Unruly Waters, Dam Dreams and the House that Art Built: A (Brief) History of Development along the Brazos River

KLAposter420x286By Kenna Lang Archer, instructor at Angelo State University

“Why haven’t we developed the Brazos into something like San Antonio’s River Walk?”

“Sure, we have sail-gating, but when are we going to develop this river properly?”

“Why haven’t people realized the value of the Brazos and put some real money into developing it?”

“Lock and Dam No 8 Brazos River. Placing Concrete in Lock Floor. Lower End Lock- (March 5, 1913)” is in folder 419a, box 7, E.FW18 —“Records of the Dallas Engineer Office”, Record Group 77—Records of the Army Corps of Engineers (Southwest Division), National Archives and Records Administration (Southwest Division)

Questions like these resonate along the length of the Brazos but are regularly volleyed around Waco lunch tables. If anything, the revitalization of Waco’s city center and the construction of McLane Stadium have only made these questions more pressing. Many Wacoans simply don’t understand why one of this state’s most iconic rivers has seemingly escaped the reach of developers. They cannot fathom the lack of attention. Coach Art Briles even raised this question over the summer, insisting that the lack of development is “unbelievable” and something that “blows [his] mind.” I understand that sense of shock and awe. When I began my work on the Brazos River nearly a decade ago, I approached it with the exact same question. Why, I asked, has the Brazos avoided the attention of developers? How could any businessman allow that to happen? As I began looking into the river’s history, however, I realized that I was asking the wrong question.

Baylor Bookstore flood, 1989
“[Baylor Bookstore in Flood], 1989, “Waco—Events—Floods—1989,” Photograph Collection, Texas Collection

This belief that the Brazos River should be more heavily developed is actually very old. Stephen F. Austin introduced American immigrants into Mexican Texas in 1821, and in the nearly two hundred years since then, developers and boosters and politicians have worked almost unceasingly to improve this powerful and temperamental waterway. Even before Austin’s arrival, however, Spanish settlers and Indian populations manipulated the river, developing it for their own purposes. The Spanish, for example, built irrigation canals and small embankment dams in Texas. No, the conviction that this river should be developed is not new.   The end result of development has changed, but the idea of improving this river has not. A better question, then, is this: given the long history of attention to the Brazos, why has it not been developed more fully? Why must men like Art Briles shake their heads in wonder today, mind reeling at the untapped potential of this river? Why must politicians and business leaders and the inestimable public do likewise?

Brazos River flood in Waco, 1913
“[Brazos in Flood], 1913,” “Waco—Events—Floods—1913,” Photograph Collection, Texas Collection
The short answer–and the topic of discussion in my lecture–is that any lack of development is not due to a lack of effort. There has actually been a concentrated, long-standing effort to improve this waterway. The problem is that most of the proposed development projects along the Brazos have been, at best, a temporary success.

Take, for example, the lock and dam project (early 1900s). To expand navigation along the Brazos River, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a series of eight structures that would use a small-scale dam and a lock to raise water levels in areas plagued by shoals, falls, and bars. This project was applauded energetically, but construction of the locks and dams proved to be problematic, to say the least. In 1912, for example, engineers at the lock and dam near Waco reported that an untimely drought had dried up the river, leaving a scant 8 inches of water in the lock. One year later, employees at the same lock noted that a recent flood had done more than $20,000 worth of damage (the equivalent of $481,000 today).

“Why haven’t we tried to develop the Brazos River?”

As I said, that isn’t the right question.

“Why haven’t we been able to develop the Brazos more fully?”

That question may not have an easy answer, but it does guide us down a productive path of research and discussion.

Eager to hear more about this discussion? Join us in Bennett Auditorium at 3:30 pm on Thursday, October 22, to hear her thoughts on development along the Brazos River. Dr. Archer, an instructor at Angelo State University and Baylor alumna, is promoting her book, Unruly Waters: A Social and Environmental History of the Brazos River. The book will be available for purchase at a reception following at The Texas Collection and at the Baylor Bookstore during Homecoming.

Baylor by Decade: 1915, 1935

Homecoming football game, Baylor vs. TCU, 1915
Photos from Baylor’s second Homecoming football game. Baylor beat TCU, 51-0. 1915 Baylor Bulletin, p. 65.

“With every loyal student it is God, home, country, Baylor”—so sayeth the 1915 Baylor Bulletin. In its early years, the Bulletin was the imprint under which all university catalogues were published, along with the faculty/staff/student directory, annual reports, and even selected faculty publications and speeches. Eventually, it became primarily the university catalogue, but the Bulletin always gives us great insight into the many changes that have occurred down the years at our university. Join us as we explore “Baylor by Decade,” a periodic series in which we look at the changing campus community.   


