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Celebrating the Life

 

Introduction

Designed in 1911 by the New York architect Cass Gilbert, Battle Hall is the only academic building on campus listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As University Architect (1909-1922), Gilbert was given carte blanche over the design for what was to be the University of Texas first library building. His design credentials included designs for the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the Minnesota State Capitol, and the Woolworth Building in Manhattan. On Battle Hall, Gilbert excluded all ornamentation indigenous or identifiable to Texas and instead adopted a Spanish-Mediterranean revival style, in place of Collegiate Gothic, as that which best suited the image of the fledgling university as well as the Texas climate. This style became the model for future buildings on campus, including Sutton Hall (1918), Gilbert's only other structure at The University.

Gilbert's building served as The University Library until the Main Building's completion in 1937, at which time it was also used for fine arts classes and administrative office space. In 1950, the building became known as the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center to recognize the fact that it housed the University's collection of Texana. In 1973 the Texas Collection was relocated and the building named for Dr. William James Battle(1870-1955), the sixth president of The University of Texas. From 1973 to 1980, Battle Hall contained administrative offices for the College of Fine Arts and the library was comprised of the collections for Music, Library Science, Education & Psychology, and Architecture. Today, Battle Hall is the fitting home of the Architecture and Planning Library, the Alexander Architectural Archive, and the Center for American Architecture and Design.

For more information on Cass Gilbert see the bibliography offered by the Cass Gilbert Society: Publications about Cass Gilbert

Architect: Cass Gilbert (1859-1934)

  • 1878: entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture under William Robert Ware and completed one year of the two-year program
  • 1979: Toured England, France and Italy where he sketched architectural features of major buildings that later influenced his work
  • 1880: started working for McKim, Mead and White in New York
  • 1882: moved back to St. Paul as representative for McKim, Mead and White
  • 1883: first residential work in St. Paul (his mother's house)
  • 1884-91: partnership with James Knox Taylor
  • Major works include:
    • 1895-1903: Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul
    • 1899–1906: Custom House, New York City
    • 1910-13: Woolworth Building, New York City
    • 1928–35: Supreme Court Building, Washington D.C.
  • Campus plans:
    • 1908: University of Minnesota, St Paul
    • 1909–14: The University of Texas at Austin
    • 1912: Oberlin College, OH

Source: Gail Fenske, " Gilbert, Cass." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online,http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T032188 .

National recognition:

Historical relevance:

  • First commissioned library building for the University of Texas at Austin
  • Set the tone stylistically for the University of Texas at Austin campus
  • Designed by a world renowned architect

Character defining features and spaces:

  • East and north elevations, massing, arched windows, reading room, grand staircase, barrel vaulted halls
  • Exterior materials and details - red tile roof, polychromatic terra cotta, ironwork, zodiac medallions, lighting standards, balconies, deep eaves, polychromatic soffits
  • Interior materials and details - marble, ironwork, wood work, tile flooring, stair railing, wood carvings, use of arches and barrel vaulting, lighting, marble wainscot