Thursday, October 23, 2008

Houstonian: Plan for new dining hall unveiled

Staff writer Jenny Swenson has an article in today’s Houstonian about the new dining hall being built on the north side of campus. A presentation by “Baton Rouge based Tipton Associates [showed] preliminary plans…[and ]…project[ed] the dining hall will be completed in the fall of 2010.”

According to the article, the “dining hall will be located in place of existing structures on Bearkat Boulevard, scheduled for demolition.” In short: Lawrence and Mitchell houses are on the chopping block as evidenced in the article’s accompanying photograph which now shows the dining hall due north of Belvin-Buchanan Hall.

Earlier plans for the dining hall indicated it might be built in the parking lot east of the University Health center.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Today@Sam: New Dining Facility Discussion

Students, faculty, and staff are invited to discuss design concepts with the Architects for the new Dining Facility from 3-5pm on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 in the Lowman Student Center Atrium.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Building a Mystery: Pica House

We made a stop into the University Archives the last time we were on campus and while there we stumbled upon a copy of the minutes from a Board of Regents meeting in February of 1958.

Only two pages from the minutes survived this long but it’s apparent that one function of the February meeting was to obtain approval for the naming of a number of new housing structures (everything from Sorority Hill and other small houses to the Departmental Dorms and the now-recently demolished Frels-Wilson buildings).

The project dubbed “Unit H” on page 226 caught our eye, if only because the group of buildings within that section seems a bit scattershot. First off, though, “Unit A” is the eight houses on Sorority Hill and “Units B, C, and D” are the 9 Departmental Dorms. However, “Unit H” consists of the following:
M1 Esquire House

M2 Pica House

W1 Lawrence House

W2 Mitchell House
First, we’re not 100% sure on the “M” and “W” designation (we tend to think “men's” verses “women's” but then the eight houses on Sorority Hill – which you would assume to be all female – are numbered A1 to A8...and we doubt that means “all”...).

Second, Lawrence and Mitchell Houses are located at the southeast corner of University Avenue and 16th Street. The Esquire House, named for the men’s social group, the Esquires, which later morphed into local chapter of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, was one of four houses built west of main campus on 17th Street. The old Delta house is now named for Joseph Baldwin and about half a mile west from Lawrence and Mitchell.
This brings up a few questions:

Q: If the Esquire House mentioned in the minutes is the Baldwin House, what happened to the other houses (Crawford, Creager, and Mallon) that we thought we built for fraternities?

A: We’re not sure and the minutes help in no way at all: the next surviving page dated February 1958 is not numbered and jumps to “Unit J” (Adams Hall). So perhaps “Unit I” consists of those three houses.

Q: What exactly is the Pica House?

A: Well, the PICA club consisted of graphic arts students that met to promote social and educational activities and take field trips to locales in their industry. They were active for many years (at least up to the 1970s) but we find it surprising that they would get their own residence on campus.  But is the Pica House referring to Crawford, Creager, or Mallon Houses? If not, then we may have a stray building that we are unaware of. If the Pica House does refer to Crawford, Creager, or Mallon then we have an incomplete history on one of these three buildings and proof (...maybe...) that one wasn’t originally built for a fraternity as we always thought.

In short, the histories of some of these small houses are enough to make you want to hurl a brick through a window...but then that wouldn’t be nice.