(Digital Collections) “A University’s Reach Should Exceed Its Grasp, Or What’s An Architect’s Rendering For?” (With Apologies to Robert Browning)

The history of any institution with as storied a history as Baylor’s is bound to be marked with moments when optimism outpaces reality. For every Baylor Stadium wrought out of sheer will – and two bowl games and a Heisman Trophy – on the banks of the Brazos River there are a dozen dreams unrealized of buildings, memorials and embellishments that never went beyond the drafting table. Some died prematurely due to lack of funds while others were only partially funded, scaled back to fit the ability of others to support their lofty visions.

That’s not to cast these dreams of brick and steel in a negative light. To the contrary: these visions of a better campus are testaments to their time and place in Baylor’s history, a vision of places designed for the betterment of her student body, the broadcasting of her ideals, the fostering of her unique take on the world. From the pages of the Round Up and the Lariat, we present here a sampling of architectural renderings of Baylor’s built environment – those extant and those consigned solely to the draftsman’s table.

“The Proposed Baylor Bath House” – 1914 Round Up

Building: The Bath House (1914)
Status: Unbuilt
Fidelity to Presented Plans: N/A

From the 1914 Round Up comes this sketch for a proposed “bath house,” requested by the student body – who subscribed $1,750 for its construction – to “serve as training quarters for our athletic teams.” The students had hoped funding could come from Waco’s business community, but “the widespread money shortage resulting from the floods prevented immediate action upon this matter.” Described as a sort of multipurpose facility – with “one room … devoted to the band … a large locker-room with steel lockers and cement floors … a storage room for out-of-date uniforms … an adequate shower … and a small space fitted with rubbing tables, and medical and surgical accessories” – the bath house saw much of its vision fulfilled with the construction of Rena Marrs McLean Gymnasium in 1937-1938.

“How Waco Hall Will Look When Completed” – March 27, 1929 Lariat

Building: Waco Hall (1929)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Presented Plans: High

The story of Waco Hall has been documented elsewhere – most recently in this excellent article from Baylor Magazine – and its status as a gift from the people of Waco to the university is a wonderful part of campus lore. The photo above shows the hall it was proposed to look when “completed for the commencement exercises of the class of 1930.” Waco Hall remains an active and vital part of campus life to this day, with events ranging from Chapel to New Student Orientation.

“Alpha Omega House – Baylor University” – 1930 Round Up

Building: Alpha Omega House (1930)
Status: Unbuilt
Fidelity to Presented Plans: N/A

This image is presented from the “Ground Up” section of the 1930 Round Up, a humor supplement filled with satire, parody and – at times – borderline slander. The text accompanying this image reads,

“This is an architect’s version of the proposed Alpha Omega Clubhouse (sorority house), to be built on the campus. Why was it never built? Well, draw your own conclusions.”

Readers of this blog will have to do just that, as we were unable to dig up the story of why such a building was never built. It is interesting to note that the building’s proposed sketch is attributed to Birch D. Easterwood, one of Waco’s most prolific and best-remembered architects.

“The Browning Library” – 1944 Round Up

Building: Armstrong-Browning Library (1944)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Presented Plans: Moderate

This shrine to the memory of three people – poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Dr. A.J. Armstrong, longtime chair of the department of English – consistently awes visitors who enter through its massive bronze doors. The finished structure boasts “Italian Renaissance-style” features, but its look here more closely resembles the classical revival with its balanced symmetry, engaged columns, accented doorway and evenly spaced windows. While the two gable-end stairways were lost between this design and the finished building, the impressive front entry stairs were retained.

Baylor University Student Union Building – October 25, 1946 Lariat

Building: The Bill Daniel Student Union Building (1946)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Presented Plans: High

With its completion delayed by World War II, the SUB emerged from the strictures of wartime rationing to become the center of campus activities. This article from a 1946 issue of the Lariat shows what the SUB will look like “when Homecoming visitors see it next year [1947].”

“Baylor’s New Fountain” – 1949 Round Up

Structure: The “Mascot Fountain” from the Classes of 1948 and 1949 (1949)
Status: Unbuilt
Fidelity to Presented Plans: N/A

Sometimes it’s best to let the record speak for itself, so here is the description from the 1949 Round Up of a proposed – and never built – “Mascot Fountain,” which would have been built in front of the Student Union Building.

“Above is the architect’s conception of Baylor’s new “mascot” fountain. The proposed structure will be built directly in front of the Student Union Building and will face Rena Marrs McLean Gymnasium. Present plans include a cast figure of a bear sitting atop some boulders overlooking a pool of water. Modern circulating pumps will cast a perpetual spray over the figure. Green and Gold lights will illuminate the fountain. The base of the pool is to be constructed of Indiana limestone to harmonize with the materials used in the Union Building. The estimated cost of the complete fountain is $9,000.

The Classes of 1948 and 1949 are to be commended on the erection of this beautiful landmark on Baylor’s Campus. In years hence, it will undoubtedly become traditional to dunk the Sophomore Class President in the “Bear Bath.”

The “New Law Building” (Morrison Hall) – 1954 Round Up

Building: The “Law Building” / Morrison Constitution Hall (1954)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Presented Plans: Slight

When the time came to create a new home for Baylor’s law school, the architects dreamed up a fine example of mid-century design that draws heavily from the styles of Streamline Moderne, Prairie Style and even “New Formalism.” Low-slung and sleek, the proposed plans called for an off-center entry through stylized columns and long rows of windows.  The completed structure more closely resembles a traditional, neo-classical style, but the plans shown here were an exciting glimpse at an addition to the central campus that was not to be.

Tidwell Bible Building – 1954 Round Up

Building: The Tidwell Bible Building (1954)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Proposed Plans: High

Another campus building with an interesting history – including a lawsuit and the legend that it was intended to be taller than the clock tower at UT – the Tidwell Bible Building as built closely resembles the plans shown here.

“New Library Designed For Convenience” – October 2, 1964 Lariat

Building: Central Library Building / Moody Memorial Library (1964)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Presented Plans: Laughably Low

In the middle of the last century, perhaps new building was more necessary – and more inaccurately represented – than the building that today houses our own Digital Projects Group. As space at the existing library facilities across campus became increasingly outdated, crowded and insufficient for Baylor’s growing student population, “new library” frenzy reached a fever pitch. In an article in the October 2, 1964 Lariat, this sketch of a proposed “new library” was to include “escalators, movable book stacks [and] study tables to aid students.” When Moody Memorial Library opened in 1968, it included no escalator and only a vague resemblance to the building presented here.

Proposed Design for Poage Library – November 11, 1976 Lariat

Building: Poage Library (1976)
Status: Built
Fidelity to Presented Plans: Minor

Our last building is the W.R. Poage Legislative Library, a freestanding building located nestled in a corner between the Moody and Jesse H. Jones libraries. When former congressman W.R. “Bob” Poage donated $100,000 to the building campaign, the proposed structure rose a full story above the completed Moody Memorial Library and was also slated to house the graduate school. The structure that actually stands today is smaller and features one full-height section of windows similar to those shown here.


What’s your favorite building on the Baylor campus? Is it one that still stands today, or one known only as a memory? Did the buildings featured here turn out the way you would have hoped, or did you prefer the unrealized visions? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

For more fun with the “campus that might have been,” see this story from Baylor Proud that includes a neat slideshow of additional proposed plans.

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