  • Not only were all students expected to attend Chapel at 10 am every morning, they were also expected to attend a Waco church (as selected by their parents) every Sunday.
  • The library system housed 28,570 volumes. (In comparison, the University Libraries added more than 24,000 volumes in the last fiscal year.)
  • The Chemistry Lab in Carroll Science Building accommodated 68 students. (We have certainly added space with the development of the Baylor Sciences Building!)
  • All the girls living in the University Girls’ Home were expected to do one hour of housekeeping every day.
  • Students paid $75 in tuition for the entire school year, and the total cost of attendance was approximately $250.00.
  • For the Homecoming Football game, Baylor beat TCU 51-0.


            Rufus C. Burleson statue, Baylor University's Burleson Quadrangle, 1935


  • The library system housed 68,015 volumes in Carroll Library, which was newly rebuilt after a fire in 1922 and considered to be a modern fireproof library facility.
  • Students paid $75 per year in tuition, and room and board cost between $28 and $35 per month.
  • A 50-cent fee was charged for each change of class after completion of registration
  • There was a total of 2,458 students enrolled in Baylor, representing 30 states and 9 different countries
  • The Baylor University Press was equipped with modern machinery, including Linotype machines, a No. 4 Miehle press, a Babcock pony press, and a Chandler & Price cutter, which were all operated by electric motors! (This was clearly a big deal. Imagine hand-cranking all of this heavy machinery, and you’ll understand why.)

Facts compiled by archives student assistant Amanda Means

Texas over Time: Lake Waco

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.


  • Lake Waco was originally created by a dam on the Bosque River in 1930 that cost $2.5 million.
  • The dam was rebuilt in 1964 for a cost of $48 million. Then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson presided over the groundbreaking that was truncated due to a severe thunderstorm. The new dam was 140 feet high and expanded the lake to a surface area of 7,000 acres.
  • All of the land for the lake expansion was acquired through a willing-seller willing-buyer basis at contemporary market rates. Eminent domain was not used.
  • The lake sits on land that is made up of limestone, shale, and chalk deposits. The lake, as well as the area immediately around it, is an archaeologically significant site, as artifacts from several thousands of years of Native American habitation have been found there, as well as artifacts from early European settlement of the McLennan County area.


Lake Waco Clippings 1930-1961 vertical file, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Scott, Ann M., Karl W. Kibler, and Marie E. Blake. “National Register Testing of Nine Archeological Sites at Waco Lake, McLennan County, Texas.” Austin: Prewitt and Associates, 2002.

If you’re interested in learning more about efforts to control Texas rivers, join us on October 22 to hear Kenna Lang Archer’s presentation on her book, Unruly Waters, which explores the history of the Brazos River.

See all of the images in our Flickr set. GIF and factoids by Braxton Ray, archives student assistant.

What I Did This Summer: Graduate Student Projects at The Texas Collection, Part 2

Samuel Palmer Brooks in his office, undated
Dr. Brooks began his presidency at Baylor in 1902 in the midst of pursuing a master’s degree at Yale University. He served as president nearly thirty years. Samuel Palmer Brooks papers #91, box 1, folder 2

This summer, The Texas Collection was fortunate to have four graduate students working with our staff and in our collections. We asked them to share a little about their projects and what they have learned. Last month we heard about Baptist collections and athletics film; this month, we’ve got the papers of a beloved Baylor president and of a Central Texas archaeologist/lithographer/Renaissance man.

My name is Amanda Mylin, and I am a history master’s student from Pennsylvania. This summer I had the privilege of working for The Texas Collection as the D.M. Edwards Library Intern. (I previously was a graduate assistant at the TC for the 2014-2015 year, working with Amanda Norman and Paul Fisher, primarily on Baylor University records.) My major project this summer was to process and rehouse the Samuel Palmer Brooks papers. This collection is well-used by researchers, necessitating preservation work and an electronic finding aid.

J. Frank Norris letter to Samuel Palmer Brooks, 1927
Dr. Brooks carried Baylor University through the Fundamentalist-Modernist evolution controversy, which involved engaging with Texas Baptist Fundamentalist leader J. Frank Norris. Samuel Palmer Brooks papers #91, box 31, folder 7

Brooks served as Baylor’s president from 1902 to 1931. His presidency saw the heyday of the evolution controversy between Fundamentalists and Modernists, prohibition, women’s suffrage, and the onset of the Great Depression. Rehousing this collection afforded interesting glimpses at major twentieth century historical moments through the lens of Baylor and Brooks.

