Building History

History of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives

Cushing entryway

The Cushing Library memorialized the contributions of one of Texas A&M's most loyal, selfless and generous supporters--Col. Edward Benjamin Cushing. A member of the class of 1880, Cushing devoted much of his life to building a greater Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. The only legacy E. B. Cushing desired was a library befitting the importance of Texas A&M. Upon his death in 1924 he bequeathed his impressive collection of engineering texts to Texas A&M. In 1927, the Board of Directors enthusiastically named the new library, then under construction, for the school's most important benefactor.

The Cushing Library formally opened its doors on September 22, 1930 as the first building on campus constructed solely as a library. Texas A&M's first library burned with Old Main in 1912. Begun again in 1914 on the first floor of the Academic Building, the library quickly outgrew its narrow confines. The Cushing Building was the answer to the problem and to the hopes and dreams of the faculty and students alike. Here at last was a real library.

Noted Texas architect S. C. P. Vosper and Texas A&M's own F. E. Giesecke collaborated to design a building with classic proportions, universally recognized as one of the very best buildings on the campus. It was in brief a stunning architectural success. Its design would be the foundation for a new style of architecture at Texas A&M. Craftsmanship abounded in almost every aspect of the structure. Spectacular decorative pilasters on each capital featured ram's heads and cow skulls representing the agrarian background of the College. In the space between the pilasters are the carved names of a dozen great men of the arts, literature and science. The entablature, broken by owl heads, represents the wisdom contained within. The ancient egg and dart design, border doorways, all in cast stone of a very fine grade. Murals by Marie Haines decorated the entrance lobby. An ornamental ironwork grill doorway frame made up of the brands of famous Texas ranches led into an impressive main reading room. Here the beams and coffers of the ceiling were painted with colorful Egyptian stencils and symbols of the state. Beautifully carved bookcases along the walls and massive study tables down the center of the room all contributed to the feeling that this was a place for study and quiet contemplation. On other floors reading rooms and lounges beckoned students to linger for awhile over a popular magazine or hometown newspaper. Here was a brief escape from the rigors of academics and military discipline.

Reading Room

The construction of a new library in 1968 displaced Cushing's role as the library. As an appendage to the new and larger Sterling C. Evans Building, Cushing served a variety purposes including offices of the Dean of Education. In 1974 the University Archives moved into the first floor and for the next twenty years provided "history on demand" on nearly every aspect of Texas A&M's storied past. While the grand old building was the perfect setting for such activity, time and various remodeling efforts had taken their toll. The roof leaked and the walls were cracked. The air conditioning system, so necessary to the preservation of rare materials, became increasing unreliable.

"Several years ago, discussions began about the possibility of rehabilitating the Cushing Library to make that grand old landmark into a renewed and revitalized home for the university's collections of rare books, manuscripts, special research collections, and, of course, the University Archives.  A desire to restore the magnificent second floor reading room to its former glory was expressed.  Further, a future Cushing Library was envisioned that could safely and securely house, provide, nurture, and exhibit unique collections in probably the most appropriate setting: Giesecke, Vosper, and Norton's original and architectural tour de force.  This vision included rescuing Col. E. B. Cushing and his lifesaving efforts at Texas A&M from obscurity.  Were it not for Cushing, Texas A&M might now be in Austin as the University of Texas' college of agriculture.  Certainly nothing could have been more fitting than to name the first library for this great and loyal Aggie."

 

Further Reading:

Dyal, Donald H. and David Chapman.
Cushing Under Cover
Friends of the Sterling C. Evans Library,
Keepsake No. 24, 1995. F