Rooms over Time
Image citation: Battle Hall plan, courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
*Note: room configuration and use varied slightly as built and floor names changed. Battle Hall has the following:
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When the Library was built, university administrators enjoyed the opportunity to office in the new building for a few years before moving to what is now Sutton Hall, the next new building by Cass Gilbert. When the University President moved out of this space in 1918, the space was renovated for the Wrenn Library, UT’s first rare book collection, a purchase made possible by a gift from Major George W. Littlefield.
What now serves as offices for the Center for American Architecture and Design (CAAD) initially was the auditor’s office. In fact, the smaller rooms once were vaults! The Wrenn Library was situated in this corner of the building also. When the Archives and Rare Book Room moved into the space, the vaults continued to be put to good use as storage for the university’s most valuable archival artifacts.
1918 - Regent George Washington Littlefield purchased the John Henry Wrenn Library of 6,000 volumes from Chicago, and recreated the library in the space once occupied by the President, Registrar and administrators on the southeastern corner of the first floor of Battle Hall. The installation cost $27,000. So began the University’s first rare book collection. The library suite included an elegant reading room with walnut paneling and stained glass.
1934 - Wrenn Library reading room (ceiling and wall paneling, etc.) was dismantled and reinstalled in Main Building (now MAI 407). The windows that once held the stained glass have no muntins. Image citation: "Opening of the Wrenn Library," Cactus 1918-19 yearbook, Perry-Castañeda Library, The University of Texas at Austin.
South corridor timeline:
Southeast rooms (including BTL101-102):
1911-1914: President Sidney E. Mezes (1908-14)
1914-1916: President William J. Battle (ad interim, 1914-16)
1916-1918: President Robert E. Vinson (1916-23)
1918-1934: Wrenn Library (BTL101 & 102)
1938-1947: Offices of Fine Arts
1949-1950: Offices of Texas State Historical Association researchers including Llerena B. Friend, research associate in Texas history for the Texas State Historical Association who worked on the preparation of the Handbook of Texas until 1950 when she became founding director of the Barker Texas History Center
1950-1973: Offices of Barker Texas History Center and Texas State Historical Association, including Eugene Barker; archive work room
1982?-curr: Center for American Architecture and Design & School of Architecture faculty offices
Southwest rooms (BTL104-105-106)
1911-18: Auditor’s office
1918-19: School of History’s archives and rare book room (Bexar Archives, Austin Papers), Masters Thesis
1938-47: Offices of the Dean of Fine Arts (E. William Doty 1938-42), stenographers and faculty for Art and Music
1950-51: Office of researchers in Texas history
1982?-curr: Center for American Architecture and Design & School of Architecture faculty offices
Administration included: Office of the President, Dean of Faculty, Auditor’s Office, Visitor of Schools, Registrar and Board of Regents, and Office of the Dean, College of Arts. Later, it also included the office of Editor, University Publications.
Regents and Dean's Offices / meeting rooms / Library School / War Arms Committee
It was in the Library that the Regents stood up to Governor Jim Ferguson’s allegations of misappropriated funds. Later the Regents, like the administration, moved to what is now Sutton Hall, and the library school occupied the space for a few years. During World War I, the War Aims Committee was in this area too.
Photograph citation: First floor hallway looking north with original barrel vaults, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.
Northwest side (BTL112 - 114)
1911-1918: University Registrar
1919-19: Library School
" On the right as you enter the north door, is the Library Science lecture room. The University of Texas is the only institution in the Southwest that trains librarians." --from The Library University of Texas Thanksgiving 1924
1938-1939: Fine Arts faculty, Drama, Curtain Club
1995?-1997: Architectural Drawings Collection processing and collections space
1997: Harry Ransom Center moves in (BTL112)
Northeast side (BTL115 – 117 – 118)
1911-19: Regents and Dean’s meeting room
1914-1918: War Arms committee meeting room
1919-19: Librarian’s office (across the hall from the Library School). The original Librarian’s Office (BTL201) served as the Reading Room overflow for magazines and reading spaces.
1938-1954: Office of University Lands (BTL115-117), Attorney (BTL115) and Secretary (BTL117
1950-1973: Barker Texas History Center & Texas State History Association offices
The west corridor of the building served as the main entrance to the University of Texas Library. On November 12, 1920, the body of regent and benefactor, George W. Littlefield, lay in state in the University’s most prominent vestibule.
