Building Legacies: Belvin-Buchanan Hall
April 19, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
The following is part of a Today@Sam series highlighting the individuals who have SHSU buildings dedicated to them on campus. Special thanks to Barbara Kievit-Mason and University Archives for their assistance.
Of all campus buildings from Sam Houston State University’s past, Belvin-Buchanan Hall has withstood the test of time. The residence hall marked the first student residence constructed on campus and was originally built in 1936, known then as the Girl’s Dorm. At the time, the Girl’s Dorm only included the side facing 17th Street or Belvin Hall.
This portion of the building is named after an 1882 graduate of Sam Houston Normal Institute, Caroline Belvin. She began teaching at her alma mater in 1903, covering primary and interpretive reading.
Belvin was later named the Dean of Women in 1917 and held that title until she retired from the then-renamed Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1929. Her impact on the women of the university at the time was long-reaching and led to the Caroline Belvin Literary Society being named after her, which is now known as the Delta Mu chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
While still known as the Caroline Belvin Literary Society, the group put on the “Bathing Beauty Review,” a swimsuit pageant where winners received the title of “Bathing Beauty” as well as flowers, new clothes and jewelry. The contest eventually evolved into the Miss Sam Houston Pageant that we know today.
The other leading lady behind the name of the residence hall that students from the College of Arts and Media (CAM) call home is Sarah Rosalie Patten Buchanan. Born in 1855, Buchanan was the wife of state senator John Creighton Buchanan until his death in 1884. Then a widowed single mother to three children, Buchanan became a schoolteacher to support herself and her children.
In 1892, Buchanan’s luck changed thanks to her friend Governor James S. Hogg appointing her to a teaching position at Sam Houston Normal Institute. Her appointment to this position made history, as she is now known as the first woman to become a full professor for a Texas school.
During her time at SHNI, she added the titles of Dean of Women and head of the English Department to her resume. Buchanan retired in 1916 and supervised war work in her hometown of Wood County during WWI. She then served on the local school board from 1928 to 1932, the last known position that she held before her death in 1941.
Her legacy at the university came in 1945, when the student population at Sam Houston State Teachers College had grown, and Buchanan Hall was added to Belvin. The residence hall then went from housing 92 residents to 224.
An increase in student residents led to an increase in dining services available, the university equipped the expanded residence hall with a large dining hall, kitchenettes and a smaller room on each floor for private functions. Students in the residence hall could receive meals at a scheduled time and the women were expected to “dress for dinner” and engage in conversation as part of their “social training.”
Since 1945 the building has undergone many renovations and upgrades, allowing it to remain in use for multiple generations of students. Now a co-ed residence hall for students in the College of Arts and Media, the space turned the former cafeteria into the CAM Creative Community, including an 80-seat theatre, sound studios, a computer lab, dance studio, student art gallery and conference rooms for student use.
Even though the building has undergone so many changes, it stands as the legacy of two women who made their mark on SHSU in its earliest years, the students who attended and the state it serves.
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