Our Landmark Library: Battle Hall at 100

EVENT: The Centennial Celebration for historic Battle Hall on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. The event is free and open to the public.

WHEN: 5-8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, 2011.

WHERE: The University of Texas at Austin. Opening remarks by Lawrence Speck in Jessen Auditorium, Homer Rainey Hall (map) at 5 p.m., followed by a reception in the Architecture & Planning Library, Battle Hall (map).

Our Landmark Library: Battle Hall at 100

BACKGROUND: Battle Hall, a building that was part of the original Forty Acres at The University of Texas at Austin, will be celebrated this week upon the 100th anniversary of its completion.

The School of Architecture, the Texas Exes and the University of Texas Libraries will host the Centennial Celebration.

“Battle Hall is special to this campus not only because of its prominent location and detailed facade, but because of its long history of housing varied programs and people from the UT community,” says Frederick Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture. “A comprehensive restoration plan is in the making, and it is our hope to retain the building’s history as we focus on the future.”

Renowned architect and W.L. Moody, Jr. Centennial Professor in Architecture Lawrence W. Speck will provide opening remarks in Jessen Auditorium in Homer Rainey Hall. Attendees are then invited to an open house and reception after the talk in the Architecture & Planning Library and its Alexander Architectural Archive in Battle Hall. This will include self-guided tours of the building, light refreshments and a cake-cutting to commemorate the anniversary.

Designed by newly appointed University Architect Cass Gilbert in 1910, Battle Hall was completed in 1911 for approximately $280,000. Beyond serving as the university’s first independent library building (later known as “the Old Library”), it was also the first home to the new College of Fine Arts (1938) and later to the new Barker Texas History Center (1950), bringing together for the first time the University Library’s archives and rare books collections. In 1973, when the Barker Center vacated the building, it became home to the Architecture Library and was renamed for former university president Professor William J. Battle.

The building was the first designed for the campus in the now-familiar Spanish-Mediterranean Revival style, and in 1970 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, Battle Hall was listed by the American Institute of Architects as one of the top 150 architecture projects in the organization’s “America’s Favorite Architecture” poll.

Today, Battle Hall is home to the Architecture & Planning Library, the Alexander Architectural Archive and the School of Architecture’s Center for American Architecture and Design.

“A century ago, Battle Hall opened its doors as the first independent library building on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, and since then it has provided the space and resources needed to fuel creativity, research and innovation at the university and beyond,” says Fred Heath, director of the University of Texas Libraries. “With the past as prologue, this grand historic building and its service to the students, faculty, researchers and appreciative public will continue for another century and more.”

The Centennial Celebration will be accompanied by the exhibit “Our Landmark Library: Battle Hall at 100,” featured in the Architecture & Planning Library’s reading room. The exhibit revisits the history of the university’s first dedicated library space on campus through imagery drawn from sources including the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, the Alexander Architecture Archive, the New-York Historical Society and the Library of Congress.  An accompanying online exhibit offers additional images and information conveying the story of the building from conception to completion.

The exhibit will be on display in the Architecture & Planning Library in Battle Hall through May 2012.