A selection of occupants of the west corridor:
1938-1947: Theater, Art and Art History faculty offices
1950-1973: Texas State Historical Association – birthplace of the Handbook of Texas
1979-1997: Architectural Drawings Collection
1997-present: Alexander Architectural Archive
The Battle Hall Reading Room has served UT in many ways—over the years it has been book storage space (before the stacks were installed), art studios, band practice room, and, of course, a reading room! The whole student body studied here when the building was new, and since then, fine arts, education, psychology, music, architecture, and planning students have utilized the space, as well as historians researching in the Barker Texas History Center.
Some were even fortunate to consider the reading room their office- including Marcelle Lively Hamer (1900-1974), librarian and Texas folklorist. From September 1932 until 1955 Marcelle Hamer was head of the Texas Collection at the University of Texas library.
The stenciling was designed by Elmer E. Garnsey, decorative painter and muralist, and completed in 1911. Garnsey also consulted on the exterior paint colors and terra cotta. The wooden tracery doors and screens were carved by Paul Schleich of New York City, completed in 1913 at a cost of $4,600. Refinishing occurred in 1952. The doors once served as the main entrance to the library. The clock was a gift of the class of 1912. Image citation: Interior of Main Reading Room Library Building of the University of Texas Scheme "D," courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.
While librarians’ offices often have been housed in this space, many others have passed through this office as well. The following are of special note. Enjoy the excerpts below from the Handbook of Texas Online.
DOBIE, JAMES FRANK (1888–1964). J. Frank Dobie, folklorist, occupied this office from 1936-1939.
UMLAUF, KARL JULIUS [CHARLES] (1911–1994). Charles Umlauf, artist, sculptor and educator. n 1941 Umlauf joined the new art department of the University of Texas as instructor in sculpture, and moved his family to Austin. He served on the faculty for forty years. Umlauf was considered a tough but caring teacher, and received a Teaching Excellence Award. He was known for a crushing handshake, which was often accompanied by a wide smile. In the early years of the art department student clay works were fired in a kiln that could reach a temperature of 3,000 degrees. The kiln was located in a wooden barracks building used during World War II. Umlauf would climb up into attic with a fire extinguisher to ensure that the building would not burn down as the student works were fired.
STELL, THOMAS MATTHEW, JR. (1898–1981). Thomas M. Stell, Jr., painter, teacher, and member of the Dallas Nine group of regionalist artists. In 1945 Stell taught drawing and design in the art department at the University of Texas at Austin. He entered graduate school at the University of Texas in the fall of 1947 and continued his studies there sporadically through the summer of 1955.
LOCKWOOD, JOHN WARD (1894–1963). Ward Lockwood, artist and founder of the art department at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1938 Lockwood accepted a job as professor of art at the University of Texas. He responded to the challenge of organizing a new art department by hiring talented young artists who helped to develop the educational program. As a result the core curriculum of painting, sculpture, drawing, and design was supplemented with courses that reflected the instructors' interests, such as graphic arts and mural painting. Lockwood taught the latter course to advanced students. He encouraged faculty members to continue to produce and exhibit their work and arranged for students' work to be exhibited regularly in spite of limited facilities, thus ensuring a continued artistic vitality within the program.
MOZLEY, LOREN NORMAN (1905–1989). Loren Mozley, painter of southwestern landscapes. Mozley left New Mexico in August 1938 to help Ward Lockwood organize the new art department at the University of Texas in Austin. The two men put their jobs on the line by insisting on the necessity of nude models for life-drawing classes and worked to bridge the gap between academia and the larger arts community by hiring artists as teachers, bringing art exhibitions to the campus, and serving on juries throughout the state.
FRIEND, LLERENA BEAUFORT (1903–1995). Llerena B. Friend, historian, teacher, and librarian. She worked on the preparation of the Handbook of Texas until 1950, when she became the founding director of the Barker Texas History Center, a position she held until September 1, 1969.
Fine Arts faculty who occupied the space include Howard Cook, Edgar Taylor, Eugene Trentham, Henry Rasmusen, Lyon Hays, and Julius Woeltz.
The original cataloging room was located on the south side of the receiving room, behind the current service desk. This location was easily accessible so that all new books could be cataloged quickly as part of the university's collection.
When the library moved out of the building in 1934, the new College of Fine Arts held studio in this space. In 1950, the Barker Texas History Center used this space as its Rare Book room, where researchers could be under the watchful eye of staff members. Today, it serves as the Architecture & Planning Library public services staff offices.
