Eighty-five years after its original opening, the Hall of Texas in the historic Main Building at The University of Texas at Austin has been returned to its essential purpose as a contemplative space for visitors to the library at the heart of the Forty Acres.
Situated in the Life Science Library beneath the iconic UT Tower, the Hall of Texas has for around thirty years served as the Herbarium Library of the Plant Resources Center, which required the subdivision of the space for storage and offices. Those structures had remained in place after the Herbarium vacated the space in recent years, rendering over half of the room inaccessible to users.
Thanks to generous funding from Provost Maurie McInnis, the Hall of Texas has been returned to the care of the Libraries, and to a state of previous grandeur concurrent with its sister space on the east side of the library, the Hall of Noble Words. The renovated space is now available for use by students, scholars and visitors who wish to immerse in a classical library experience.
The room is known as the Hall of Texas because of the theme of the ceiling beams, which are each devoted to a period of Texas history. Dallas painter Eugene Gilboe (whose work adorns the Hall of Noble Words, as well as the Texas Union) decorated the interior to represent the various cultural influences on the state, including commemoration of the Aztecs, Native Americans, Spanish and French, as well as the Republic of Texas and the United States. The brackets of the beams are painted with the national arms of what were believed to be the primary groups of ancestry of the Texas population when the room was completed in 1937.
Mirroring the Hall of Noble Words, the entrance door to the Hall of Texas also features the work of another significant artist. Centered between the broken pediment over the door leading to the Hall of the Six Coats of Arms is a walnut carving by Peter Mansbendel depicting the south entrance to Old Main.
As well as representing a return to former glory, the renovation of the Hall of Texas also features some modern upgrades to support 21st century users, with the addition of power outlets retrofitted to the classic furniture and space, as well as the expansion of wifi coverage to meet technological needs that didn’t exist in the early half of the 20th century.
“We’re elated with the restoration of the Hall of Texas to its original function as a center for intellectual reflection and academic success,” says Vice Provost and Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe. “The return of this classic space at the heart of campus to the university community and greater public demonstrates the enduring value of libraries to the mission of The University of Texas at Austin.”
There will be a celebration of the re-opening of the Hall of Texas at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9, with comments by Provost McInnis and Vice Provost Haricombe. Free and open to the public.