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Today@Sam Article

Austin Hall Restoration Underway

Jan. 20, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

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The oldest building on the SHSU campus, Austin Hall is being restored, but the bricks that bear the names of generations of students will not be touched, according to officials. —Photos by Rhonda Ellisor


Austin Hall, the oldest building on the campus of Sam Houston State University, is in the middle of a restoration that includes extensive repairs and a bit of “dressing up,” according to university officials.

“It has been 27 years since Austin Hall was last renovated, and now thanks to the generosity of three charitable foundations, the architectural symbol of Sam Houston State University is undergoing a much-needed facelift and work that will prevent this beautiful building from deteriorating,” said SHSU President Dana Gibson. “The contributions of these organizations are helping restore an important part of Sam Houston and Texas history."

The three foundations that have committed to assisting in the funding for the Austin Hall restoration project include Houston Endowment, Inc., The Brown Foundation, Inc., and The Elkins Foundation.

Shutter damage and cracks between bricks will be among the things the $2 million restoration project will work to ameliorate. The project is being paid for through donations by three foundations.

Estimated to cost $2 million, the project has benefitted from donations from alumni and businesses as well.

SHSU’s Facilities Planning and Construction Office is leading the project which includes everything from floor refinishing to cupola restoration, as well as the installation of new electrical and plumbing systems.

The bricks with names of generations of Sam Houston State students carved into them will not be replaced with new bricks. They will, however, be taken down so that new mortar can be applied. They will then be “re-placed” in their previous location on the exterior of the building, except for those bricks that have deteriorated beyond use, such as some of the ones below the windows.

“The bricks with the names carved in them are a part of the history of the building,” said Chad Huff, SHSU’s facilities architect.

“Even the bricks that can no longer be used on the outside of the building will be placed inside the building in some manner,” he said.

Austin Hall first opened its doors in 1851 as Austin College, a Presbyterian school for which Gen. Sam Houston was on the first board of governors. The Methodist Church later owned the landmark before it sold the building to the citizens of Huntsville. In October 1879, it became Sam Houston Normal Institute, and for the first time, it prospered.

In 1888 Old Main was built to meet the needs of a growing student population. The two buildings became historical fixtures for Sam Houston State University until a fire in 1982 destroyed Old Main and left Austin Hall damaged.

Austin Hall was restored and rededicated in 1986. Today it is still used for university receptions, meetings and special events, making it the oldest continuously used higher education facility west of the Mississippi River.

The restoration project is scheduled to be completed in May 2012.




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