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The Old Main Tower

In 1934 the Old Main Building of the University, beloved by thousands of alumni, was torn down. Considerable feeling was displayed at the time and many ex-students questioned its desirability as well as its necessity. What new building could takes its place, they reasoned! And, if they needed a new building, let them put it somewhere else and not disturb a shrine which meant so much to all true Texas grads!

Anyhow the Regents thought differently and the building came down. Some of the local alumni, however, conceived the idea of attempting to preserve the Old Main Tower. Accordingly, a group from the Austin Chamber of Commerce, composed of Charles Page, Walter Long, Hubert Jones, Fred C. Morse and Dr. Goodall Wooten appeared before the Board of Regents on the 11th day of June, 1934, and, according to the minutes, requested the Board to preserve the entire tower which they said could be used in constructing a memorial shrine.

Quoting from the minutes:

"The visitors explained that they thought the additional cost of taking down the tower so that it might be reconstructed and of the construction would be somewhere between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. They thought it would be much more preferable to have the shrine consist of the entire tower than to use portions only. After some discussion those members of the Board present voted, subject to approval by Mr. Cret and Mr. White of the location of the Memorial, to authorize the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the University of Ex-Students’ Association to reconstruct the Tower of the Old Main Building at a place to be determined by the architects, provided the entire funds for the erection thereof can be supplied by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Ex-Students’ Association. The architects were further authorized to deal with the contractor and to require him to move the identical materials taken from the Tower to a place on the campus to be selected by the architects where the material may be stored until the Tower can be reconstructed."

Old Main Tower
The following month the matter was again considered by the Board of Regents when the same committee again came before them to discuss briefly the plans for the memorial to be made from the Tower. Again quoting from the minutes of July 21st, 1934:

"Mr. Stark reported that the architect and the contractor had been instructed to preserve the materials from the Tower and place them in a designated position so that the Tower can be reconstructed providing the necessary funds for the reconstruction can be raised by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Ex-Students’ Association. Mr. White reported that the extra cost of the demolition of the building because of the saving of materials from the Tower in condition to be reconstructed and placing them in a location designated by the University would amount to about $3,200. Dr. Wooten reported that the committee from the Austin Chamber of Commerce wanted to extend its help in the project and it was proposed that this committee begin to take pledges to raise a fund of sufficient amount to reconstruct the Tower."

When this action was taken by the Regents the country was going through the worst depression in the history of the nation and it did not seem feasible to put on a campaign to raise even twenty or thirty thousand dollars. In fact, conditions were so bad that not even a single step was taken. The Regents kept their promise and the Old Tower was stored under the east wing of the stadium where it remained until only last month. Then, only a short time before this was written, due to the expansion of the stadium, the brick and materials were taken out and stored at the Magnesium Plant a few miles north of Austin. What condition they are in now is not known. Whatever their condition the University or the Regents cannot be blamed. They have done their part but the alumni have done nothing. For a while it was thought the materials could be used in the erection of a new band hall but apparently this was never done. Of course it is the old story–while the matter was being agitated everybody was anxious to do something. After the Old Main was torn down people forgot it and with world conditions as they were no one was able to do anything.

Now, it is different. It will probably cost twice as much to do the job but the money can be had. When the question first came up it was suggested that the materials be incorporated into a campanile or clock tower and placed at some commanding position on the campus. Or it could be used as a memorial to the University dead of World War II.

Well, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to forget Old Main forever? Are we going to sit back placidly with an "Oh well, it’s done now; let’s forget it!" Or are we going to do something? Hundreds of men who graduated prior to 1934 are able to have the job done our of their own pockets without asking anybody’s help and their names would go down in a way that no other project could equal. It might take fifty thousand dollars or perhaps a little more. This fine old Tower set on a commanding position on the campus would tie the hearts of the old grads to the school as nothing else could. They money could be raised by popular subscription but the quickest and best way to get the project done is for some of our richer alumni who really love the University to go ahead and do it. How it would warm the hearts of all of us to go back to the campus and see the Old Main Tower piercing the sky as it used to do in older and happier days! Alumni, the eyes of Texas are upon you. If there ever was a time when the words of the old song applied it is now. Let’s do something!

Alcalde. June 1948.
Article by: Fred C. Morse

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3 May 1999
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