.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y)

  4. Steve Lukingbeal, Hanszen ‘76 says:

    So so cool.

  5. marmer01 says:

    It’s at the end of the academic quad at that point, and it seems to have its hand upraised. Perhaps it is the Statue of Limitations.

  6. almadenmike says:

    It’s interesting to me that the “East Wing” drawing above seems to feature deciduous trees, while this painting by Cram, Ferguson et al that’s dated 1912 (photo by E.W. Irish Photo Co.) has palm trees: https://scholarship.rice.edu/jp2/viewer.html?url=https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/76109/wrc01304.jp2

  7. Texas SPQ says:

    Rice needs to give up on the Italian cypresses. The time, money and effort expended on them has been a waste. Yes, the cypresses look lovely on a conceptual drawing, but they will never do well in Houston on a long-term basis. I have never seen any that look good for more than a few years. The grounds folks need to talk to a person with actual horticultural credentials and choose a more well-adapted plant that will be happier in the Houston soil and climate. For more info see: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/landscaping/diseases-of-italian-cypress-and-related-species-in-texas/

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