I also learned much about Baylor in the early twentieth century, including the students’ fondness for “Prexy,” as they lovingly called him. His dedication to Baylor students and the Baptist community was also evident through the sheer number of flowers, condolence letters, telegrams, and newspaper articles surrounding his death. Many articles discussed his devotion through his decision to sign the 1931 diplomas despite his rapidly failing health.

Now that the papers are rehoused more comfortably and the finding aid updated, the collection amounts to 59 document boxes and 2 oversized boxes. Since I hope to continue working in special collections in the future, I had much to gain from this summer’s project. I encountered situations like insect-chewed papers, learned what happens to deteriorating silver gelatin photographs, and experienced tackling a very large collection, among other things. Upon completion of this project, I finished out the summer by processing a new collection, the papers of Diana Garland, former dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work.

We’re fortunate to have Amanda stay on with Baylor awhile yet, although not at The Texas Collection. After she graduated in August, she began work as a project archivist working on the Chet Edwards collection at the Baylor Collections of Political Materials.


Frank Watt at Mobridge dig site, 1962
Frank Watt at Mobridge, South Dakota, dig site, 1962. (Frank Heddon Watt collection #470, box 11, folder 17, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)

Hello, Texas! My name is Casey Schumacher and I’m a Museum Studies graduate student from Central Illinois. I started working with Benna Vaughan when I moved here in August 2014 and was able to work with her on manuscripts collections through this summer. As a non-Texan, every day is an opportunity to learn something new about this state and its people.

My primary summer project involved processing the Frank Heddon Watt collection. Processing a collection involves placing the collection in order so researchers can access it easily, putting the materials in new folders and boxes and uploading information about the collection online. This collection ended up filling 46 document boxes, so processing it took longer than some of my smaller collections.

With large collections like these, consistency is vital, and it’s best if one person sees the whole project from beginning to end. I began processing the Watt papers after they had already been arranged a couple of times, and a previous assistant had started a third arrangement but only made it halfway through the collection. In other words, the whole collection was a mess. I ended up redoing the entire collection so it would all be processed the same way and more efficient for researcher access.

Cardboard Proof of Stone Engravings by Frank Watt, undated
Not all of Frank Watt’s drawings depicted dig sites and artifacts. The Lithography & Art series in his collection includes extensive lithograph samples, sketches, and prints of buildings, landscapes, and portraits. Several Waco area businesses used letterhead designed and printed in his shop. Frank Heddon Watt collection #470, Box 16, Folder 20

Watt (1889-1981) was a jack-of-all-trades, and his collection included 3D objects, photographs and notes from archaeological digs in Central Texas, as well as several boxes of lithography samples, sketches, and instruction books. Once the project was completed, I felt like a bit of a professional in each area he researched!

I really enjoy working at the Texas Collection and when I return in the fall, I’ll be working with different collections and learning archival techniques new to me. Working with a diverse selection of collections will also help me prepare for the Certified Archivist Exam after I graduate from Baylor. While I won’t have the opportunity to dig as deep into a specific subject or person as with larger collections, I’m excited to learn more about Texas history and help make these collections accessible for students and the broader community.

The Life and Art of Harding Black: The Power of One

Harding Black_Box_11_6_frame16
Harding Black gifted Baylor University his personal collection of thousands of ceramic objects, spanning the length of his career, from the 1930s to the 1990s. The glazes that Black developed are still taught in ceramics programs around the United States, including at Baylor. Harding Black Collection and Archive #3911, box 11, folder 6.

Please join The Texas Collection for a lecture
by Baylor University professor and
ceramist Paul McCoy,

The Life and Art of Harding Black:
The Power of One

Thursday, September 24, 2015
3:30-5 pm

The Texas Collection’s
Guy B. Harrison, Jr. Reading Room
Baylor University

Reception to follow

Among the many glazes that Black worked on over the years, none is more closely associated with him than copper red, seen here on a test bowl. Black built on the work of researchers such as Charles Fergus Binns and Edgar Littlefield to create a stable process for replicating this ancient Chinese glaze. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tx-harding/id/1347/rec/1
Black worked extensively with crackle glazes throughout his career. The cracks, or crazing, that give these glazes their unique appearance were at one time thought of as a defect. During China’s Song dynasty, crazing, seen here on a test vase, came to be regarded as a decorative effect. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tx-harding/id/1892/rec/1

Harding Black has long been considered one of the pioneers of the American studio ceramics movement, and his work is today held in public and private collections throughout the United States. In 1995, as Black was preparing to retire from 60 years as a teacher, artist, and researcher of ceramics, he entrusted Baylor University and Paul McCoy–his fellow ceramist, fishing partner, and close friend–with his personal collection, in the hope that future generations of students and researchers would continue to build on his legacy. When Black passed away in 2004, Paul McCoy delivered his eulogy to the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts annual meeting.

