Patrick James Nicholson.

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read for the law, in the Columbus office of Major Robert Foard, from
the time he was a teenager. He attended a series of lectures at the
Baylor College law school at nearby Independence, Texas.

Only two years after being admitted to the bar in 1882, he was
elected to the state House of Representatives from Columbus at the
age of 23. As the representative for the Eleventh District, he
introduced and guided to final passage the bill for the purchase of the
Alamo by the state of Texas. Legislator Townsend then served as
chairman of the committee that negotiated the acquisition of the
historic monument by the state.

Marcus Townsend was elected to the State Senate in 1888. Noted
for his detailed knowledge of the legislative process and wide
influence, he served as chairman of two key Senate committees, and
as a member of thirteen other committees in the senior chamber.

After retiring from the Legislature, Senator Townsend became one
of the state's best-known attorneys. He moved to San Antonio in
1906, opened a new firm with his son, Foard, and T.F. Mangum, and
began amassing a comfortable fortune in land, ranching, banking,
and other business interests. He was a director of the City National
Bank of San Antonio, and prominent in many civic, professional, and
business organizations.

The family was active in San Antonio's social clubs and especially
in the Order of the Alamo, which presented Annie Ray Townsend as
one of the debutantes at the Battle of Flowers ball in 1913. Her escort
for the occasion was, not surprisingly, the rising young architect and
member of the Rice Institute faculty, William Ward Watkin.

Meanwhile, Watkin' s commitment to the ongoing construction
program at the Rice Institute had not lessened, in spite of his concurrent

104 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

academic demands. He was soon working again with Cram on the
construction of the complex new Physics Building. There are few
university facilities that compare with the Physics Building in design
detail. Watkin wrote of this unique structure in an article entided
"Architectural Traditions Appearing in the Earlier Buildings of the
Rice Institute" {Slide Rule, volume 13, number 7, July 1953, published
after his death). The Physics Building consisted of a long, thin,
rectangular block facing south, and an amphitheater parallel to the
block. In its location parallel to the Administration Building, Cram,
Goodhue & Ferguson followed the layout of the master plan.

Originally, the entire structure would have been wholly within the
"engineering and science court" further to the west, and therefore
reasonably plain, with brick or limestone trim. Because the rectangu-
lar block adjacent to the ornate Administration Building was clearly
within the academic court, it had to be embellished accordingly. This
meant colored tile, carved heraldic owls, "and Venetian ornaments"
for the building.

Watkin explained such sophisticated treatment as ". . . reflect[ing]
more . . . ornament than would have been appropriate to a simple
science building, but its proximity to the Administration Building
seemed to justify this treatment." Stephen Fox mentions such detail-
ing as ". . . Marble lunettes . . . twin tabernacles . . . simplified
versions of those atop St. Mark's Church in Venice . . . tesselated
paving and a Guastavino tile vault . . . [an] exo-narthex motif from
St. Luke's of Stiris ..." Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson was clearly
setting a pace for a Physics Building unmatched in 1914, if indeed
ever. It remains a jewel of design and of execution.

The James Stewart Company, successful in completing the South
Hall and Commons project on time, although under considerable
pressure, had also won the contract, at $285,903, for the more
complex Physics Building. They finished this job on schedule in
September 1914, only to face a delay in the delivery of the laboratory
equipment until early December. The Stewart organization, in the
meantime, was awarded a contract on East Hall, the second dormi-
tory, for $103,800. This was completed in the summer of 1915, with
some overtones of medieval Italian architecture in the design. Cram
and Ferguson then initiated plans for West Hall, a third dormitory, as
enrollment continued to increase in the fourth academic year.

Chapter Four 105


As was expected of the Rice Institute's high standards, architec-
tural training at the Rice Institute was to be thorough and demanding.
It involved a "full course extending over five years, leading to a
bachelor of arts degree at the end of the fourth year, and to the degree
of bachelor of science in architecture at the end of the fifth year. ' '

The objective was to lead students to a "comprehensive understand-
ing of the art of building, to acquaint them with the history of
architecture from early civilization to the present age, and to develop
within them an understanding and appreciation of those concepts of
beauty and utility which are fundamental to the cultivation of ability
in the art of design."