Delivery or Receiving Room
Initially, library users would have to request books to be paged by staff. The receiving room, bounded by counters at the entrance, reading room, and catalog room, is where the public received their books. The space is naturally lit through a leaded glass “ceiling light” or glass dome from the major roof top skylight. Image citation: Library ceiling art glass, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.
The book stack room contains the book stacks, which were a self-supporting steel frame set at lower floor-to-floor heights. General Fireproofing of Youngstown, Ohio fabricated this state of the art structure, which includes integral airshafts for forced air and a dumb waiter elevator (no longer in use). Although the library opened in August of 1911, it didn’t have book stacks until 1912 with final completion in 1919. In 1960, construction of the West Mall Office Building covered the west wall's windows.
Cass Gilbert designed the stacks with the public in mind. Although accessible only to paging staff in this early closed-stack library, the public enjoyed an open arched view of marble ceilings, a wide staircase, and ironwork while waiting for their books to be delivered at the service desk. This is a highly unusual treatment of what generally constitutes a dark and maze-like experience in other library buildings with stack rooms. An example of a typical book stack can be found at the Life Science Library's book stack located in the Main Building's tower.
1911: Library opens without book stacks (or elevator)
1912: 5 of 7 levels of book stacks installed, leaving 6th level for seminar rooms
1912: 80,000 volumes (including the Texas Collection Library-Palm library, Bexar archive)
1918: Littlefield’s purchase of the Wrenn Library began the Rare Book Collection
1919: Final two levels of book stacks installed
1924: Garcia Collection (purchased in 1921, the basis for the Benson Latin American Collection stacks level 3), Littlefield Collection for Southern History (stacks level 4),Texas Collection in seminar room
1934: 473,837 volumes (30% housed off site)
1950-73: Barker Texas History Center rare books including the newly acquired Vandale Texana Collection (from oilman and Texana collector)
Currently Architecture & Planning Library’s circulating collections, Special Collections, and Alexander Architectural Archive; Harry Ransom Center storage
This space originally served as the receiving room for new library accessions. In 1934, when the library moved to its new quarters in the Main Building, it became the university’s Stenographic Bureau. Upon the opening of Barker Texas History Center in 1950, it returned to servicing archival material. In 1997 it was named the Charles W. Moore Room, where it now serves as the viewing room for the Alexander Architectural Archive.
Other early occupants on this level included: United States Post Office (1934-49), Real Estate Rentals (1939-46), Office of Veterans Housing (1946-50), Bureau of Economic Geology and its Well Sample Library (1947-48), Liberal Arts offices, and Custodial Services. Photograph citation: Charles Moore, from the Charles W. Moore Archives, Alexander Architectural Archives.
University Post Office
In 1934, the building went through a transition when the library moved to its new facility, the Main Building and Library Extension (otherwise known as the Tower). The building was then renamed as the “Old Library.” Robert Leon White, Supervising Architect for the University, remodeled the building for its new occupants, the Fine Arts Department and the University Station Post Office. The Post office, operating out of the ground floor, included a stamp window and mailboxes, with its entrance door at the south façade until 1949.
Architect Cass Gilbert had originally designed a terrace with a balustrade around the front of the building. It was not built, perhaps a victim of then Governor Colquitt’s budget cuts. In 1934, the site was reconfigured as part of architect Paul Cret’s campus plan. Nationally known landscaping and planning firm of Hare and Hare provided landscape design for the main terrace area. The South terrace staircase was installed as part of this plan. Image citation: Old Library exterior photo (snow scene), courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
Beck's Pond or Lake was situated on the west side of Battle Hall. In the early 1920's the library was already overcrowded and plans were seriously considered for an addition that would replace the pond. The library addition was never realized and Beck's Lake remained there through 1932.
“Soon Beck’s Lake, the trysting place of the University, will be gone with shacks and other relics of former time. The night watchman will not need to pace the main walk so vigilantly as now. The campus lake, where man and maid meet to watch the elephant ears grow, will be covered and cornered by the new addition of the Library. The present lake with its fascinating waterfall, its water lily, and its comfortable, picturesque stones, was the creation of H. B. Beck’s brain and a natural spring. Beck attended the St. Louis World’s Fair about twenty years ago . Among the unusual features of the international exposition he saw the French-imitation of the waterfall at Versailles. He admired greatly the beauty of the fall and the ingenuity of the Frenchmen. His interest carried him so far that before he came back to Austin he had a fair idea of the mechanics behind the water falling from a stone ledge.” --Excerpted from "True Story of Beck’s Lake Reveals History of Pool" by Madeline Jaffe, The Daily Texan, April 11, 1923.