Harding Black dedicated his life to his art, and to honor that commitment, Baylor University’s Texas Collection partnered with the Department of Art to preserve and digitize Black’s personal research notes, and to photographically document thousands of ceramic objects from his ceramic test collection. This digital archive makes Black’s work accessible to artists and academics around the world.

On August 14, 2015, the Texas Collection opened an exhibit featuring dozens of ceramic works by Harding Black, curated by Paul McCoy. These objects are on view at the Texas Collection through October 14, 2015, from 8 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday. The exhibition, lecture, and reception are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Paul McCoy at Paul_McCoy@baylor.edu.

Blog post by Josh Garland, Museum Studies graduate student

Oilspot glazes are among the most visually striking of Black’s work. Seen here on a test vase, oilspot glazes became popular during China’s Song dynasty, and remain so today. Depending on its composition, the glaze can take on a range of colors from blue and gray to yellow and black. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tx-harding/id/3612/rec/1

What I Did This Summer: Graduate Student Projects at The Texas Collection, Part 1

Baylor basketball film, pre-processing
Basketball film before: The Texas Collection receives athletics films in canisters of all shapes and sizes! Photo by Texas Collection staff.

This summer, The Texas Collection was fortunate to have four graduate students working with our staff and in our collections. As the summer comes to a close, we asked them to share a little about their projects and what they have learned. We’ll hear from two today, and two next month. This week’s post demonstrates the wide variety of materials we house at The Texas Collection, from the papers of Baptist theologians and missionaries to Baylor basketball film!

My name is Alyssa Gerhardt, and I am a fourth year history PhD student from Sutter, Illinois. I have been working at The Texas Collection for the summer, helping to process materials in the Baylor University Libraries Athletics Archive. [Alyssa’s work was funded by the Baylor University Libraries Athletics Archive endowment.] While it is common knowledge that Baylor University has gained a lot of national attention for its athletic teams in the past few years, it may come as a surprise to learn that The Texas Collection serves as the repository for materials documenting Baylor sports history. Although The Texas Collection holds a wide variety of Baylor sports material, my main job this summer was to process film from the men’s basketball team. Dating as far back as 1960, most of this film was in 16mm format and was in a range of conditions. It has been my job to identify all of these films, put them into archival-grade containers, and catalog them for future patrons’ use.

Baylor basketball film, organized, rehoused, and labeled
Basketball film after: Processing film meant putting them into uniform archival canisters and adding clearly-marked labels. Photo by Texas Collection staff.

Today, we take the process of watching movies or film for granted, but this project has helped me gain an appreciation for the development of both film and film technology over the last fifty years. Because I was working with film reels that had not been properly stored for many years, they were too delicate to simply put on a projector and watch. Instead, using a homemade film reel holder and a handheld microscope, I worked frame-by-frame to pick out players, uniforms, scores, or anything else that would help with identification. Then, using that information, I used sports reports from the Baylor Lariat, team photos from the Round-Up, or game statistics from an athletic department almanac. Needless to say, this could sometimes be very tedious work!

As an avid Baylor sports fan, however, I found the process fascinating. It was interesting to learn about key basketball players throughout the program’s history and feel connected to a long tradition of school pride. It was also intriguing to see how the sport of basketball has changed over the years, something I had not previously given much thought to.

Working at the Texas Collection has given me new appreciation for the range of materials that archives preserve and gave me a glimpse into the many fun and surprising sources we have for learning about the history of Baylor University.


William Mueller and colleagues at the Baptist World Congress in London, 1955
William Mueller attended a number of the Baptist World Congresses in the mid-twentieth century, including this one in London in 1955. With fluency in more than five languages, he often served as one of the primary interpreters. William A. Mueller papers #3959, box 1, folder 3.