Students were given access to campus buildings under construction
"[in] the inspiring environment of a gradually expanding group [of
structures] of great beauty." There were also visits and inspections of
the "many building activities throughout the rapidly growing city of
Houston." As architects-to-be, the students were told to observe that
"Of the more strictly architectural subjects, design is given by far the
larger place." Further, along with architectural, engineering, and
technical subjects, "certain indispensable elements of a liberal
education" were also included.

The first class in the Department of Architecture, consisting of six
freshmen, was received with the other members of the Class of 1916
at a historic ceremony attended by the trustees, faculty, and "repre-
sentative citizens." On wSeptember 26, 1912 in this meeting in the
Faculty Chamber, President Lovett began his long tradition of an
annual address to the entering freshmen and other new students.

These first architecture majors faced a rigorous class schedule plus
the traditional laboratories and assigned problems. The class require-
ments included Mathematics 100 (stumbling block for many a
freshman), English, French, physics, architecture, freehand drawing,
and the first of two required years of military training. Watkin
himself taught a freshmen class in architecture and freehand draw-
ing. He was already seeking another instructor for the 1913-1914

106 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

academic year, when architectural design, architectural history, and
"antique" drawing would be added to the curriculum.

The Department of Architecture had been assigned space on the
second floor of the mechanical laboratory. The space included a
large, modern, well-lighted "draughting" room, plus a spacious
studio for freehand drawing and watercolor. An adjoining library
contained the start of what was to become a fine collection of books,
periodicals, and other publications, plus art reproductions, photo-
graphs, and slides.

Late in the spring of 1912, a list of the original faculty was drawn
up by Edgar Odell Lovett for distribution to the press. Many of the
hand-picked faculty were among the most distinguished in terms of
academic honors and accomplishments in their fields. A pattern of
distinction at Rice had clearly been set.

The list is reproduced here as it first appeared in the bulletin:

Philip Heckman Arbuckle, B. A. (Chicago), of Georgetown,
Texas; Director of Athletics in Southwestern University; to be
Instructor in Athletics.

Percy John Daniell, M. A. (Cambridge), of Liverpool, En-
gland; Senior Wrangler and Rayleigh Prizeman of the University
of Cambridge; Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of
Liverpool; to be Research Associate in Applied Mathematics.

William Franklin Edwards, B. Sc, (Michigan), of Houston,
Texas; formerly Instructor in the University of Michigan, and
later President of the University of Washington; to be Lecturer
in Chemistry.

Griffith Conrad Evans, Ph. D. (Harvard), of Rome, Italy;
Sheldon Fellow of Harvard University; to be Assistant Professor
of Pure Mathematics.

Julian Sorrell Huxley, M. A. (Oxford), of Oxford, England;
Newdigate Prizeman of the University of Oxford; Lecturer in
Biology at Balliol College, and Inter-collegiate Lecturer in
Oxford University; to be Research Associate in Biology.

Chapter Four 107

Francis Ellis Johnson, B. A., E. E. (Wisconsin), of Houston,
Texas; recently with the British Columbia Electric Railway
Company; to be Instructor in Electrical Engineering.

Edgar Odell Lovett, Ph. D. (Virginia and Leipzig), LL. D.
(Drake and Tulane), of Houston, Texas; formerly Professor of
Mathematics in Princeton University, and later Head of the
Department of Astronomy in the same institution; President of
the Institute; to be Professor of Mathematics.

William Ward Watkin, B. Sc. (Pennsylvania), Architect, of
Houston, Texas; to be Instructor in Architectural Engineering.

Harold Albert Wilson, R R. S., D. Sc. (Cambridge), of
Montreal, Canada; Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge Uni-
versity; formerly Professor in King's College, London; Research
Professor in McGill University; to be Professor of Physics.

Foremost among those with established professional reputations
were President Lovett (whose achievements at Virginia and Leipzig,
as well as at Princeton University have been mentioned), and Dr.
Harold A, Wilson. The latter's imposing accomplishments are wor-
thy of special note.

