A Century of partnership begins

TCU agreed to stay for 10 years when it moved to Fort Worth in 1910. But the booming city and the small university found such delights in each other that the association is stronger than ever, 100 years later.

A Century of partnership begins

For the 1910-11 academicmic year, TCU leased space at the corner of Weatherford and Commerce streets near the Tarrant County Courthouse, whose lawn became recreation space for students. (Photo courtesy TCU Special Collections)

A Century of partnership begins

TCU agreed to stay for 10 years when it moved to Fort Worth in 1910. But the booming city and the small university found such delights in each other that the association is stronger than ever, 100 years later.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series called “From Ruins to Rebirth,” which looks back at TCU’s 1910 move from Waco to Fort Worth. 

“IMPOSTERS!” the Skiff headline screamed in bold type. It was July 27, 1911. Page one, column one.

Even in the Skiff, the exclamation point was unusual for a newspaper story of the day.

But for tiny TCU, a mere six weeks from the opening of its new campus on the outskirts of Fort Worth, the matter could not have been more critical.

The school was in crisis mode: Two weeks prior, the administration had gotten word of rumors circulating that the school’s new campus would not open in September as scheduled. Officials dismissed the gossip as idle chatter, paying it no attention.

Rumblings persisted, however, and finally one of the university’s high-profile patrons inquired, stating that “he wished to place his daughter in TCU above all other places, but that he wanted to know the real truth about the matter in order to place his daughter elsewhere,” in case the school could not open.

The school penned the following response in the Skiff to set the record straight and, hopefully, retain a small student body, whose return was tenuous:

“Report has been received to the effect that certain representatives of other schools are busy giving out the statement that Texas Christian University cannot open this fall; that the buildings are incomplete, and that work was suspended more than two weeks ago. … We wish to assure our patrons beyond question that the school will open September 19. There has not been the slightest cessation from work on the buildings, except for two days occasioned by a strike.”

The Administration Building and the Girls’ Home were practically finished. Furniture was being manufactured. Library, laboratory and office equipment was being shipped. Only Goode Hall, the men’s residence, was still being constructed, but the contractor assured them that every room would be ready to open by Sept. 1, a full 18 days before school began.

PhotoIt wasn’t a stretch for some to think the school wouldn’t be ready. Just 16 months earlier, TCU’s Main Building on its Waco campus burned to the ground, leaving the future of the school in jeopardy. Fort Worth made what was deemed the best offer, and in the fall of 1910, the university moved north and began building a new campus.

In the interim, TCU made do in downtown Fort Worth — for the second time.

* * *

Fort Worth was a small outpost of 3,000 souls in 1869 when the Clark brothers took over a little coeducational academy in town. But by 1873, an area near the school had been dubbed Hell’s Half Acre due to its bawdy offerings and rowdy clientele — mostly cowboys ending their long drive up the Chisholm Trail — creating an environment contrary to a Christian education. So the Clarks renamed their academy AddRan Male and Female College and uprooted it to quiet, bucolic Thorp Spring, near present day Granbury.

The little college struggled along there for 22 years, until, in 1895, a dispute over rent sent them packing again. By then, the college had been re-named AddRan Christian University to reflect its financial connection to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Waco welcomed the little school, and helped it purchase land and buildings. Students and administrators settled in for the long haul. During its sojourn in Waco, the school again changed names: It became Texas Christian University in 1902.

Then in March 1910, a catastrophic fire left the college nearly homeless, but not without friends — many cities made generous offers to relocate, including McKinney, Sweetwater, Gainesville and Dallas, which was in final negotiations for the planting of Southern Methodist University.

TCU dispatched three men to study the offers, and on May 11, 1910, about six weeks after the fire, TCU announced its future location.

“It was clear that the Fort Worth bid was superior,” wrote Dean of Students Colby Hall ’99 in his 1947 book History of Texas Christian University.

TCU promised to stay for at least 10 years.

* * *



Fort Worth in 1910 was a boom town of more than 73,000. The city still had rough characters and shady spots, but it also was supported by strong churches, concerned citizens, culture and the arts, several rail lines, a good supply of coal nearby, a solid educational system and prominent leaders who were among TCU’s strongest supporters — even during the school’s 37-year sojourn.