My name is Cody Strecker, and I am a doctoral student of early Christian theology in Baylor’s Religion Department. The most interesting, and most daunting, of my tasks this summer as the Baptist Collection intern has been preparing the William A. Mueller papers. This German-American’s life spanned the majority of the twentieth century. His work as a young interpreter in post-World War I French-occupied Rhineland, as a Brooklyn pastor of a bilingual German congregation, as a student of Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary, and as a professor of history, theology, and philosophy at half a dozen Baptist seminaries and American universities, brought him into contact with a great host of fascinating events and figures. He is, in short, a historian’s dream—not only because of his encounters and activities, but because he took notes on what he read and heard with what appears to have been an obsessive compulsion. And his hundreds of lovely, flowing letters reveal a gregarious man of great faith and good humor. If you desire a lucid summary of Kierkegaard’s thought or a list of the most brutal one-liners uttered by the inimitable Archie Bunker in 1976, look no further.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary report, 1958
After disagreements between the president and faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary resulted in the dismissal of 12 professors in 1958, a report was submitted to the American Association of Theological Schools. Mueller, who was on the faculty at the time and had written the history of the seminary, left little question of his feelings on the matter when he titled his copy of the report “South[ern] Seminary Debacle 1958.” William A. Mueller papers #3959, box 8, folder 9.
But this historian’s dream was an archives processor’s nightmare. Although the collection’s folder titles proved that there had been a system of organization, somewhere along the line someone had taken a diesel leaf-blower to the material remnants of Dr. Mueller’s mind. Four weeks of pulling rusted staples, deciphering shaky German handwriting, and reuniting long-lost pages has resulted in twelve boxes of neatly ordered documents, summarily described. Few tasks in my professional life have been for me more satisfying. I look forward to seeing the products of such an active and thoughtful man mined for greater insight into the complex history of modern German theology, or of Baptist higher education in twentieth century America.

Lifting the Veil: The Ceramic Legacy of Harding Black

Harding Black in the studio
Harding Black maintained a passion for teaching the ceramic arts throughout his life. After retiring from his teaching position at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Black continued to work with at-risk children on his own time. Harding Black Collection and Archive #3911, box 11, folder 6.
Harding Black flame glaze test bowl, MG0931
This test bowl features a flame glaze, a composition that Black spent decades developing. By applying a second glaze on top of a base glaze, a linear pattern may emerge as the topmost glaze flows downward, which can form the image of a flame motif. Harding Black Collection and Archive #3911. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tx-harding/id/3275/rec/1

By Josh Garland, Museum Studies graduate student

On August 14, The Texas Collection opened a special exhibit of ceramic works by Harding Black, one of the pioneers of the American studio ceramics movement.

Harding Black was born near Aransas Pass, Texas, in 1912. As a young man, he became interested in pottery after excavating ancient Native American sites near Big Bend, Texas. These early explorations would set Black on the path to rediscovering some of the ancient world’s most elusive glazes.

Heralded in his own lifetime as “the Dean of Texas Ceramics,” Black had no formal training in the fields to which he dedicated his life. He was taught to throw clay in the early 1930s by his friend Rudolf Staffel, who would himself go on to be recognized as a master ceramist. Black began teaching children’s ceramic classes at San Antonio’s Witte Museum soon after, and also supervised projects for the Works Progress Administration.

Although Black was capable of producing remarkable ceramic forms–bowls, vases, sculptures–his true passion, and indeed the foundation of his legacy, lay in glaze research. By building on the work of prominent researchers such as Charles Fergus Binns and Edgar Littlefield, Black succeeded in his pursuit of the ancient Chinese copper red glaze, publishing his findings in the inaugural issue of Ceramics Monthly, in January 1953.

Black’s love of ancient glazes would lead him to significant developments not only in copper reds, but also in Eastern glazes such as celadons and oilspots, along with Scandinavian satin mattes, and many others. Black shared his research freely, asking only that others continue to extend his work.

Harding Black celadon test vase, MG2005
Black’s true passion in life was glaze research. He was particularly interested in ancient Eastern glazes, such as celadon, seen here on a test vase. By altering the composition of the glaze, Black was able to achieve a variety of hues, ranging from the traditional pale green, to brilliant blues and yellows. Harding Black Collection and Archive #3911. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tx-harding/id/468/rec/1

Black continued to work into his 80s, but decades of throwing clay and mixing glazes had taken a toll on his health. In 1995, Black donated his extensive collection of research notes and nearly 12,000 ceramic objects from his personal collection to Baylor University.

In 2015, The Texas Collection partnered with the Department of Art on a major effort to process and digitize Harding Black’s extensive collection of glaze notebooks and photographically document thousands of ceramic pieces to create a digital collection of Black’s work, ensuring that his research would be available to future generations of ceramic artists and researchers. Texas Collection staff member Amanda Dietz supervised the project, with museum studies graduate student Josh Garland and undergraduate student Amanda Means contributing.

