Art in the Archives – Watercolors of James Chillman Jr. (1886-1952)


The Woodson Research Center is fortunate to hold two watercolors by James H. Chillman, Jr. “Chemistry Building Construction Scene”, dated 1924, is an architectural sketch of the construction of the Chemistry Building. This was the first Institute building that was designed by William Ward Watkin in collaboration with Cram & Ferguson.  It was also the only permanent academic building constructed in the interwar period at Rice. Finished in 1925 and renovated in 1998-2000, the building (now W. M. Keck Hall) includes humorous reliefs/sculptures of student life which were designed by Chillman. The watercolor was gifted to Pender Turnbull by Helen Chillman (the daughter of James Chillman) in 1973. Turnbull, a graduate of Rice Institute in 1919 who worked in the library as Bibliographer and Curator of the Rare Book Room, left it to the library.



The second sketch, “Gardens of Doria Palace, Genoa”, dated 1922, belonged to long-time supporter of Rice and the archives Ray Watkin Strange, who donated it to the Woodson Research Center. The centuries-old gardens belonged to the Doria Pamphili family of Genoa, Italy. Dr. Chillman doubtless sketched the gardens while spending three years as a fellow in architecture at the American Academy in Rome. He returned to an appointment in the Architecture Department of the Rice Institute in 1922, and became the first director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Woodson holds Chillman’s papers, and he will be featured in a future post.

Art in the Archives – The Fondren Library of Rice Institute (1952)

Hanging over a desk near the Carroll and Harris Masterson Texana Collection is a pastel/multi- media drawing of Fondren Library in 1952. The drawing is a view facing the library from the quad, showing the cloisters, the ornamental shrubs and cypress trees, and the statue of William Marsh Rice.

The library was not identified in the original Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson General Plan for the Institute; instead, a temporary space was created in Lovett Hall (the Administration Building.) This space became inadequate by the 1920’s, but it was not until the 1940’s that the Institute initiated planning for a library. In 1946 Ella Cochrum Fondren and her children donated the money for construction of the library in memory of Walter W. Fondren, co-founder of the Humble Oil & Refining Company. John F. Staub, one of Houston’s influential architects and a student of Cram’s at MIT, designed the building, the first on the Rice campus with air conditioning. Fondren Library opened in 1949, three years before creation of the drawing.

The mixed media/pastel was created by Texas artist Edward Muegge “Buck” Schiwetz (1898-1984). Schiwetz studied architecture at Texas A & M, but never practiced. After a year studying in New York at the Art Students League he returned to Texas, founded an advertising firm and began exhibiting his art. Schiwetz generally chose historic buildings, oilfields, and natural scenes in Texas as his subject. He exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the American Watercolor Society, the Philadelphia Watercolor Society, the Architecture League of New York, and the Library of Congress; by 1948 he had one-man shows in five Texas museums. In 1966 he left advertising to focus solely on art. We don’t know the story of Schiwetz’s drawing of Fondren Library, but would love to hear about it if you know more.

KTRU Tuesdays: Gays and Lesbians of Rice

From January 29, 1992 comes this interview with Cory West the President of Gays and Lesbians of Rice [GALOR] and Michael Meyers a member. They talk about the goals of GALOR, gay issues at Rice, the club, coming out in college, religion, and upcoming club plans.

GALOR does not have a photograph in the 1992 Campanile, the image above is of the club in 1991.

Art in the Archives – William Ward Watkin (1886-1952)

A nook in the Woodson Research Center holds a bronze bust of Architecture professor William Ward Watkin. Watkin, the first Chair of the Rice Architecture Department at the Rice Institute, studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Following his graduation (first in his class) in 1908 Watkin spent one year traveling in Europe. Upon his return, Watkin joined the Boston office of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, the architectural firm commissioned to produce a campus plan and to design the initial buildings of the Rice Institute. Watkin worked on the development of both the campus plan and the building plan in the Boston office; when construction began in the summer of 1910 Watkin was sent to Houston to serve as the firm’s representative supervisor.

As supervising architect he worked closely with Dr. Lovett, President of the Rice Institute, and was offered a faculty appointment in Architectural Engineering at the Institute. He developed a thriving private practice in Houston and other Texas communities, designing buildings for educational institutions, commercial ventures, and residences. Watkin also wrote articles for journals primarily dealing with Houston, its growth and development, and the implications these held for the city’s architecture. He became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1913, and was elected to its College of Fellows in 1949.

William Ward Watkin with bronze sculpture of himself

The William Ward Watkin Family Papers (MS 508) contain a photo of Watkin holding the bust in front of his home (ca. 1938). The piece was donated by Ray Watkin Strange, Watkin’s oldest daughter and a devoted supporter of Rice and the archives. Sculptor and former Rice student of Architecture William (Bill) Mozart McVey (1905-1995) created the bust. McVey studied at the Cleveland School of Art (where he finished his career as a teacher) and in Paris under Rodin’s assistant Charles Despiau. The Woodson Research Center holds his papers as well; look for additional information on Bill McVey in a future post.

KTRU Tuesdays: Streaking

On the 1974 News Master 4, there are two brief stories about the changing sexual mores at Rice University. The first is an academic take, while the second is about planning a streak-off with the University of Houston.

Streaking has not disappeared from campus. A form of streaking lives on at Rice under the name Baker 13.

Read more about Rice’s obsession with streaking in 1974.

Image from: The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 61, No. 23, Ed. 1 Thursday, March 7, 1974

Art in the Archives: Edgar Odell Lovett (1871-1957)

At the entrance of the reading room of the Woodson Research Center stand a bust and a maquette of Edgar Odell Lovett, first President of the Rice Institute. Educated at Princeton, Lovett spent the first years of his career as a professor of mathematics at Princeton. Nominated by Woodrow Wilson for the presidency at Rice, Lovett and his wife, Mary Hale Lovett, spent a year (1908) taking a world tour of colleges and universities, examining best practices at leading institutions around the world, and developing a bold and innovative vision for the Institute.

In the Houston community at the turn of the 20th century there was nothing like Lovett’s vision. Lovett planned an institute which would provide research, scholarship, and teaching of international quality. To accomplish this he attracted faculty from the best universities, gifted students, and supervised the building of a campus notable for its beauty. To form the character of the Institute he advocated the establishment of a residential college system and the honor system. Lovett’s words at the formal convocation of the Institute in 1912 still inform the vision for the university: “no upper limit to its educational endeavor.”

During the Centennial celebrations in 2012 Rice University unveiled an 8-foot bronze statue of Dr. Lovett in the Keck Hall courtyard. The original statue of Lovett, as well as the maquette and bust on display at the Woodson, are the works of artist Bruce Wolfe (1941-), noted for his dynamic sculptures of individuals such as Barbara Jordan and Margaret Thatcher. This image of Dr. Lovett reflects the scholar as a young man, striding forward into the future with confidence in all its possibilities. The bust is a gift of the artist to the university, an exact replica of the bust on the full-sized statue.