Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University called various Texas cities—including Waco—home for many years before settling permanently in Fort Worth. The university traces its origins to a small private school operated out of a brick church structure in Fort Worth, founded by Addison and Randolph Clark in 1869. Finding their students dazzled by the vice of a rapidly growing urban center, the brothers moved the college to the frontier town of Thorp Springs in 1873. It was there that the school received its first charter as AddRan Male and Female College in 1874. It was later chartered in 1889 as AddRan Christian College under the official control of the Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church.

Though the brothers left Fort Worth with the intention of leaving city life behind, trustees soon began to discuss the merits of moving the university back into an urban area. On September 4, 1895, James I. Moore presented a proposal from the Executive Committee of the Christian Church at Waco, offering the campus of former Waco Female College, fifteen acres of land north of downtown, and funds to construct a dormitory for male students in exchange for AddRan relocating to Waco by January 1, 1896.

On Christmas Day in 1895, a train carrying around one hundred members of AddRan Christian College rolled into Waco. Following a formal reception at First Baptist Church—attended by Waco politicians, university officials such as Baylor president Rufus C. Burleson, church representatives, and city clubs—AddRan students, faculty, and staff marched three miles to the former campus of Waco Female College near North Eighteenth Street.  

A lone brick building standing atop a grassy hill greeted the university. Though unfinished, the structure offered an impressive start to what was intended to be a sprawling urban university. The spacious building included areas for dining, a library, the business college, science labs, a chapel, and parlors often used by literary societies and clubs. As promised, the Executive Committee of the Christian Church of Waco provided funding to finish the third floor which housed the male dormitory as well as faculty apartments. Although financial difficulties—largely brought on by debt the college acquired in Thorp Springs—challenged the university, several other buildings were added to the campus between 1900 and 1911, including a girls’ dormitory.

Classes began at Add-Ran in Waco on January 1, 1896, including mandatory coursework in ancient languages, English, mathematics, physical sciences, mental and moral sciences, and social history. A Bible department offered coursework for ministers in training. As the university expanded, the school added more classes and divisions, including music courses and a business department.  In 1902, trustees voted to rename the college Texas Christian University (TCU), marking the school’s decided effort to transition from a small institution to one of the most influential universities in the South.

Student life consisted largely of participation in literary societies. In the late 1890s, a volunteer student band formed and many students became involved in the Young People’s Society of the Christian Endeavor, a national evangelical society. Students and faculty collaborated to publish a monthly newspaper, and in the 1897-1898 academic year the school mascot and colors were chosen and the first Horned Frog annual was published. As the college expanded in Waco, extracurricular activities such as athletics and military drill teams grew in popularity.

Tragedy struck in March of 1910 when a fire erupted in the main building. Though all students and faculty made it out of the building safely, the building was too far gone to be saved by the time Waco firefighters arrived. Neighboring homes opened their doors to displaced students, and churches throughout the city held voluntary collections to raise funds to aid the school. TCU completed the semester by holding classes on the lawn, in the girls’ home, and in the dining halls.

The fire proved to be an enormous financial obstacle for Texas Christian University. Only $29,000 of the $150,000 sustained in damages was insured. Seizing the opportunity, other Texas cities began to place bids to entice the school to move elsewhere. Although local businessmen offered funds to rebuild in Waco, TCU ultimately found Fort Worth’s promise of fifty acres of land, $200,000, and connection to municipal utilities and streetcar access too good to pass up. The school rebuilt in Fort Worth that same year.

Plans to open a new educational institution at the Waco site never materialized, and it was sold to a real estate developer in 1912. Today, a historical marker stands at the old location of the school, bearing witness to Texas Christian University’s years in Waco and its contribution to the city’s reputation as the “Athens on the Brazos.”

Images

Souvenir Postcard

Souvenir Postcard

AddRan quickly developed the former Waco Female College into a large campus and began to rapidly grow into a large university. In the years following the move, the school adopted many of its trademarks for which it is known today, including its current name, school colors, and horned frog mascot. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

New Opportunities

New Opportunities

For many years, mandatory participation in literary societies represented the full extent of extracurricular opportunities for students. As AddRan University continued to grow in Waco, other opportunities, such as athletics, developed. By the early twentieth century, the university was working on growing its athletic program as one of the main ways to attract new students. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Impressive Façade 

Impressive Façade 

When AddRan students and faculty arrived, only the main building (center) stood. As promised, Waco businessmen and the local Christian Church provided funds to finish the grand building and construct a boys’ dormitory. At its completion, Old Main was considered the finest educational building in the city.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Growing Numbers

Growing Numbers

In his annual presentation to the board, the TCU president reported that he found the university to be growing rapidly in enrollment and maturity by the 1903-1904 academic year. While previous years had only seen four or five graduates, eighteen students graduated in 1904.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Football Team (c. 1909)

Football Team (c. 1909)

The roots of TCU’s football program began in Waco, opening with a victory against Toby’s Business College of Waco in 1896. Just a few years later, the university played its first game against Baylor University in 1899, establishing what today has become popularly known as the “Revivalry.”  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Cadets (c. 1902)

Cadets (c. 1902)

Military drill also served as a popular extracurricular, and as early as 1903, a full military department existed with at least a hundred students enrolled. However the school struggled to get the equipment and supplies form the state government it needed to operate fully. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Athens of Texas

Athens of Texas

Waco received a reputation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as an educational center in Texas, known for its many universities, newspapers, and libraries. Filling the vacancy left by Waco Female College, TCU contributed to this reputation for many years. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Business College (c. 1905)

Business College (c. 1905)

By 1904, the university had expanded to include the AddRan College of Arts and Sciences, College of Bible, College of Business, College of Music, College of Oratory, the School of Art, and the Preparatory School.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Fire

Fire

After completing construction and renovations on Old Main, many thought the grand building to be fireproof. However, though its exterior was made of brick, the staircases and roof were made of wood. On the evening of March 22, 1910, just after the beginning of the 8 pm study hour, two boys discovered a fire on the fourth floor of Old Main. There was just enough time for the boys to alert their classmates—many just returning from trips to the post office or drug store–before the fire began to rage out of control.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A New Beginning

A New Beginning

Although no students, faculty, or staff were injured in the fire, the school suffered severe damages, including all of the contents of the library, the entirety of the business college, the painting and drawing department, and the unfinished 1910 Horned Frog yearbook. Classes resumed the next day in improvised locations and the Waco community took many students whose rooms had been consumed by the flames into their homes. In the face of the extreme cost of rebuilding in Waco, and after receiving a lucrative offer from Fort Worth, Texas Christian University left Waco following the conclusion of the 1910 spring term.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amanda Sawyer, “Texas Christian University,” Waco History, accessed July 27, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/125.

Related Tours

Subjects

Share this Story