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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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100 Years young

Photo+from+archives%0AClass+of+1983+creating+the+mosaic+in+the+Academic+Building.
Photo from archives Class of 1983 creating the mosaic in the Academic Building.

They have witnessed some of Texas A&M’s most endearing traditions for generations of Aggies, and 2014 marks their centennial — both the Academic Building and the YMCA Building turn 100 this year.
Both buildings were completed in 1914 and traditions such as Midnight Yell and Silver Taps occur in front of their steps.
Sheridan Gill, communication senior and student worker at Appelt Aggieland Student Center, is a tour guide who frequently leads visitors through the two buildings to showcase their history.
“[The Academic Building] is the center pulse of campus,” Gill said.
The Academic Building was built after Old Main, one of the original campus buildings, burned down in 1912. A newspaper clipping from an unknown source archived at Cushing Memorial Library announced the Academic Building’s completion in 1914 and listed its total cost — $225,000, or just more than $5 million adjusted for inflation.
Originally built to house Texas A&M’s library, the Academic Building now houses the Departments of Sociology and Modern Languages, and a handful of offices.
Gregory Bailey, university archivist at Cushing Library, said the Academic Building has served several unique roles in Texas A&M’s history.
“The Academic Building, in the basement at one time, had its own bit of a textile factory where they constructed all of the uniforms for the cadets during World War I,” Bailey said.
David Woodcock, professor emeritus of architecture and director emeritus for the Center for Heritage Conservation, said construction on the YMCA Building began in 1914. Donations from current and former student, combined with a generous donation from the John D. Rockefeller Foundation, completed the necessary funds.
According to a Dallas Morning News newspaper clipping from 1915 that is archived at Cushing Library, the YMCA Building cost $75,000 to erect — just under $2 million today.
The YMCA Building served as a student center until 1950 and is now home to university offices. The building was rededicated in 2012 after the most recent expansions and renovations.
“The YMCA was formed as a recreation spot on campus for students,” Bailey said. “The building has been renovated a number of times, but I know at one point there was a swimming pool in the basement. There was a bowling alley in the YMCA for a while as well.”
Both buildings continue to play a role on campus in academics and traditions, most notably with Silver Taps.
A special rendition of “Taps” — a funeral tune often used by the U.S. military — is played by a bugler from the Academic Building rooftop during Silver Taps. Students have gathered in front of the building since 1914 to honor any students who die in a given month, and the bugle call plays an important role in this tradition.
The seal in the center of the Academic Building was a gift from the Class of 1978 and signifies the importance of Aggies giving back to the community. After World War II, Gov. Allan Shivers presented Texas A&M with the Liberty Bell replica that hangs from the ceiling for the sacrifice and trial Aggies had endured.
As a tour guide, Cleveland Jones, bioenvironmental sciences senior, said he is inspired by the Academic Building’s meaning and continues to give back to his country and university as generations of Aggies before him have.
“The Academic Building is my favorite building on this campus,” Jones said. “Kyle Field comes in a close second, but only because [the Academic Building] literally stands for selfless service.”
Students themselves had a hand in the buildings’ construction. A 1914 Weekly Eagle newspaper article archived at Cushing Library notes that contractors working on the buildings hired Aggies who stayed on campus over winter break. Students filled various roles such as watchmen and teamsters, and electrical engineering students kept busy reworking the lighting systems for $2.50 to $3 a day.
A century has gone by since the completion of the Academic Building and the YMCA Building, but Woodcock said the history, success and memories endure.
“Well-designed places lift the human spirit as well as supporting day-to-day activities, and in so doing they establish life-long memories,” Woodcock said.

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  • Photo from archives Class of 1983 creating the mosaic in the Academic Building.

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