University of Texas at Austin: Main Building and Library – Austin TX


The University of Texas opened on September 15, 1883 with the completion of its Victorian style main building. The university was funded by a combination of state appropriations and annual distributions from the Permanent University Fund (PUF), an endowment of 2.1 million acres of land in West Texas. Initially, the PUF provided minimal income from leasing the land for grazing cattle, but when the first oil was discovered on the land on May 28, 1923, the university was set to receive a windfall. However, it was not until 1930, that all the details were worked out on how the money would be split with Texas A&M University, another beneficiary of the PUF, and what the money could be spent on.

The old main building served many purposes including housing the university’s library. The library was on the first floor, and the library’s holdings had grown to the point where the bookshelves left almost no room for students in the reading room. With funds from the PUF available for campus development, the Board of Regents hired architect Paul P. Cret in 1930 to design a new master plan for the university. Among his first priorities was to create a solution for the burgeoning library.

Cret provided a master plan of up to twenty new buildings, including a new main building and library, that the Board of Regents approved in 1933. Work began the following year with the new main building slowly replacing the old one. To speed work on the master plan, university President Harry Benedict gave the university’s supervising architect, Robert Leon White, permission to apply for grants and loans through the newly created Public Works Administration (PWA). With The PUF providing more than adequate capital to meet the requirements of federal grants, and with political influence from Vice President John Nance Garner and U.S. Congressman for the Texas tenth district James P. “Buck” Buchanan, the university received a grant of $433,300 and a loan of $1,200,000 from the PWA to complete the main building. The project also received construction support from the Works Progress Administration. The university held a formal dedication ceremony for the main building, now commonly referred to as the UT Tower, on Feb. 27, 1937.

Source notes

Hughes, L. Patrick. "New Deal Work Programs in Central Texas".

Winling, LaDale C. (2010). "Building the Ivory Tower: 
Campus Planning, University Development, and the Politics of Urban Space". Dissertation, University of Michigan.

"How to build a Tower". The University of Texas at Austin.

Project originally submitted by Larry Moore on May 5, 2014.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

110 Inner Campus Drive
Austin, Texas 78712

Coordinates: 30.284958, -97.739304

One comment on “University of Texas at Austin: Main Building and Library – Austin TX

  1. Gabriela T Pruneda

    This educational project was taken on by the Public Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration(WPA). This project began in 1933 in order to add more space to the university library, which was running out of places for students to even sit due to the amount of space the books took up. The project would benefit the entire campus as a whole. The project was completed on February 27, 1937; a dedication ceremony was held for its opening. The project is now referred to as the UT Tower.

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