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Tarleton Landmarks

By Frank Chamberlain

The Stone Gateways

The rock gates that are located in three campus locations are among Tarleton’s more recognizable landmarks. The most symbolic of these entrances is located at the intersection of Military Drive and McIlhaney Street at the east end of campus. This gate was designed by manual arts director E.A. Funkhouser and financed by the graduating class of 1925. Ten years later, the class of 1935 donated the metal part of this gateway. (This is the actual portion that opens and closes.) The entire entrance was widened in the early 1960s. This modification was necessitated by a minor emergency in which fire engines were unable to fit through the gates during a Dining Hall fire. Today, this gateway only serves as an exit from the campus.

A second gateway is located in front of the new Administration building on Washington Street. The classes of 1932 and 1934 paid for this addition. These gates were closed to thru-traffic in 1984 when construction began on the Administration building. The closing of this entrance created a bit of consternation among the student body because it interrupted the social ritual of driving up and down Washington Street. This certain gate had provided a very handy route from which to return to the campus. Today, Tarleton students engage in a tradition entitled “cruising the island” during the first week of the fall semester. These spirit filled students pay homage to this bygone era by driving around in a parade-like manner in front of the Tarleton Center.

The third gate is located at the intersection of Vanderbilt Street and Doc Blanchard Boulevard. It was built courtesy of the Class of 1933. This entrance is the most heavily utilized of the three stone gateways as it provides access in and out of the senior honors parking lot. It is also the most convenient course for traffic coming to and from the girls’ dorms (Guthrie 63, 255, King 150, Traditions 28, 33).

The Rock Walls That Surround Tarleton

The stone wall that runs along the north side of Military Drive was began around the same time as the gateway at the front entrance. It begins at the eastern stone gate, runs in front of the E.J. Howell building, and ends at Doc Blanchard Boulevard. This structure stands between two and three feet tall. Manuel arts director E.A. Funkhouser designed this wall as well. The college paid for the project and student workers provided much of the labor. This entire section of wall was completed by 1928. Eventually, a similar stone fence was built which surrounded the entire forty acres of the original campus. It is slightly taller than the Military Drive wall, standing almost five feet high in some areas. This project was completed throughout the 1930s, probably as a part of the Works Project Administration that employed many during the Great Depression era. President W. O. Trogdon ordered several segments of this barrier to be torn down during his administration in between 1966 and 1982. These removals usually coincided with various campus construction projects. Occasionally, a suggestion is made requesting that the entire wall be demolished. However, it still remains one of the most familiar sights at Tarleton (Guthrie 63, 165, Traditions 28-29).

The Cannon and the 1928 Incident

The cannon that sits in front of the E.J. Howell Building is perhaps Tarleton’s most recognizable landmark. This 1902 model artillery piece was brought to campus in 1922 to serve ROTC training purposes. The cannon was also frequently fired during celebrations and special events until the outbreak of World War II. Firings were ceased because blank ammunition became rather scarce during the war years. Shortly thereafter Dean J. Thomas Davis ordered the muzzle sealed and the barrel welded into a fixed position. In 1946, the cannon was placed in its current location where it has remained stationary and silent for almost 60 years. A campus legend proclaims that it will automatically fire again whenever a virgin walks in front of it. Thus far, observers are still waiting for such a phenomenon to occur.

In 1928, the cannon played a key role in one of Tarleton’s more interesting episodes. Tarleton’s bitter rival, the North Texas Agricultural College, stole the gun during the week of the annual football game. The NTAC students had regularly attempted to vandalize the cannon, but decided to escalate their aggression on this occasion. The invaders intended to do irreparable damage to Tarleton morale by stealing this prized campus symbol and bringing it back to their Arlington campus. Fortunately, the cannon proved extremely difficult to tow, and the bandits were forced to dump their prize into the Bosque River right outside of Stephenville. Manual arts instructor E.A. “Doc” Blanchard rescued the cannon from its watery grave by using a tractor to tow the submerged artillery piece to safety. Blanchard then repaired the now-broken wheels by hand, thus guaranteeing that future generations of Tarleton students would be able to derive aesthetic pleasure from this landmark (Guthrie 64-65, 386-387, King 149, 237, Traditions 24).