Wilson, only thirty-seven when he arrived at the Rice Institute in
1912, was already a fellow of the Royal Society (of London for the
Improvement of Natural Knowledge), and thereby in the company
and tradition of Great Britain's greatest scientists. Having received his
doctorate in science from Cambridge University, Wilson was named
F.R.S. in 1906 at thirty-one. He accepted a lectureship at Kings
College of the University of London, only to discover that research
facilities there were somewhat marginal.

By 1907, Wilson had become interested in an appointment in the
United States or Canada. Much of this was because his sister Lillian
had married O.W. Richardson, a fellow physicist with a leading role
in a potent new research program at Princeton University. Through
Richardson, he learned of a vacancy at McGill University in Mon-
treal, applied for, and was soon offered a professorship there. There
were some misgivings about Montreal's climate ("harsh in winter,
hot and humid in summer"), but he accepted the post and was soon a
busy and contented member of the McGill community.

108 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

In the fall of 1911, a charming Canadian girl, Marjorie Paterson
Smyth, enrolled in one of Harold Wilson's graduate classes. She was
an honor graduate of McGill in mathematics and physics. In the
summer of 1912, soon after she was awarded the master of science
degree, she and Harold were married.

Meanwhile, Edgar Odell Lovett had been on another recruiting
trip. He stopped by Princeton, as he often did when in the East, and
learned from Professor Richardson of Dr. Wilson's impressive record
both in research and in graduate instruction. He then went to
Montreal to offer Wilson the professorship of physics at Rice.

Harold Wilson recalled a half-century later how "the idea of
helping to start a new university, and especially a new physics
department," had appealed to him a great deal as "an exciting
adventure." Always conscious of the importance of well-planned
facilities and the most modern equipment, the McGill professor was
obviously much impressed by what President Lovett told him. The
well-endowed Rice Institute was to be a small university with high
standards, a graduate school, and a carefully chosen faculty given the
best possible physical plant and equipment. He was shown a small
copy of the master plan by Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, by this time
well recognized as perhaps the leading firm in academic architecture.
The plan, most importantly, included a new physics building.

Further, if he came to Houston, Professor Wilson would have a key
role in planning the new building, selecting equipment, and in
recommending faculty appointments, since the new facility was in a
second wave of construction and would not open until at least 1914.

After consulting with his fiancee, who agreed to the "exciting
adventure," the Wilsons came to Houston as newly weds in the
summer of 1912. The bridegroom always kept a clipping from the
Houston Post, which told of ". . .the first Rice Institute professor
arriving. . . with his pink-cheeked bride from the Canadian North."
He and Marjorie would recall five decades later driving from their
home at the Savoy Apartments to Rice in their new Ford. If their car
stuck in the mud beyond Eagle Avenue, there was almost always a
farmer around to pull them out with a team of mules, unless they had
slid into "the great mudhole by the second gate." Ill]

Chapter Four 109

Each of the remaining members of the original faculty (several of
them, including William Ward Watkin, still in their mid-twenties)
had significant early accomplishments that clearly indicated their
marked ability.

Griffith Conrad Evans won the coveted Sheldon Fellowship in pure
mathematics at Harvard while earning his doctorate. He went on to
the University of Rome to pursue post-doctoral research under
Professor Vito Volterra [12]. Volterra, a member of the Italian Senate,
was an authority on mathematical physics and celestial mechanics,
both specialties of great interest to Edgar Odell Lovett. The Italian
mathematician and physicist had recommended Evans to Dr. Lovett
during the latter 's visit to Rome en route to Moscow.

Julian Sorrell Huxley, later Sir Julian, was the grandson of Thomas
Henry Huxley. The grandfather was a self-educated biologist who,
much as Charles Darwin, took a four-year trip in the Pacific as a
naval officer. Thomas Henry became a fellow of the Royal Society
and turned down offers from Oxford, Edinburgh, and Harvard to
remain at London's tiny School of Mines. By the end of his life (in
1895), he had transformed the little institution into the prestigious
Royal College of Science. The elder Huxley defended the controver-
sial theories of Charles Darwin against strident criticism from
prominent theologians. He himself hypothesized that life had origi-
nated from a series of chemical reactions.

