Anderson Biology: “the most realistic basis for design,” 1957

A couple of days ago I caught one of my colleagues with a copy of the 1957 Pierce and Pierce design proposal for the Anderson Biology Building. (Sad!) I immediately commandeered it and I’m quite glad I did.

I don’t think I’ve ever called a building proposal charming before, but this one certainly is. The architects clearly understood the purpose of the proposed building and they  communicated with equal clarity how their design would enable Rice’s biologists to do their work–both teaching and research–more effectively.

Have a look at this opening section. The lack of jargon, bluster, or grandiosity makes this one of the most refreshing things I’ve come across in the archives in a good while:

The drawings in the packet are just as delightful:

It makes me wish I liked the building better.

While we’re on the topic here are a couple of construction shots. The first one was taken in June, 1957 and the second in February, 1958:


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Aerial Looking Southwest, 1948

My pulse quickened a bit when I first saw this:

Go ahead, zoom in on it and take a close look. I spent over an hour this afternoon staring at it. It’s a very rare angle from relatively close range and it’s also an exceptionally sharp image. It’s undated but I think it must have been taken in the summer of 1948. Abercrombie is just about finished, Fondren a little bit behind.

I hardly know where to start. We can get a clear look at, among other things, the NROTC building behind the power plant, the original back of the Chemistry Building, the engineering annex, multiple unidentified sheds, the old fieldhouse, and the stables tucked off in the woods. I’m less clear about the buildings across Main Street. Any help identifying which is which would be appreciated.

For comparison, here’s another shot from roughly the same angle taken two years earlier in 1946. It’s not as sharp and was taken from farther away but putting it next to the one above vividly tells the tale of the post-war expansion:


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Friday Follies: Baker College Cockroach Races, c1972

If this is the winner, I’d hate to see what they did with the losers.

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“completely platonic lovers,” 1955

Every once in a while I come across something that just makes my jaw drop. Human beings are apparently capable of nearly anything and small traces of all kinds of craziness get left behind. This particular story starts in an unlikely place–a Fondren Library scrapbook that covers library related events from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. As you might expect this is fairly bland material but when I saw this article I was simply stunned:

Anything jump out at you? Anything at all? Does it strike you as a bit odd that a housekeeper at the Rice Hotel would leave $5,000 (Five thousand dollars in 1940! I’d love to know how she amassed that!) to memorialize an English professor? Well, I instantly knew where I’d seen her name before. There’s a letter from her in the correspondence files in English professor George Williams’s papers. Its not much of a letter–being only barely literate and relating exclusively to the fact that it was really hot in Houston–so I will spare you. But as I’ve mentioned before George Williams left notes for me in his files about the people he was corresponding with. Here’s his note about Miss Boord:

Williams struggled with her name and he got the number wrong but I suspect his assessment is correct. As I’m writing right now I have a dim sense that there is some other material either from or about Miss Boord in the Stockton Axson collection in the Woodson. Contrary to the news clipping above she passed away in 1939. She was only 50 years old and she died of ALS.

The Axson Eighteenth Century drama collection that they bought in 1955 is fantastic, by the way. (And part of it is digitized if you’d like to take a look.) I’m agog that two people as different as Jesse Jones and Willa Boord both had a hand in its purchase.

Bonus: The sun finally came out today and it brought spring with it. Thanks to alert reader owlcop who snapped this picture of the greenery from the top of the new parking garage.


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Tony’s Stable, 1928

When I got to the Woodson today I alertly noticed that one of my colleagues had left a piece of paper on my chair. While looking for something else in the papers of Ray Watkin Hoagland Strange ’36, he had come across a wonderful surprise. (I would note here that Ray squirreled away a great many surprising things.) Those of you who endured the long-running saga of my search for the mule barns ( see here, here, and here for a taste) will understand how much I cherish this little drawing of part of gardener Tony Martino’s domain:

Apart from a few aerials that show a set of small buildings where the gym is today not much of a trace remains in the archives of what was once the center of the facilities operation at the Rice Institute. This sketch is the only thing I’ve ever found that lets us see what it looked like from the ground.


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Art Gallery, 1968

This image fell into my hands about a week ago. I’ve found myself looking at it four or five times since, which is a pretty good sign that I should just go ahead and use it here.

I know there were art studios in Allen Center at this time and I’m guessing that’s where this gallery was. It’s just so, so 1968:

Bonus: I never know what I’ll see next.

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Hyman Rosenzweig, ’28

One of my favorite things at work is unpredictable overlap. The very first time I understood how this could work was way back in 2011 not long after I started this blog, in a post about something completely insignificant–the decorative ironwork in the background of a picture of President Houston–that turned out to be quite important to how I do my work.

Just a few days ago we received a box from a relative of Hyman Rosenzweig, ’28:


Here’s Rosenzweig as a lad at Rice:

And here he is in one of the photographs that just came in:

It’s been labeled on the back, “Mercogliano, Italy. October 3, 1943.” That was some very hard fighting.

And here is a recent Rice News story about our brand new Houston Area Jewish Archive. Take a look at it and you’ll see the most spectacular thing that has arrived so far, a gorgeous 9-foot long silk service banner listing the names of over 200 Congregation Beth Jacob members who served in World War II. Need I tell you that there’s a star for Hyman Rosenzweig on it?


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