Recently, TxA received a postcard from Robert Bumann of Florida. A piece of architectural history, the card depicts a building at The University of Texas at Austin that no longer exists. The Old Main building, originally the first permanent structure on the campus, was completed in 1899, 16 years after classes first began.
A Victorian Gothic masterpiece of yellow brick, the building housed several different academic facilities. The first subject to be moved out of the palatial Old Main was chemistry, as the fumes from the labs and dangerous chemicals were a cause for concern. A chemistry building was built next door and was soon followed by an engineering building. The engineering building still stands today, with the distinction of being the oldest building on the campus.
As the campus began to grow up around Old Main, it soon became clear that the facility was not to last. Due to structural problems, the building’s auditorium was condemned in 1914. The whole building was torn down piece by piece until eventually it was razed entirely in 1935. The Tower, which was finished in 1937, replaced Old Main as the symbol at the heart of the campus.
While we often imagine older buildings as being “built to last,” constructed with much finer craftsmanship than those of today, it is interesting to note that Old Main only remained whole for 15 years after its completion. A relic of a UT campus that would no longer be recognizable to us, Old Main is a forgotten piece of Austin’s architectural history. Thanks for unearthing this postcard, Robert!