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The Genius Behind It All

In 1930 the regents of The University of Texas hired Cret as The University's supervising architect and commissioned him to draw up a general development plan for the campus. Cret's scheme, which he formally submitted in 1933, was based on general Beaux-Arts principles of balance, axial arrangements, and symmetry.... In 1931 the Board of Regents also commissioned Cret to design a new library on the site of Frederick E. Ruffini's Old Main Building. Cret proposed several different designs, but the regents eventually opted for a large, axially-planned building in a Mediterranean-influenced Beaux-Arts style topped by a thirty-one-story tower. The great tower, the only structure at the time that competed with the dome of the State Capitol on the Austin skyline, became the centerpiece of The University's campus, and formed, in Cret's words, "the image carried in our memory when we think of the place."

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Paul Philippe Cret

Beautiful buildings and a beautiful campus would be a powerful influence, working without cessation, for refinement in the lives of our students and silently instilling a vital and lasting love for The University. A beautiful University loved, as it would surely be, by successive generations of students and visitors, would have a continuing effect in the development of taste in the whole state.

~William James Battle, from a tribute by the Board of Regents, April 30, 1948

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From left to right:

W. J. Battle, Chairman of faculty building committee; J. W. Calhoun, Comptroller; L. J. Sulak; Lutcher Stark; C. F. Francis; E. Randall; K. H. Aynesworth; J. T. Scott; B. Jester; H. H. Weinert; L. Waggener; L. C. Haynes, Secretary of the board; H. Y. Benedict, President of UT; Hugh Yantis, Secretary of Construction

1931 Board of Regents

[Ruffini's] outstanding buildings in Austin included the Millett Opera House; Texas School for the Deaf; the Hancock Building on West Pecan Street (now West Sixth Street), where Ruffini had his offices; the Hancock Opera House; and the most important of all, the Old Main Building of The University of Texas. That structure was begun in 1882, but only the west wing was completed when Ruffini died in November 1885. The central tower and last wing were completed according to his plans following his death. The large watercolor that his brother, Oscar Ruffini, painted of the Old Main Building was hanging in the Barker Texas History Center in Sid Richardson Hall at The University of Texas at Austin in 1972. Plans for the erection and completion of the west wing of the Old Main Building are in The University Archives.

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Cook's last great work was the construction of the west wing of the Main Building of the newly founded University of Texas. This High Victorian Gothic building, designed by Frederik E. Ruffini, was dedicated in September 1883, just a few months before Cook's death. Like many of Cook's works, Old Main has been demolished, but most of his Greek Revival houses of the 1850s remain, a testament to his skill as a master builder. Cook was the most significant designer of Greek Revival buildings in antebellum Texas. Such works as the Pease-Shivers House (Woodlawn), the Governor's Mansion, and the Neill-Cochran House combined a monumentality of form and a sophistication of detail rarely seen in Texas since the days of the Franciscans.

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Our knowledge is the massed thought and experience of innumberable minds. -R.W. Emerson

Out with the Old Ring Those Bells Once Upon a Time Main The Genius Inside Out In the News

12 May 1999
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