Following in this tradition, young Julian Huxley had come to Rice
with a sparkling record in biology at Oxford. He was fascinated with
Houston and its new Institute, as indicated in his marvelous account
of the opening ceremonies (Cornhill Magazine, July 1918, as quoted
in Chapter I). Huxley made lasting contributions to Rice in planning
both curriculum and physical facilities for the Department of Biology,
working in conjunction with William Ward Watkin on the facilities.
Huxley was an extremely effective teacher and researcher, and a
central figure among the younger members of the faculty. Unfortu-
nately for Rice, he chose to return to England in 1914 to volunteer for
service at the outbreak of the first World War [13].

Joseph Diot Davies, who had come from England with Huxley as a
laboratory assistant, and who took the first Ph.D in biology awarded
by the Institute, was to remain on the faculty for five decades. He

110 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

taught two generations of premedical students and biology majors,
and taught them well.

One of the most fortunate additions to both faculty and staff was
John Thomas McCants, although not listed in the 1912 announce-
ment of the original faculty at Rice because he was regarded
primarily as an administrator. He was appointed secretary to
President Lovett on December 1, 1910, replacing F. Carrington
Weems. Dr. Lovett announced this change in a handwritten state-
ment praising the "value of [Mr. Weems'] service to the Institute,"
and noting McCants' accomplishments.

J.T. McCants would remain at the Rice Institute for forty-one years
before retiring in 1951. A "Georgian reared in Alabama," he held
master of arts degrees from both Virginia and Yale. McCants had
served as an instructor in English at the former institute, and as a
fellow in English literature at Yale. When appointed to Rice, he was
assistant superintendent and professor of English at the Marion
Institute, then a well-known college at Marion, Alabama.

McCants became bursar (or treasurer) of Rice, and a close friend
and colleague of both President Lovett and Watkin. The McCants and
Watkin families would be neighbors from 1915 until Watkin' s death
in 1952. Upon his retirement in 1951, McCants wrote a detailed and
invaluable history of Rice (modesdy entitled "Some Information
Concerning The Rice Institute"). It was published only as a mimeo-
graphed, single-spaced typescript. The text was "lost" for some time,
but fortunately turned up in the McCants' garage.

Philip Heckman Arbuckle, a graduate of the University of Chicago,
came to the Rice Institute in 1912 from Southwestern University, a
small but well-established institution at Georgetown, Texas, near
Austin. His only title was instructor in athletics. It was intended from
the start, however, that Arbuckle would serve as director of athletics
(the rank he had held at Southwestern), football coach, and chairman
of a military training program that evolved into a Department of
Physical Education. A full year of physical education was required
for a degree from the Institute, regardless of the area of specialization.

Percy John Daniell had the singular distinction of having been
senior wrangler (first of all those taking first-class honors) at
Cambridge, where he was awarded the coveted Rayleigh Prize upon

Chapter Four 111

graduation in 1909. A specialist in mathematical physics, Daniell
came to Rice from the University of Liverpool. He was named
research associate in applied physics.

William Edwards, a noted chemist who had left the University of
Michigan to become president of the University of Washington,
became a lecturer in chemistry. He would be first in a succession of
eminent scientists who were also administrators to head the Chemis-
try Department at the Rice Institute.

William Ward Watkin had already proved himself academically at
the University of Pennsylvania. By 1912, he had added invaluable
experience and accomplishments in his professional field. Now he
fitted well into an original faculty of distinction, many of them men
his own age, with common interests. They became friends as well as
professional colleagues. Of particular note, one early faculty member
who became a very close friend and neighbor of the Watkin family
was Albert Leon Guerard, French scholar and writer. Although not
listed on the original roster, he joined the Rice faculty soon after its
opening. Guerard, professor of French, was a graduate of the
University of France and had formerly taught at Williams College in
Massachusetts, as well as at Stanford University.


As busy as he was with the final details of the first wave of
buildings constructed at Rice, the new Physics Building, and his
administrative assignments at Rice, young Watkin found time for
three other areas of vital importance. These included the growth of
his private practice in the prosperous city of Houston, his basic and
growing responsibilities as head of the Department of Architecture,
and his personal life.

The young architect and professor continued to meet and to interact
with many leading Houstonians. He was increasingly interested in
such matters such as city planning and the need for a museum of fine
arts. He saw the need for an active local chapter of the American
Institute of Architects, and was successful in getting this started with
the cooperation of Houston architects Birdsall Briscoe and Olle J.