World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial that sits in front of the EJ Howell Building honors the members of the Tarleton community who served in the war. The class of 1943 sponsored this granite monument. Over 2500 ex-students saw duty over the course of the war. One hundred and seventy eight of these men died during the conflict. Of the twenty-two faculty members who left their education careers in order to serve their country, two did not return (Guthrie 98-101, Traditions 32).

The Flagpole

This flagpole has stood in front of the EJ Howell Education Building (formerly the Administration building) since 1920. A plaque attached to the pole lists the names of the students and contributors who donated to its construction. This flagpole originally stood one hundred feet tall. ROTC cadets raised the flag at seven o’clock in the morning and lowered it at 5 o’clock each afternoon. The cannon was fired to commemorate the lowering of the flag in the evenings. The practice of firing the cannon continued into the 1940s. The pole has since been lowered, due to a city ordinance (Guthrie 63, King 147, Traditions 25).

The Smokestack

The smokestack that towers over the east end of the Tarleton campus was built in 1923. It was once used in conjunction with the central heating plant that was added in 1920. This plant provided heat, light, and power for most of the buildings on campus. The smokestack was restored in 1998 with the name “Tarleton “ written along the side. A campus legend proclaims that an invader from North Texas Agricultural College (NTAC) flew an airplane over the smokestack and dropped a brick down the shaft. Thus far, investigators have yet to probe the depths of the pipe in search of this foreign object (Guthrie 60, Traditions 26).

The Hunewell Bandstand

The Hunewell Bandstand was one of the most beloved landmarks in the history of Tarleton. It stood in an area known as Hunewell Park on the space now occupied by the Tarleton Center (directly south of the girls dorms on the southeast corner of campus.) The bandstand was completed in 1928 courtesy of a donation from the graduating class of 1927. The structure resembled a gazebo with a stone foundation and wooden roof. This bandstand was mostly built by students and named in honor of longtime band director Dennis Hunewell. The college band was also given the surrounding land that they turned into a park. This area was developed by the students and became a beautiful site for band concerts or other social activities. Hunewell Park was turned into a recreation area in 1939. A mini golf course and courts for tennis and volleyball were built there. The place remained a very popular hangout for students until 1963. At that time, the bandstand was destroyed in order to make room for the newly planned Student Center (later renamed as the Tarleton Center.) In recent years, there have been discussions about rebuilding the landmark. These plans have yet to reach fruition and the Hunewell Bandstand remains a cherished memory from Tarleton’s past (Guthrie 62, King 154, Traditions 26).

The Fishpond

Another of Tarleton’s landmarks that has not survived the passage of time was the Fishpond. This concrete water-filled basin featured a statue of a child standing on a platform in its center. This decoration was donated by the class of 1923 and stood due east of the old Administration building (the current EJ Howell building.) It is said that the monument was erected in honor of the first professor at Tarleton to earn a PhD. The most likely honoree was either Dr. Edward L. Reed, a biology professor who earned his PhD in 1924 or Dr. Hugh Smith, another professor of biology who came to Tarleton in 1927. However, the first two presidents at the college possessed doctorates in the early 1900’s. (Drs. W.H. Bruce and E.E. Bramlette) Also, the 1902-03 Catalog lists English and history instructor William E. Martin as owning a PhD (Catalog for 1902-03, Catalog for 1924-25, Grassburr1928 23, Guthrie 64, Traditions 25).

“Catalog for 1902-03”

“Catalog for 1924-25”

Grassburr 1928

Guthrie, Christopher. John Tarleton and his Legacy: The History of Tarleton State University, 1899-1999. Acton, MA: Tapestry Press, 1999.

King, C. Richard. The John Tarleton College Story: Golden Days of Purple and White. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1998.

Tarleton Traditions: Centennial Edition 1 (1 October, 1999): 1-48.