Eagle's-Eye View of Campus, 1919

Dentonite Albert Adkisson served as a lieutenant in the photo intelligence unit of the Aviation Corps during World War I, and when he returned home, he and his camera took to the skies again. His work included this 1919 photo of what was then North Texas State Normal College. The college had an enrollment of 1,136 that year and had just started to build outside of its original 10-acre plot, bordered by Avenue A on the east, Sycamore on the south, Avenue B on the west and Hickory on the north. For comparison, our photographer Brad Holt took a photo with a drone from a similar angle this summer (below) — and UNT’s enrollment topped 39,000 this fall.

In the 1919 photo:

WH Bruce and wife and their car
President and Mrs. W.H. Bruce with their car on campus, 1922

1. Traffic was definitely light. A horse pulling a wagon was crossing the intersection of Avenue A and Sycamore when Adkisson captured the shot. Only a few cars are visible on the sides of Sycamore (bottom left).

Power plant
Power Plant (then known as the Heating Plant), 1919 Yucca

2.The Power Plant, with its distinctive smokestack, still stands today. It was built in 1915 to furnish heat to the buildings on campus (its coal-burning boilers were later changed to run on natural gas). Concrete steam tunnels to some of the buildings would be added in 1935. The building’s roof served as a perch for the old Curfew Bell for many years, before the bell found new life as the Talons’ original Spirit Bell. The Power Plant also included the manual arts wood shop.

Mrs Kingsbury rock piano 1952
Mrs. Kingsbury demonstrating the rock piano in the State Historical Collection, 1952

3. Today’s Curry Hall is the oldest building that remains on campus. Built in 1912-13 as the Library Building, it later would be known as the Historical Building for the State Historical Collection it housed, curated by history professor J.L. Kingsbury. The museum was well known to the college students and area school children who enjoyed visiting its many treasures — a stuffed buffalo head, a rock piano, and collections of dolls, coins and model ships, to name a few.

Beulah Harriss scrapbook dirt courts
Students on the dirt courts with the Main Building on the left and the Library Building behind them (the date of the photo, from the Beulah Harriss Scrapbook at digital.library.unt.edu, isn't known, but Miss Beulah joined North Texas in 1914 and the Main Building had been replaced by 1923)

4. These dirt Basketball Courts make us very proud of our Super Pit today. Women’s P.E. classes were held in the basement of the Library Building next door. Beulah Harriss, the women’s basketball and tennis coach who taught every sport except football from 1914 to 1960, said the women did not head outdoors until after classes had started and returned before classes were dismissed so male students would not see them in their uniforms. Fortunately, the barracks that had housed the Student Army Training Corps (originally home to the college’s training school) was no longer needed in 1919. It would be transformed into the original "Men's Gym," with an indoor court. The facilities did not hold back Miss Beulah’s women’s basketball teams — they went undefeated from 1918 to 1920.

President's house
President's House, 1919 Yucca

5. Located along Hickory, just visible in the photo above the trees, was the stately President’s House. Then home to President W.H. Bruce, it was built in 1909 on the site of the campus’ very first building, the Normal Building, which stood from 1891 until it was struck by lightning and burned in 1907. Bruce said the two-story president’s home was built to be spacious so it could also accommodate members of the Board of Regents when they visited from out of town.

Main building harriss scrapbook
Main Building and water fountain in the snow (Beulah Harriss Scrapbook)

6. The Main Building, erected in 1903, served as the administration building until a new one (today known as the Auditorium Building) opened in its place in 1923. Materials from the Main Building were used to construct a temporary building for administrative offices until the new building was finished. That temporary structure later became the women’s P.E. headquarters, known as the Harriss Gym. To the back right of the building was a water fountain with a roof often covered in flowers (the roof may just be visible in the aerial photo). In 1928, student and future architect O’Neil Ford designed a new structure around the water fountain — the Gazebo that still stands today.

Science hall 1942
Science Hall, 1942

7. The Science Hall, constructed in 1909-10, housed the science departments and much more. While it was being built, the Legislature mandated the teaching of agriculture, manual training and domestic science (home economics) in the state’s normal schools. So in addition to recitation rooms, a lecture room and labs for the sciences, the building included a manual training shop, a mechanical drawing room, domestic science rooms and a model dining room. By the time Masters Hall was built in 1951 for the biology and chemistry departments, the scientists were happy to move to a more modern building.

Pond Manual Arts Building Yucca 1929
Campus pond, 1929 Yucca

8. The Manual Arts Building, which opened in 1916, was built to house the manual training and home economics programs. It was later known as the Art Building and at various times housed the speech, business and journalism programs, as well as the college print shop, student publications offices and the news service. One famous future occupant was C.E. Shuford, fondly remembered as teaching/grilling journalism students in a tiny room in the crowded basement, where he reportedly sat on a filing cabinet to lecture because there was no room to stand. It was near this building that the campus pond would be located, providing a relaxing spot for many students, couples and bullfrogs through the years.

Education Building Yucca 1920
Education Building, 1920 Yucca

9. The brand new Education Building, which had just opened in January 1919, housed the teacher training school on its second and third floors, with faculty offices and a domestic science lab on the first floor. The training school at that time included nine grades, and on the third floor was an assembly room that doubled as an observation room for lessons. The building later housed departments including business administration, language, government and psychology. Not visible in the aerial photo is its distinctive opening staircase, which led directly to the second floor.

Kendall Hall interior Yucca 1919
First Kendall Hall (originally called the Music Hall), 1919 Yucca

10. And back at the intersection of Sycamore and Avenue A was the original Kendall Hall, not to be confused with the women’s dorm by the same name that opened in 1952. Once the private residence of J.S. Kendall, president of the college from 1901 to 1906, the two-story frame house was purchased in 1918 to serve as a headquarters for the music department. It was first called the Music Hall but by 1923 was named in honor of Kendall. Organizations with rooms on the second floor included the Current Literature Club, which advertised the “cool south breezes” of their meeting space when recruiting members. The house may have still held an oak desk and chair that belonged to Kendall and, according to a 1946 issue of the Campus Chat, it was the first house in Denton to have a bathroom and furnace installed — although the furnace was temperamental. When the new Music Hall opened in 1941, Kendall Hall became home to the speech department and its rooms were renovated to include an auditorium with opera chairs and a small stage with footlights and a velvet curtain. Rooms upstairs included a radio and costume room.

Thanks to Adkisson and his photographic talents, we can appreciate how far we’ve come in 100 years. If you have memories of spending time in any of these buildings, let us know. We would love to hear about them!

2019 UNT campus

Visible in the 2019 drone photo are:

  1. Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building
  2. Chemistry Building
  3. Science Research Building
  4. Hickory Hall (formerly Industrial Arts Building and Engineering Technology Building)
  5. Auditorium Building (Administration Building from 1923 to 1956)
  6. Language Building
  7. Curry Hall
  8. Physics Building
  9. Sage Hall (formerly Business Administration Building)
  10. Power Plant
  11. General Academic Building
  12. Marquis Hall
  13. Terrill Hall

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