112 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

Lorehn. Another interest for him, as a devout Episcopalian, was his
membership in Christ Church and later in Trinity Church.

Every faculty member at the new Rice Institute was firmly
committed to Edgar Odell Lovett's insistence upon rigorous aca-
demic standards. It was soon obvious, even in 1912, that there
would be a considerable number of students who had the requisite
number of credits for admission, but had not been adequately
prepared in high school. About half of the first entering class did
not pass the examinations administered before the middle of the
term, two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Watkin's response in the Department of Architecture was to work
patiently with his first group of six enrollees, and to screen
applications for the next entering class even more carefully.

In his personal life, Watkin continued to be absorbed by his
abiding new interest: the cheerful, intelligent, and beautiful Annie
Ray Townsend. Their courtship proceeded through 1912 and 1913
with a constant stream of letters and frequent trips to San Antonio
by young Watkin. He was seen on the westbound Southern Pacific
train headed for San Antonio whenever he could spare the time.
Watkin was spotted traveling in style in the club car when he went
to visit Annie Ray, and was attired in a well-cut suit, complete with
spats, gray homburg, and gloves.

William Ward Watkin and Annie Ray Townsend were married on
June 1, 1914, in the Travis Park Methodist Church in the center of
San Antonio, with their many friends in the Alamo City in
attendance. The couple spent their honeymoon in the beautiful
resort town of Asheville, North Carolina at the new Grove Park
Inn, and returned to their first home, an apartment on Main Street
near the Savoy.

Their first child, Annie Ray, was born May 11, 1915, just after
the Watkins moved into their new home at 5009 Caroline. It had
been designed with exacting care by the prospective father. Their
joy was dimmed, however, by the death of Annie Ray's father,
Marcus Harvey Townsend in June 1915. He succumbed to a long
illness only weeks after the birth of Annie Ray's first child.

Chapter Four 113


1 . Ralph Adams Cram was already quite involved in Boston's cultural life, and
this would increase. There was to be growing identification with the city's
rich activities in literature, music, and art. He and Mrs. Cram are believed
to have organized with their neighbors the tradition of the Christmas Eve
bell-ringers of Beacon Hill. The bells are still heard in Louisberg Square and
on adjoining Beacon and Chestnut Streets at Christmas.

A music critic, correspondent, and author from his twenties, Cram wrote
significant volumes of architectural criticism and history, as well as his
autobiography. With his partner, Goodhue, he published a literary quarterly
{The Knight Errant) for a brief time. Both Cram and Goodhue were among the
organizers of the White Rose Society, a literary group whose members met
regularly to read or recite their own articles, stories, and poems.

Cram was also the author of Excalibur, a medieval drama that reflected his
lifelong interest in that period of history and its Arthurian legends. In 1912,
he autographed a special copy of this work to William Ward Watkin,
expressing his appreciation for Watkin's central role and many accomplish-
ments in carrying out the Rice Institute commission.

2. This internal competition in the Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson offices was also
described by the Boston critic Douglass Shand Tucci in his book on Cram.

3. Jesse Jones was not unfamiliar with imaginative, yet sound, financing arrange-
ments. As early as 1902, he borrowed $500 from a Houston bank, locked it safely
away, and repaid principal and interest just before the due date. After repeating
the cycle several times at increasingly higher levels of principal and lower rates
of interest, he established strong lines of credit. The time had come. He borrowed
$10,000 that enabled him to organize the South Texas Lumber Company, and
was on his way. From this beginning, in 1904, Jones built an enormous fortune
in real estate, banking, and other highly successful business ventures, in addition
to a career in politics and national affairs that made him at one time a
well-regarded candidate for the White House.

4. Robert Alonzo Welch, a South Carolinian, arrived in Houston as a penniless
teenager. From a lowly job in a drug store, he learned first merchandising then
banking, and in time rose from clerk to owner of the James Bute Company, paint
manufacturers. A timely investment at Spindletop turned his attention to oil and

Online LibraryPatrick James NicholsonWilliam Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute → online text (page 11 of 31)