The Field House, 1920-1950

I had a followup post to last week’s postcards all planned out but instead I’ll try to answer some questions raised by readers about the old stadium picture. First, what is the building between the open end zone and Main Street?

It’s the original field house, built in 192o. This blurry photo is from the collection of Norman Hurd Ricker, ’16, ’17, ’20:

And a great view from the other side, taken by the Flying Owls:

(In anticipation of the inevitable question, the building on the other side of Main Street is Ye Old College Inn, also built in 1920. See here and here.)

By the time the image on the postcard was taken two wings had been added to the building, as in this blurry shot from 1938:

Someone else asked if there were any pictures of the interior of the building. There are, but not many. There wasn’t any particular reason to take photos in there–it was used mostly for gym classes, intramurals, basketball practice (most games were played at the City Auditorium), and Athletic Department offices.

The only other images of the interior I’ve ever seen were taken in December of 1948 and they clearly show why both the field house (and the old stadium too) were about to be torn down. The first image is the visitor’s locker room and the second is the coaches’ office:


I found these appended to an engineering report that bluntly concluded that both structures need to be vacated as soon as possible, like immediately. They had been built so close to Harris Gully that repeated cycles of drought and flood led to serious cracking. Probably the most alarming and urgent issue was that the two wings of the field house had begun to sink and pull away from the main part of the building. This answers the question that no one has ever asked me: People still sometimes brag about how we heroically built the new stadium in less than a year, but why would we bother to do such a thing? Because there was no choice.

The new gym was built at the same time. It was a big improvement.

One other interesting note about the inside of the field house: when the Rice archives were created in 1950, lots of old papers were hauled out of there, including the papers from all the William Marsh Rice murder and estate litigations. And when the new gym was renovated in 2007 it became Tudor Field House and I dragged almost 400 boxes of stuff out of its nooks and crannies.

Bonus: The airplane is real; the birds seem to have been drawn on.

Extra Bonus: If you poke around a little you can still see bits of the field house half buried in the grass.


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2 Responses to The Field House, 1920-1950

  1. Steve Lukingbeal, Hanszen ‘76 says:

    The most interesting thing I found stored at the old track stadium were several doors which had the word “COLORED” painted on them in 10” letters. Apparently they had been stacked up there and a few years later, the final coat of paint peeled off them like you see on advertisements painted on 100 year old brick office buildings. It took five years for Channel 13 to discover them in order to embarrass Rice on TV. I can’t believe they remained in full view for five years without anyone objecting. My guess is that people who used the facility were just ignorant of history.

  2. grungy1973 says:

    The subsidence issues that condemned the Field House are quite a bit like the issues found in the old visiting team’s locker room on the south end of the current stadium.
    The difference today is that the building isn’t going to fall down.
    The steel holding up the building above is solid.
    It’s just the walls and floors below that are a bit Dr. Seuss-like.
    That locker room is only used by refs and visiting high school teams now (and the former iteration of the XFL).
    Rice’s football opponents use what was once Rice’s home locker rooms on the south end, on the other side of the tunnel.
    They’re in pretty good shape.

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