Athens of Texas

Once a small frontier town on the banks of the Brazos River, Waco developed into a thriving commercial center of Texas near the end of the nineteenth century. As the population grew, the city became known as a leader in education because of the wealth and diversity of opportunities offered in higher education. This reputation led some to dub the city the “Athens of Texas,” evoking images of the classical civilization often viewed as the pinnacle of art and education.

This tour highlights a few of the institutions which earned Waco a reputation as an educational center and invites you to explore the ideas which shaped the city into the Athens of Texas.

Waco University

A forerunner of Baylor University, Waco University served as one of the earliest and most influential institutions of higher learning following the founding of Waco Village in 1849. When Waco incorporated in 1856, Baptists already held a significant…

Waco Female College

Waco Female College served as an influential institution of higher learning for women in the nineteenth century. The consolidation of two other female educational institutions, Waco Female Seminary and Waco Female Academy, led to the formation of…

Paul Quinn College

Paul Quinn College is the oldest historically black college in Texas. Though it is no longer located in Waco, it remains an important part of the city’s history as the “Athens on the Brazos.” In 1872 the African Methodist Episcopalian Church…

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…