SMU Turns 100: A Look Back at Its Very First Days — 1915

by Paula Bosse

smu_dallas-hall-dome-under-construction_1914Dallas Hall’s dome under construction, 1914 (SMU Archives)

by Paula Bosse

Classes began for the very first time at brand new Southern Methodist University on September 28, 1915 — 100 years ago today! Where HAS the time gone? Below, a few photos from those early days (click pictures for larger images).

smu_dallas-hall-columns-under-construction_1914_degolyerDallas Hall’s columns going up, 1914, out in the middle of a mostly empty prairie, well beyond the Dallas city limits.

smu_week-before-opening_1935-rotundaVisitors checking out the new campus, a week before its opening.

smu_visitors-before-opening_091115Genteel visitors on the steps of Dallas Hall, the only building on campus in which classes were actually held.

12smu-rotunda-1916_freshman-classSMU’s first freshman class.

smu_first-freshmen_1950-homecoming-paradeAnd a couple of those freshmen, 35 years later, riding in a car in the 1950 Homecoming Parade downtown.

Below are a couple of logistical and progress-report articles from the week when students began arriving for that first year’s classes. Most interesting is that several classes were held off-campus, because of lack of space in an already crowded Dallas Hall. The fine arts department was housed at the “downtown conservatory” which was located in a former medical building at Hall and Bryan streets. The fine arts faculty had studios there and would move between downtown and the SMU campus. (Click articles for larger images.)

smu_first-day_dmn_092315Dallas Morning News, Sept. 23, 1915

smu_first-day-classes_dmn_092815DMN, Sept. 28, 1915

Happy Centennial, SMU!


Sources & Notes

The photos of Dallas Hall under construction are from the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University. The photo of the dome under construction is here; the photo of the columns going up is here.

The photo of campus visitors and their cars lined up in front of Dallas Hall is from the 1935 edition of the SMU Rotunda yearbook; the caption: “Dallas Hall, a week before opening of SMU.”

The photo of visitors on the steps of Dallas Hall is from Bridwell Library, Special Collections, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and it can be accessed here. The photo was taken on Sept. 11, 1915 and was printed in the Sept. 23, 1915 edition of The Texas Christian Advocate above the caption “[Snapshot] of visitors at entrance to Dallas Hall on occasion of the reception given Saturday the 11th by the citizens of Dallas to the faculty.” (The article and another photo can be seen at the link above.)

The photo of SMU’s first freshman class is from the 1915-16 SMU Rotunda yearbook.

The image of the former SMU freshmen is a screen capture from a home movie of SMU’s 1950 Homecoming Parade which is part of the DeGolyer Library’s collection; the entire 17-minute silent color film can be watched on the SMU Central Libraries site, here. The very entertaining film contains the parade, a tour around campus, an elaborately decorated Fraternity Row, and the football game against Texas A & M at the Cotton Bowl.

These other Flashback Dallas posts related to SMU’s first year may also be of interest:

  • “SMU, ‘The School of the Future’ — 1915-16,” here
  • “SMU’s First Year: The Dinkey, Campus Hijinx, and The Basket Ball — 1915-16,” here
  • “University Park, Academic Metropolis — ca. 1915,” here
  • “Send Your Kids to Prep School ‘Under the Shadow of SMU’ — 1915,” here (Incidentally, the Powell University Training School opened on the same day as SMU as a sort of “sister school” — the building it occupied is still standing, on Binkley, just off Hillcrest — this building celebrates its Centenary, too!)

Click photos and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.