Radiant Enclosure, 1961

Another mystery solved, once again by a valued colleague. On December 24th I  posted this image of George and Alice Pratt Brown on Christmas Eve, 1976:

I’ve looked wistfully at this photograph for many years, wishing I could see the entire painting over Mr. Brown’s shoulder. Apparently I should have mentioned this sooner because David Bynog, head of acquisitions at Fondren, knew exactly what he was looking at:

Please find attached scans of the Hans Hofmann painting that is hanging behind the Browns in your Rice History post of December 24, 2020 (both an image of only the painting as well as fuller details from his Catalogue Raisonne in the PDF). Enjoy!

I was frankly dazzled that David was able to identify the painting from just that piece of the corner so I asked him how he did it. The simple, matter-of-fact response speaks to both a deeply serious and thoughtful love of art and what I have observed over the years as his genuine desire to help people:

I could tell it was a Hofmann painting from the visible corner. A google search on the artist did not turn up any matches, so I went to see what books on the artist we had. Fortunately we had a Catalogue Raisonne for him (which should include all of his known paintings), so it was just a matter of flipping through the books to find a match.

I’m so very grateful to David and I hope he enjoyed tracking this down as much as I’ve enjoyed learning about it. I can’t help but wonder where the painting is right now.

Bonus: Still thinking about trees.


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I’ve Been Looking For A Fitting Way To Start 2021

So how about a picture of some architects trying to teach a puppy to smoke?

I’ll concede that’s probably not what they’re doing but if you’ve spent any time with architecture students you know it’s not impossible either.

No date (I’m guessing late ’60s) and I don’t know who they are.

Bonus: Steve Baker mentioned in the comments to the post about the trees outside Cohen House that in 1963 you could still see the tower of Palmer Church above the trees. Here’s what you see now.


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View From Cohen House, 1940 Plus Some Thoughts On Those Big Trees

It’s pretty quiet around here right now and with time on my hands I somehow found myself leafing through the 1940 Campanile, hoping for a photograph of Cohen House around the time our predecessors acquired the radio/phonograph they inaugurated at the 1940 Christmas party. I didn’t really expect to find one and I didn’t but unexpectedly came upon a nice image taken from the back patio towards Hermann Hospital:

Then I remembered that I had taken a picture from roughly the same spot just a few weeks ago, which seemed to be an easy opportunity for a marginally interesting blog post:

But as I looked more carefully at this picture I began to think about those big oaks out the window. And specifically I recalled something I’d noticed in one of the pictures of the Rice aviation field that Story Sloane graciously allowed me to use a few weeks ago. In the open field left of the Administration Building you can see two clusters of small trees that I’d never noticed before. Might the group closest to the left edge be what we see out the back windows?

I think it is. This next image shows the area after Cohen House was built. It’s dated 1931 and you can get a good look at the orientation of those two clusters, with one just off the back corner of the hedge:

It’s even clearer in this 1956 aerial, but with the addition of what looks to be a double line on oaks along the side of Cohen House where there used to be a small driveway and parking area:

One more, post-Cohen House addition, circa 1967:

So now that I’m convinced I can’t help but wonder how long those trees have been there. The Story Sloane picture looks to be from 1924, but could they have been on campus from the beginning?

Nope. This was taken in 1920 and they’re not there:

Bonus: Improbably, both clusters survive. The other one is now wedged in between Allen Center and the parking garage/Cambridge Building.

Extra Bonus: This is what’s left of that double line of oaks along the west side of Cohen House, which has been largely squeezed out by the loading dock addition on one side and Allen Center on the other.


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“The owner is always proud to demonstrate his Farnsworth,” Christmas 1940

December, 1940 was a busy time at Cohen House and the Christmas dance marked the arrival of some long awaited and wonderful now-obsolete technology:

I knew exactly what would happen if I googled “Farnsworth radio and phonograph.” It would turn out that there’s a rabbit warren of websites run by victrola enthusiasts and radio geeks and I would get lost in it and never actually be able to figure out precisely what piece of equipment they had bought for Cohen House in 1940 because I can’t understand the technical specs collected in those websites.

I was right about that. But I do understand advertising and I found this great ad in a 1946 issue of Radio and Television Retailing magazine:

Bonus: This photo is labeled “George and Alice Pratt Brown, Christmas Eve, 1976.” It is worth some close examination. I deeply regret that I can’t see the rest of the painting.

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“Bet You Never Even Knew When I Stole It,” Christmas, 1991

For many years before Rice began offering degrees in Art, students who were artistically inclined tended to flock to the Architecture Department for their undergraduate studies. Some of these students became practicing architects, others never did. One of those who pursued a career as an artist was Stella Sullivan ’45, pictured here in her studio in the early 1960s:

Here is a short bio from the Foltz Fine Art Gallery here in Houston, which represented her:

Stella Sullivan was born in Houston, Texas. She earned her degree in architecture from Rice Institute (now Rice University) and worked for her father in architectural drafting. She received private lessons from artist, Ola McNeill Davidson, and attended classes at Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Sullivan moved to Michigan where she studied at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, later transferring to the Cranbrook Academy of Art where she graduated with her master of fine arts degree. Sullivan was an instructor at the Museum School (now Glassell School) of Art, the University of Houston, Sam Houston State University, and the University of Delaware. She established the Stella Sullivan School of Art where she taught painting, drawing, design, and silk-screening during the 1970s. Her career as an artist and teacher in Houston spans seven decades.

