Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last (Small) House Standing

If you’ve read your copy of the Fall 2009 Heritage magazine then you’ve been more or less brought up to speed on the status of the Campus Master Plan and the changes that will come to the SHSU horizon in the next decade or so. In an interview about the master plan, SHSU President James Gaertner notes some of the items on the planned demolition schedule include Allen, Randel, Spivey, and Vick Houses.

Those are but four examples of the small, brick residential units that have dotted the campus landscape over the years. There were originally 25 of these “small houses” (the oldest date back to 1956) and they’ve been home to underclassmen, fraternities, sororities, and a menagerie of other various campus offices (such as Residence Life). But in recent years they’ve slowly been removed to make way for bigger and better buildings. None of them are architectural treasures that were meant to stand a century or two or the classiest of digs to call your home, but they have served the campus – and their students – well over the last 50 years.

So that got us thinking: because they sit on prime campus real estate, and it's little surprise that they're regularly listed as candidates for demolition, which will be the last small house standing on the SHSU campus? Make your guess today!

Keep the following in mind: your “vote” in no way sways campus officials one way or the other on what to do. This is but all for fun (or what we’re passing off as fun). Master Plans are notoriously tricky - they’re not always carried out right away, nor does the university always end up looking like the approved plan: construction can be slow, projects can shift priorities, and the university can change their mind. Austin Hall was once considered, according to one plan in the early Twentieth Century, for demolition, so too may these small houses stick around for a while.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Building a Mystery: Catholic Student Center

Catholic Student CenterPeriodically we come across shards of uncertainty in our research. Today it's the Catholic Student Center (CSC).

First, the building, located west of main campus on 17th Street, is not owned by the university. Seeing how it's one of those close-by structures (and that it appeared on past campus maps) we decided to do some research into it. What we found was a number of interchangeable names.

The 1982 Alcalde notes the construction of a new Catholic student center called Morkovsky Hall. No location is given but we assume it's the building along 17th Street; our maps dated before the 1980s indicate nothing at that location so we feel safe that they are one in the same. Who was Morkovsky? No immediate clue unless it was John Morkovsky (1909-1990), the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston - who would have still been alive in 1982. And don't tell us that's the wrong Morkovsky because we'll then have headaches and be all cross.

We're not sure how official the "Morkovsky" name was, however, because campus maps from the mid-1980s identify the structure as the Newman Foundation. Many Catholic student centers across the country - indeed, the world - are labeled "Newman," named for John Henry Newman (1801-1890) who maintained the idea that "Catholic students attending public universities should have a place to gather where they would be able to support and encourage one another in their faith."

Hereafter the name of the building flip-flops from "Newman Foundation" to “Newman Student Center” to “St. Thomas Catholic Student Center” and finally to, what signage currently out front says, "Catholic Student Center." Saint Thomas? Yes, have no doubts, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church sits just north of the student center, facing 16th Street.

We've forwarded a few emails to the CSC but to date have heard nothing in return. That leaves it to our readers at large: does anyone have information on the history of the Catholic Student Center or other Catholic student organizations on campus?