Harding Black Test vase, blue-green lava glaze,-MG2400
Although known primarily for his work with Eastern glazes, Black also conducted significant research on Western glazes. This test vase features a lava glaze, and illustrates Black’s ability to craft ceramic objects that seem almost to have been pulled from nature. Harding Black Collection and Archive #3911. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/tx-harding/id/3729/rec/1

With archival efforts completed, The Texas Collection is proud to host the exhibit, Lifting the Veil: The Ceramic Legacy of Harding Black. This exhibition features dozens of stunning pieces by Black, curated by Baylor University professor and ceramist Paul McCoy. The exhibition runs from August 14 – October 14, at The Texas Collection. In addition, The Texas Collection will host a reception on September 24, from 3:30 – 5 pm, where McCoy will present a lecture on the life and art of Harding Black. Located in The Texas Collection’s Guy B. Harrison, Jr. Reading Room, the exhibition, lecture, and reception are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Paul McCoy at Paul_McCoy@baylor.edu.

Texas over Time: Congress Avenue, Austin

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Austin-NorthCongressA few notable superlatives centered around Austin’s Congress Avenue…

  • The Bosche-Hogg building was the site of the first steam laundry west of the Mississippi, circa late 1890s.
  • At nine stories, the Littlefield building (c. 1912) was briefly the second tallest building west of the Mississippi behind the ALICO, which was completed the year before, in 1911. (Many Austin sources state it as being the tallest, despite it being shorter than and built later than the ALICO.)
  • The street was home to a mule powered streetcar line starting in 1875. It was later upgraded to an electric line. The street was the first in Austin to be paved, in 1905, reportedly causing horses and buggies to fall whenever it rained, as they weren’t used to making fast turns on the pavement.
  • The Angelina Eberly/Texas Archives War statue (between Sixth and Seventh Streets) is one of the only public sculptures celebrating archives. Eberly is depicted firing a cannon to alert the people of Austin (in 1842) that Sam Houston’s men were stealing the Republic of Texas’ archives, part of President Houston’s efforts to relocate the capitol to Houston. Eberly, who ran a boarding house, fired off a grapeshot load from a cannon, sending soldiers on their way to head off the records thieves and ultimately, preserve Austin as the state capitol.


Castle, Melissa Allen. Austin Through a Century: Know Your Capitol. Austin: S.n., 1939. Print.

Historic Walking Tours: Congress Ave. & E. 6th St. Austin, TX: Visitor Information Center, 1995. Print.

Hodges, Rob. “Angelina (Peyton) Eberly—A Pioneering Spirit.” Texas Historical Commission, 2013. http://www.thc.state.tx.us/blog/angelina-peyton-eberly-pioneering-spirit. Web.

Humphrey, David C. Austin: A History of the Capital City. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1997. Print.

Jackson, Pearl Cashell. Austin Yesterday and Today: A Glance at Her History, a Word about Her Enterprises, a Description of Her Big Banking Establishment. Austin, TX: E.L. Steck, 1915. Print.

Shelton, Emmett. My Austin: Remembering the Teens and Twenties. Boston, MA: American, 1994. Print.

See all of the images in our Flickr set. GIF and factoids by Braxton Ray, archives student assistant.

Looking Back at Baylor: The Campus as Playground

Baylor University, aerial view, 1920s
1920s aerial view of the Baylor campus by Fred Gildersleeve. This is what the campus looked like at around the time Albert Meroney was born. At the time, the campus consisted of Old Main, Burleson Hall, Carroll Chapel and Library, Carroll Science Hall, and Carroll Field, and Brooks Hall is under construction in the top left corner. Residential neighborhoods surround the small campus. General photo files: Baylor–Aerial Views–1920-1929.

Children are often on the Baylor campus today, but they are usually accompanied by their parents or teachers. However, back in the first half of the 1900s, residential areas were much closer to campus, and children—particularly those of faculty/staff—made good use of the campus as a playground. Albert Meroney, the son of sociology professor William Penn Meroney, lived at 1417 South Seventh Street (about where Alexander Hall now stands). The following are excerpts from a short memoir he wrote in 1994 (now housed at The Texas Collection) remembering the campus from a child’s perspective.

“Waco Creek ran at the north end of Carroll Field where Baylor played football. There was a high fence around the field, and at the creek end there were trees whose limbs hung over the fence. We would climb the trees to watch a game and then out on the limbs and when no one was looking would drop down inside and run….Every Sunday during the fall they would water the field with a fire house. A bunch of us would slip in and get in the water and have a big time until the day watchman would catch us—it would be Bill Boyd or Neill Morris, and they would scare us but not call our folks….