After Sullivan died in 2017, her papers came to the Woodson. They are a true treasure, full of interesting correspondence, and as I dug through them when they first arrived I discovered that Sullivan maintained close connections to her Rice classmates for her entire life. One especially close friendship was with Bill Condon ’49. (His graduation was delayed, as was true for many young men of his generation, by military service in World War II.) Here they are together in an undated image:

I’ve mentioned Condon here before, in connection with a suspiciously good cover for a Rondelet program. He was a practicing architect but also an active artist, excelling at both painting and printmaking, often combining a wide variety of materials in his compositions. Every year he sent Sullivan a little Christmas card of his own creation. They are delicate and pretty and these scans don’t really do them justice at all. This one was sent on 1973:

And this collage, from 1991, appears to include a piece of fabric that he must have lifted from her studio while she wasn’t looking:


Bonus: There’s a Bill Condon painting hanging in Mr. Rice History Corner’s study.


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“A Facilities and Engineering Christmas, ” 1997

I found this buried somewhere down deep in Dean Currie’s papers. Some of the rascals mentioned are gone, but others are still around:

Bonus: I’ve had some great times with Nancy Rowe and Roy Perez over the years. I’m not even going to tell you what they were looking at here.


Extra Bonus: They’re very festive over at RUPD. (No, I was not brought in for questioning.)

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Is This Rice’s First Black Coach?

Believe it or not, no one was keeping track at the time so it’s extremely difficult to know for sure.

This photograph was taken in the spring of 1972. That’s McCoy McLemore in between head basketball coach Don Knodel and head football coach Al Conover. As far as I can tell he was the first African-American to coach any sport here:

But I could well be wrong. If you know something I don’t please tell me. It simply isn’t possible to figure it out from the records we have. I found out the little I know completely by accident.

A Houston native and Yates High School graduate, McCoy McLemore had been a standout big man at Drake University, named to their All-Decade team for the 1960s. He spent eight years in the NBA, ending his career back  in Houston with the Rockets in the 1971-72 season before arriving at Rice. He also worked as a broadcaster for the Rockets. The mid-70s were a pretty tumultuous time for Rice basketball but McLemore seems to have been popular with both the players and the rest of the student body. There was some speculation that he might become head coach after Coach Knodel resigned in 1974 but that was not to be. He died of cancer in 2009, only 67 years old.

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“The Latest and Best of Everything,” Rice Stadium, 1950

There was a nice article about Rice Stadium in the Houston Chronicle last week, celebrating the 70th anniversary of that elegant structure. While it was being built it was the talk of the town, an exciting development for the city and not just Rice. Such was the excitement that bleachers were installed near the construction site so the curious could sit and watch the work.

Here’s a 1950 piece from the Houston Post that gives some sense of the buzz around its completion:

I got several emails about last week’s article, including a good question from loyal reader Jeff Ross:

Do you know where the dirt excavated from the Rice stadium construction was moved to? I had always heard it became the hill at Miller Outdoor theater but a Google search says the hill came from excavation of Fannin Street.

Well, I sort of know and sort of don’t know. Here’s part of a set of specs that is the only mention I’ve ever come across of what was supposed to happen to the excavated dirt:



And you can see from this image taken early in the construction that there was really quite  a large amount of soil taken out of the site:

This image shows that much of that excavated dirt was spread around campus, including a significant portion that was used to fill in around the newly buried Harris Gully:

So I think a lot of it stayed here. But over the years I’ve heard several reliable eyewitnesses talk about seeing trucks full of stadium dirt headed over to the Miller Theater site so while I don’t have proof I’m inclined to think that some of was added to the hill over there too. If you know different, please let me know.

Bonus: They don’t specify the capacity for owls. Also, I haven’t seen two people at the same time in that entire building for months.




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A Bit More From the Houston Country Club, 1938

The post about Will Rice and the Houston Country Club drew enough emails to merit another look at the 1938 booklet printed by the club on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary. I confess that the first time around I quit looking as soon as I found what I was looking for, a rookie mistake if ever there was one. There turned out to be quite a few other interesting bits in there. Close inspection of the list of the 507 charter members revealed the surprising fact that there were a number of Jewish founders of the club. Foremost among them were Abraham Levy, president of Levy Brother Dry Goods, and Emmanuel Raphael, a founding member of the Rice Institute board of trustees.

Someone in the comments asked whether women were allowed on the course in those days and indeed they were. It looks like some of them were big hitters too, way past parallel on a couple of those backswings. This montage isn’t dated but looks like late teens to me:

And finally, the staff.  Of all the people pictured and noted in this booklet these men are the ones I would most like to talk with:

Bonus: Out of its misery. It’s a blessing, really.

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“A few timely comments from Mr. Wm. M. Rice,” 1938

I was looking for something in the Woodson vault the other day, and I mean I was really looking, trying to find something specific that wasn’t in any obvious place. I was looking so intently that I wedged myself into the back corner and got down on my hands and knees.  I was quite surprised when I peered into the dimness and saw this:

Yes, that’s a golf club and a it’s very old one.

The tag tied to the hickory shaft, in Miss Turnbull’s handwriting:

My mind reeled. I spent several minutes trying to conjure up any scenario in which William Marsh Rice would have golfed. I failed completely. I know a lot about William Marsh Rice and this is simply unimaginable. Never happened. Then I realized that the Houston Country Club didn’t even exist until 1908, at which point he’d already been dead for eight years.

So this must be Will Rice’s club, right?

And indeed a check of the 1938 anniversary booklet from the club reveals that not only was Will Rice a charter member he was also the first president. His member number, by the way, was 1.

Here’s what he had to say on this occasion, including an interesting reference to some real estate owned by the Rice Institute in 1903. I might be able to figure out precisely where it was:


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