Optimism in the city was widespread. Arrivals of the railroad (in 1876) and then the giant Armour and Swift meat packing plants (in 1902) had revitalized the town, and the population had almost tripled since 1900. Even so, the offer Fort Worth made to entice TCU to town — $200,000, 50 acres of land and a road and streetcar line to the site — was a heavy investment to make for a college with only about 350 students.

Half of the amount was pledged by the Board of Trade (the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) and by local churches, including $20,000 from First Christian Church, which postponed plans for a new building. The other $100,000 was to come — and it did — from the sale of residential lots carved out of vacant land near the campus site, much of which is now the Park Hill area.

For all the misgivings the Clarks once had about Fort Worth, many in the city highly valued tiny TCU: The huge monetary commitment came at a time when the average factory wage was 10 cents an hour, Hall notes. A well-made man’s shirt sold for 75 cents. Moviegoers could see “the finest moving pictures made, changed daily” for 5 cents. Patrons of the Byers Opera House, however, ponied up at least 50 cents to hear Victor Herbert and his Orchestra when the famed composer-musician brought his tour to town. Vacant lots were priced at $500 each.

“Fort Worth was distinctly ‘Cowtown,’ ” Hall later wrote in History. “But the university gradually edged its way into the interests of Fort Worthians.

PhotoVan Zandt Jarvis, himself a ranch man, while president of the TCU Board, made a speech in chapel one day lauding the worth of the university to the city. In his exuberance, he exclaimed, ‘TCU is the most valuable asset Fort Worth has — next to the packing houses.”

It is surprising how rapidly decisions were made and carried out that year, especially for an institution with a longevity far beyond that of the packing houses.

In October 1910, architectural drawings for the new administration building were published, and in January, renderings of a 10-building campus vision appeared in the Skiff. Soon, construction began on two structures — the administration building (remodeled in 1961 into Reed Hall), and Jarvis Hall, a women’s dorm that continued to house women until two years ago, when it was renovated for offices. Construction of Goode Hall, for the men, began the following spring and was ready at the opening.

Meanwhile, city and county officials rushed to get roads and utilities stretched to the Johnson-grass covered hill and the traction company managed to get its first streetcar there on the opening day of school on Sept. 19, 1911.

* * *

While feverish construction was under way on “the hill,” TCU conducted its 1910-11 academic year in leased quarters at the corner of Weatherford and Commerce streets, catty-corner to the Tarrant County Courthouse. The two just-completed buildings, which had been dubbed Ingram Flats (when flat also referred to an apartment or room for rent), were now Texas Christian University.

They housed offices, classrooms, a chapel, a dining room and a print shop on lower floors and dormitories upstairs. Other TCU students and faculty lived in houses rented nearby.

PhotoIf the Skiff is an accurate measure, the city and university embraced each other from the very beginning. The Sept. 23, 1910, issue, reporting on the 38th annual opening of Texas Christian University, said that “never before was TCU given so hearty a welcome as on that day.”

Convocation, held in the auditorium of City Hall, was filled with students, faculty and townspeople. They cheered addresses by Mayor W.D. Davis, the city and county school superintendents and the chairman of the Board of Trade. Addison Clark, then age 69, came up from Thorp Spring to bless the school’s return to the city he originally had chosen as “the place that would be best for all time.”

An editorial in the Skiff enthused: “We feel that TCU has never had such a successful opening, and we hope the people of this city may always have as hearty a welcome for us as they had on that day.”

Soon the courthouse lawn and sidewalks nearby were filled with energetic students, clearly showing residents that TCU was in town.

The school year was conducted as the previous 37 had. Literary societies, glee clubs, oratory teams, quartets, choirs and dramatics troupes met, read, cheered, debated, performed, sang and inspired as student life skipped merrily along.

Even intercollegiate football continued during the downtown year. Team captain J.W. Massie ’11 spent the summer visiting boys on the squad to ensure they would be joining him in Fort Worth.