View of Carroll Chapel and Library and Burleson Quadrangle from Old Main tower, Baylor University, February 5, 1922
Among Meroney’s recollections of mischief are sneaking into the Old Main towers. What a view! However, he wouldn’t have seen quite this scene–this photo is dated just a week before a fire gutted the Carroll Chapel and Library in 1922 (the year Meroney was born), and the dome was not restored. General photo files: Baylor–Buildings–Rufus C. Burleson Quadrangle.

Right behind the girls’ dorm, Burleson, was an enclosed swimming pool for girls only. It seemed huge to us kids but was only about 20 x 30 feet and had a concrete dome roof….There were no classes on Sunday, and a few of us would open one of the windows, which were at ground level, and take us a swim until we got caught.

The campus and especially Waco Hall had so many good sidewalks that all of us had roller skates….The campus sidewalks were also a great place to ride bicycles. We used to make a sort of polo mallet and get a tin can and play bicycle polo. Hard on the spokes….

The heating plant was by the creek and is now Neill Morris Hall. It had large boilers that generated steam to heat all the campus buildings. The steam lines ran through a tunnel that went all over the campus. We used to get in the tunnel at a manhole and go every which direction and hide out….Also on the side of the building there was a ramp to the top so that trucks could drive up and unload coal into the bins for the furnaces. We used to ride our bikes up and down it, and it was real great when it would ice over in the winter and we would slide down on anything we could find. We always had someone at the bottom to watch out for cars [on Seventh Street] but one time we forget and Marshall Cunningham went down and went completely under a car and out on the other side….

Burleson Quadrangle looking at Old Main, Baylor University, circa 1920s-1930s
You can see the benches (and the many trees!) in Burleson Quadrangle, behind which a mischievous Meroney hid to surprise courting couples. Today, benches and swings still are a popular place for couples on the Baylor campus. General photo files–Baylor–Buildings–Rufus C. Burleson Quadrangle

Scattered across the campus and under the trees were benches for students to use for courting. One of my favorite stunts was to slip up behind a couple and scare the daylights out of them. Also, coins could be found under the benches….[Another] of our favorite stunts was to slip in Old Main, open the door that went to the attic and to the towers…and catch squabs to take home to cook and eat….

When Pat Neff got Baylor in the black [after the Depression] there was a building boom. Up until about 1941 I “supervised” it all. In other words I was in everybody’s way and playing all over.”

Meroney went on to use his insider knowledge of the Baylor campus as a student, graduating in 1948 after he served in World War II.

This blog post is an edited version of William Albert Meroney’s memoir, as prepared by  former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth for The Baylor Line, Summer 1994Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” selections, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

1966: The Year Waco’s ALICO Building Meets Mid-Century

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Amicable (ALICO) Building, Waco, TX., c. 1926
This Fred Gildersleeve image shows the Amicable Building in about 1926. Waco’s famous Old Corner Drug Store occupied a wing of the street level at the time. This same part of the building is still attached, as can be noticed in the modern image of the structure below. The original design of the front and side facades are evident, as well as the original design of the first few upper floors. General photo files: Waco–Business–Amicable Life Insurance Building (Exterior).

Between 1958 and 1978, Waco underwent major changes through the federally funded Urban Renewal Agency of Waco. Areas impacted included numerous city blocks between LaSalle Avenue and Waco Drive. The project greatly affected the city’s people, businesses, schools, and buildings.

Between 1964 and 1966, the city’s landmark ALICO (American Life Insurance Company) Building received major updates as well. The largest and most significant addition to the structure was the ALICO Inn and its convention facilities. The 22-story ALICO Building, originally known as the Amicable Building, was completed in 1911, and designed by architects Roy E. Lane and Sanguinet & Staats. When built, it was the tallest office building in the southwestern United States. Its location was once in the city’s central business district, and it was a vital part of the city’s economy. To remain that way, it needed to keep pace with the rapidly changing business climate of Waco in the 1950s and ’60s.

The ALICO Center Building, ALICO Inn, Waco, TX, 1966 (6)
This view from 5th Street shows the changes in architecture to the original ALICO office building and adjoining conference center and hotel. Most of the façade still remains, but seeing the 1966 structure helps give an idea of the architects’ original intent with the building’s design. General photo files: Waco–Urban Renewal–Business–Alico Center.

With the closing of the Roosevelt Hotel and its conversion into a retirement facility, more downtown hotels were needed, and the Waco Chamber of Commerce was receptive to ideas like the creation of the ALICO Center. The city wanted to attract conventions and shoppers to the downtown area. The center’s proposal was initiated by 29-year-old architect Jay Frank Powell, owner of Down-Tel Corp., a company specializing in building motels in downtown areas. According to the September 20, 1964, Waco Tribune-Herald, the Waco Chamber, when presented with the ALICO Center plan: “pounced on Powell like a piece of beef dangled before a starving lion.”

