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A Solid Foundation: Administration Building Leaves Lasting Legacy

On Texas Tech's 90th anniversary, we look back at one of the oldest and most celebrated campus buildings.

Written by Callie Jones

The cornerstone for the Administration Building was laid in November of 1924, and the building opened 1925.

The cornerstone for the Administration Building was laid in November of 1924, and the building opened 1925.

On a November day in 1924 in the small West Texas town of Lubbock, a crowd gathered for the laying of the cornerstone of what was to become the most iconic building of the future Texas Technological College campus.

The Administration Building, sitting on the south side of Memorial Circle and home to the offices of the chancellor and president, was virtually in the middle of nowhere at the time of its construction. However, Texas Gov. Pat Neff, standing on a cotton bale, addressed the crowd of more than 20,000 to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone.

The Administration Building would become the heart, soul and brains of a campus that later was modeled on the Spanish Renaissance-style architecture of the building. Placed in the cornerstone was a time capsule containing such items as the bylaws and member roster of the local Masonic Lodge, various newspapers, a certified copy of Senate Bill 103, which established the college; and a list of the Texas Tech Board of Directors.

Home of the Matadors

“Our original campus architect, William Ward Watkin, researched the architectural styles being considered for Texas Tech University and discovered that the Spanish Renaissance style of the 16th century was an appropriate fit,” said Michael S. Molina, vice chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction. “The style, which was the pre-cursor to the Texas mission style, was considered timeless, and the most impressive and inspiring in all of Europe. Ninety years later we are able to proudly experience the original piece of Texas Tech’s architectural history, the Administration Building.”

Original campus architect William Ward Watkin modeled the Administration Building after this: the University of Alcalá building in central Spain.

Original campus architect William Ward Watkin modeled the Administration Building after this: the University of Alcalá building in central Spain.

Watkin, who was selected as the architect for the Administration Building, modeled the newest building on the Great Plains after the University of Alcalá building in central Spain, built in 1553.

“The great table lands of West Texas upon which the buildings of the new college are being built have a likeness in color and character to the table lands of central Spain,” said the late Watkin, who died in 1952. “This group of college buildings can carry the early traditions, fittingly tying in the bond of tradition, the old history and the new, the past, the present and the hope for the future.”

The Spanish roots of the Administration Building not only inspired future campus buildings, but also many long-standing university traditions, such as the Matador mascot, the Masked Rider and outfits for university spirit leaders.

Beyond the Architecture

The Administration Building initially housed administrative offices and the library on the first and second floors. The chemistry and physics class room was located on the second floor, where the current Center for Active Learning and Undergraduate Engagement is located. Located on the third floor were the offices and classrooms for agriculture, education and history. The student newspaper office and athletics office were also located on the third floor, as well as a large lecture room and a reading room.

Today, the Administration Building has retained the original architecture on the outside, with the addition of two north-south wings that were added 25 years after the building was first constructed. The inside has changed noticeably, however, with the interior modified to suit the modern needs of the university. However, the interior updates have been maintained with regard to the building’s original design. The suite housing the provost retains much of its original architecture, evident in the detail in the suite’s chandeliers, woodwork and plaster walls.

In addition to the offices of the chancellor and president, the Administration Building, seen here during the Carol of Lights, now houses offices for the provost and the vice president of research, along with many other offices and programs.

In addition to the offices of the chancellor and president, the Administration Building, seen here during the Carol of Lights, now houses offices for the provost and the vice president of research, along with many other offices and programs.

“The Administration Building is an iconic Texas Tech landmark and a reminder of our roots,” said Kent Hance, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. “The building truly reflects the Red Raider spirit, and after 90 years, it is the cornerstone for many fond memories of friends and alumni of our university.”

In addition to the offices of the chancellor and president, the Administration Building now houses offices for the provost and the vice president of research, along with many other offices and programs.

Under Chancellor John T. Montford, the updated Master Plan ensured future buildings on campus would retain the Spanish Renaissance architecture of the Administration Building and other original campus buildings. The brick, roof and windows of the Administration Building can be seen modeled on new buildings across campus, including the Rawls College of Business, the English & Philosophy Building, and even the additions to Jones Stadium.

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A Closer Look

The Administration Building has various inscriptions on the north and south sides of the building. The various quotations, names, nations, disciplines and virtues were selected in part by the college’s first president, Paul Whitfield Horn.

Quotations:

  • “Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge, the only security that freemen desire.” – Mirabeau B. Lamar
  • “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” – Solomon

American leaders: Columbus, Washington, Lincoln, Lee and Wilson

Texas leaders: Houston, Austin, Crockett, Johnston and Hogg

Seals: Texas Technological College, France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy and the United States of America

Institutions of society: Home, State, Church and School

Educational subjects: Agriculture, Science, Manufacturing, Democracy, Home Making, Art and Literature

Educational products: Patriotism, Religion, Industry, Virtue, Wealth, Enlightenment and Citizenship

Names of people throughout history who exemplify lines of human endeavor:

  • Plato and Aristotle (philosophy)
  • Homer and Shakespeare (poetry)
  • Hippocrates (medicine)
  • Paul (divinity)
  • Beethoven (music)
  • Michael Angelo (architecture)
  • Pestalozzi (teaching)
  • Gladstone (statecraft)
  • Newton (pure science)
  • Pasteur (applied science)
  • Franklin (common sense)
  • Edison (invention)
  • Burbank (horticulture)
Texas Tech's 90th Anniversary
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Texas Tech University was founded in 1923, and its impact on the nation and world has been nonstop ever since.

Join us as we celebrate 90 years of Texas Tech by experiencing our history through photos and videos.

Long Live the Matadors