Enough did, and the Horned Frogs, coached by a new head man, Kemp Lewis, tied cross-town Polytechnic College (later to become Texas Wesleyan), won two games against Trinity — home and road — and lost six, including two games with arch rival Baylor. The good-natured jostling with the Bears was so important to the school that the administration agreed in October to send the student body to Waco to cheer on the boys in purple and white.

By the end of the season, the squad elected Milton Daniel ’12 as captain for next year’s team — though he was often erroneously referred to as “Daniels” in the Skiff. But, as one of the team’s best players, the paper would eventually get it right.

The practice of planning and looking forward to the next school year would be a theme throughout the fall and spring.

PhotoIn addition to the drawing of the new main building, published in October, the administration was busy finding creative means to offset costs. The practice of “naming opportunities,” as it is known today, was implemented.

After Thanksgiving, university endowment secretary Chalmers McPherson announced that a number of the furnishings in the new building would be named for donors: $750 for library holdings in honor of the Sherley family; $500 for the reception room in honor of Mr. and Mrs. C.F. Love and Mrs. Lizzie Barron; $200 for the parlor of the boys’ dormitory in honor of the Christian church in Van Alstyne.

By January, the Skiff published the university’s 10-building “accepted layout” of the future campus, created by prominent Fort Worth architects Waller & Field. An accompanying article called the drawing “a dream” and noted the arrangement of buildings and curved, tree-lined walkways as “perfect harmony.”

The layout would be altered, but a course was plotted. In the spring, the university let out classes and observed construction day as the building began.

Support from the city continued, and on May 16, the school held a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the nearly completed campus buildings. The historic moment attracted so many people that “it was with difficulty that the crowd gained a point of vantage from which they could see and hear the exercises,” the Skiff reported.








Back then, campus was a good bit beyond the town’s borders, and getting to the event was not easy. The streetcar line wasn’t finished until fall. That May, it ended at least a mile away, forcing celebrants to either walk across open fields or take a buggy service to the building site.

Wrote historian Hall: “A few automobiles were included in the procession. The period can be dated by this incident: Waxahachie banker and trustee Charles W. Gibson, long skilled as a driver of a fast team of horses, was quite unskilled in steering his new open-topped, heavy,  seven-passenger automobile. In the press, he almost ran into some of the pedestrians, whereupon he pulled back on the steering wheel as hard as he could and yelled, ‘Whoa, whoa.’ ”

Addison Clark could not attend the festivities. He was ill and died two days later. But brother and cofounder Randolph Clark came to give his greeting and join in the exuberance of the day. TCU president Clinton Lockhart, who would resign later that spring in order to teach again, predicted that the new TCU would start with a student body of 400 to 500 students and that it was destined to occupy a high place in the educational system.

He was right about both.

The lead headline in the Sept. 7, 1911, edition of the Skiff read: “Opening assured Sept. 19,” and so it was. By that first day of class, the streetcar line opened and sewer and water utilities were functional.

Some hard times and some glorious times have come to both the city and the university since then. But 100 years ago, when “both parties did some adventuring” and gambled on each other’s futures, they seemed to know that they were going to travel together long beyond the promised 10 years. As Hall put it, “Both found themselves abundantly rewarded for their faith.”
About the series:
Part I – Spring 2010: The 1910 Fire at the Waco campus
Part II – Fall 2010: A year in downtown Fort Worth
Part III – Fall 2011: TCU settles into present-day campus
On the Web:
A Fateful Fire
The early days: Before the fire
Skiff editor G.W. Stevenson column after the fire
Funny incidents from the fire, recorded in the 1911 Horned Frog
Waco Tribune-Herald writes about the fire
A Century of Partnership

Clark, Randolph. Reminiscences: Biographical and Historical. Lee Clark, Publisher. 1919.
Hall, Colby. History of Texas Christian University: A College of the Cattle Frontier. Texas Christian University Press. 1947.
The Horned Frog. Annual of Texas Christian University. 1911.
The Skiff, a weekly newspaper of Texas Christian University.  March 26, 1910-August 26, 1910.
Swaim, Joan Hewatt. Walking TCU: A Historical Perspective. Texas Christian University Press. 1992.
Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune. Newspaper. March 26, 1910.
Waco Times-Herald. Newspaper. May 11, 1910.