“At the northwest corner of the Library (now Battle Hall), was a small pond built by Harry Birk Beck, the first steward of “B” Hall and later superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. He piped in enough water to fall over some old stones left from the construction of Old Main. Crude as it was, it was a lovers’ rendezvous for a number of years and was also the scene of many dunking parties. The trysting place gave way to progress in 1932 when Goldsmith Hall was being constructed.” --Alcalde, Jan-Feb 1983
From its Otis elevator (circa 1940s) to the wooden grill (the original doors to the reading room) to the winding staircase to the skylight over the entry hall, Battle Hall has numerous features that define its character as a building of historic importance. Some are not in use anymore, like the state-of-the-art vacuum system installed when the Library was built (although you still can see the outlets for it on the first floor), but it is small details like these that set Battle Hall apart. Enthusiasts have documented the elevator, which is still is use by library and archives staff. Take a look around, inside and out, and check out the zodiac signs, owls, dragons, cherubs, and more in the building’s adornments.
One of the most remarkable features of the building is its staircase. Missing in this early construction photo is the intricate wrought iron balustrade and its brass handrail. This ironwork was fabricated by H.B. Milmine and Co. out of Toledo, Ohio. They also provided the ironwork balconies and lanterns on the exterior.
In 1948, upon preparation of the dedication of the Barker Texas History Center, the original slate stairs were refurbished with new marble steps. The stairs may have worn down as early as 1936, as evidenced by a request for repairs by the Centennial Committee.
Photograph citation: Old Library construction photos, courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
Domed "ceiling light"
The service desk, once called the receiving area in the library, is naturally lit through a leaded glass “ceiling light” or glass dome from the major roof top skylight. According to a photograph taken during construction of Battle Hall, the central medallion of the leaded glass dome once contained the seal of Texas, just as it was designed by the architect. The fabricator is not known. Sometime during the history of the building, this part of the dome was removed and replaced with a modest leaded glass pattern. The only plaster ornament in the building occurs in a ring around the leaded glass dome in the rotunda.
The company of H.B. Milmine is listed as the ironworks firm, out of Toledo, Ohio, that fabricated the wrought iron balconies on the exterior as well as the wrought iron balustrade that graces the main winding staircase on the interior of the building. The firm reported one hundred and five employees around 1900. The general specifications allow for up to $800.00 for the wrought iron lanterns on either side of the main door on the east facade.
Doors, windows and hardware
The original specifications called for use of Red gum wood for all interior doors and window frames. A survey of Battle Hall‟s doors seems to indicate that many of these extant doors are in good repair, but the windows need work. The only alteration is the addition of vents to some of the doors. Original cast door hardware is found throughout the building. In the Librarian's Office, is one of the few remaining ornate door knob and back plate that displays the seal of the University of Texas on the knob per the architect's design.
Battle Hall has numerous features of historic importance. Enjoy the following:
Red tile roof
Deeply recessed, monumental windows
Specified “best selected Cedar Park Stock” limestone, otherwise known as Cordova Crème limestone from the local Featherlite quarries near Cedar Park
Terra cotta surrounds and roundels on the exterior
Use of symbolism including that of the zodiac
Colorful bracketed exterior soffits
Decorative ironwork on the exterior balconies, grills and lanterns, as well as the interior winding staircase balustrade railing
Elaborately carved wooden tracery grills and doors in the reading room
Interior cast door hardware with the seal of the University of Texas
Early use of “battleship” linoleum floors
Alabama marble wainscoting and trim throughout the interior
Leaded glass skylight above the library service desk
Red quarry tile floors
Photograph citation: Exterior detail photograph, Architecture and Planning Library, The University of Texas at Austin.
Building and Technology
Battle Hall had technically modern “state-of-the-art” building systems when it was completed in 1911. Some features included:
- “Fire proof” design with load bearing masonry walls and capped with clay roof tiles
- Self-supporting multi-story book stacks with integral air ducts
- “Damp proofed” design
- Forced air system that humidified and heated the air
- Otis Elevator (original 1912, machinery and cab replaced 1948)
- Wired for the telephone
- Early user of an internal vacuum system piped throughout the entire building, including the book stacks.
The Spencer Turbine Company formed after its vacuum cleaner was invented in 1905. Other prominent customers include: the White House (1925), Chrysler Building (world’s tallest building in 1930) and Empire State building (then the world’s tallest building in 1931).
Image citation: Spencer Turbine product catalog, courtesy of the Spencer Turbine Company website.