The ALICO Center Building, ALICO Inn, Waco, TX, 1966 (8)
A passing image of the ALICO Inn and Conference Center soon after construction in about 1966. The view from Austin Avenue was far different from what had been there before the addition. General photo files: Waco–Urban Renewal–Business–Alico Center.

When completed in 1966, the ALICO Center Inn contained 115 rooms for overnight guests, a second-floor meeting room that would seat 250 in a banquet or 1,000 to 1,200 people auditorium-style. It was described as a “downtown motor hotel with convention facilities, a motor bank and a five-story parking garage.” The ALICO Center was designed to match its changing surroundings, including part of Austin Avenue’s closure to make it into a pedestrian mall, another part of the Waco Urban Renewal Agency’s planning. [Check out our blog post on that subject.]

At the 1964 ALICO Center groundbreaking ceremony, the president of the Amicable Life Insurance Company, Franklin Smith, stated, “it will be not only a step toward completion of ALICO Center, but mark the beginning of a new atmosphere and a new enthusiasm in downtown Waco.” Additionally, Waco’s then mayor, Roger Conger, compared the event “to the historic groundbreaking for the Amicable Building more than 50 years ago.”

The ALICO Center Building, Hilton Inn, Waco, TX, Sep. 1971 (2)
The lower façade of the main ALICO Building fits in well with the recently dedicated Austin Avenue Pedestrian Mall, as seen here in 1971. In order to attract more shoppers who would park and walk, vehicular traffic was not allowed on certain parts of Austin Avenue. General photo files: Waco–Urban Renewal–Business–Alico Center.

The end result, completed in 1966, changed the design of the original 1911 ALICO Building, with the new hotel, convention center, parking garage, and motor bank, joined directly to it. As a result, the ALICO Center’s additions took up nearly the entire 400 block of Austin Avenue—stretching much of the complex back to Washington Avenue. Overall, it was impressive and imposing—different in every aspect of what that side of the 400 block of Austin Avenue looked like before. The entire redesign of the 1966 ALICO Center seemed well balanced in appearance—and represented the mid-century architectural style frequently seen during the period.

However, the ALICO Center as it appeared in 1966 is no longer. The hotel and convention center were demolished in about 1998, and the space is now used as a parking lot. The main vintage 1911 building and parking garage complex remain, and retain most of the later modifications. This includes much of the 1966 addition’s facade at street level, wrapping around Austin Avenue, the parking garage along 5th Street, and back to the Washington Avenue side of the complex.

The ALICO Building, 425 Austin Avenue, Waco, TX, 2015 (3)
What’s noticeable in this 2015 image of the ALICO Building is the lack of the hotel and convention center. The structure once joining the main building took up a large portion of the 400 block of Austin Avenue and extended back to Washington. The 5-story parking garage and section built for the motor bank are still present. The hotel and convention complex was demolished in about 1998 and is now a parking lot. Photo taken by Texas Collection staff.

In spring 2016, it will be fifty years since the ALICO Center opened for operations. The main building is now 104 years old. The structure has, and remains successful and its exterior is a mixture of old and “new.” Most importantly, it continues to be Waco’s most prominent downtown landmark.

Occupiers of the Inn and Conference Center at 411 Austin Avenue, according to Waco Polk City Directories include:

*ALICO Inn: 1966-1970
*Hilton Inn: 1970-1971
*Waco Plaza Motel: 1972-1978
*Brazos Inn: 1979-1982
*Rodeway Inn: 1983-1984
*Brazos Inn: 1985-1991
*Brittney Hotel: 1992-1994
*Vacant: 1995-1997
*Mark Domangue and Associates Security Brokers: 1998
*Building demolished around this time period-disappears from the records: 1999

See more images of the different looks of the ALICO building over time in our Flickr set.

Created with flickr slideshow.


“Architect Will Reach Goal In Building of ALICO Center,” The Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Sep. 20, 1964.

“New Era Seen as Work Begins on Huge Motel,” The Waco News-Tribune (Waco, TX.), Dec. 8, 1964.

“ALICO Keeps Pace with Time,” The Baylor Lariat (Waco, TX.), Feb 26, 1966.

“Charles Hunton-Hilton Inn Manager,” The Waco Citizen (Waco, TX.), Nov. 20, 1969.

“Conventions at Brazos,” The Waco Citizen (Waco, TX.), Mar. 10, 1981.

“Rodeway Now Brazos Inn,” The Waco Citizen (Waco, TX.), Feb. 19, 1985.