Breaking News
More () »

The Georgetown gem that gleams rich with history: Southwestern University

Southwestern University is a beautiful campus with a rich history.

GEORGETOWN, Texas — In the heart of Georgetown sits one of the oldest universities in Texas, with a deep history and legacy: Southwestern University.

The Liberal Arts School gives visitors access to a vast collection of history within the reach of your fingertips. 

"We collect back to the 1840s, which is held here in special collections," said Megan Firestone, head of special collections and archives.

Firestone handles everything in the collection with kid gloves as a way to protect the photos telling the stories of Southwestern University.

"The charter for the university dates back to 1840," Firestone said. "We arrive here in Georgetown in 1873."

In one picture, a long line of ladies are lined up in front of a building. 

"[The picture] was taken in 1925, moments after a large fire broke out in the ladies annex, which housed all the female students," Firestone said. "Our dean of women at the time, Laura Kuykendall, was able to get all of the women out. We don't know what started the fire ... [the] accounts that we have say that she rang a bell and got all of the female students up and out of the building that night."

After the fire, the women at the university no longer had a space to reside. This caused them to be moved into the male dorms. The male students were taken in by local families in town. 

Additionally, the campus has served many different purposes besides being a university. 

"During World War I, we trained the Army," Firestone said. "And then, in World War II, we trained the Navy ... and so we were here helping support getting soldiers ready to go to war."

Firestone added that the present campus is not where Southwestern originally started.

"Our first location is actually a few blocks down, which is now where the Georgetown ISD Hammerlun Center is located," Firestone said. "It was Georgetown High School, which appears in the movie 'Dazed and Confused,' and so that's the original location."

In the Special Collections and Archives Room, Firestone often works with students to help give them a glimpse into Southwestern's legacy. Within the room, visitors can find objects like letters from Sen. John Tower, the first Republican elected in Texas.

"We also hold a letter that is known to be the earliest letter from Herman Melville, the author of 'Moby Dick,'" Firestone said. "He's age nine when he wrote it."

As you walk around Southwestern's campus, the architecture and beauty held within the grounds will envelope and surround you.

"I just love the architecture of this campus," said Amy Anderson, head of Discovery Services. 

The limestone is gorgeous, but the library used to burn bright. Southwestern's library, which was built in the 1960s, had a huge fire pit inside.

"It was a big open-pit area that the students climbed down into and sat down next to the fire ... so it was way below this level," Anderson said. "There were no injuries that we know of, but I'm sure there were because there were huge steps that were about this deep ... So you had to actually climb down into it and students would study down there."

Anderson said the architecture and the buildings on campus have changed so much but, in some ways, the campus has stayed identical to the way it has always been. 

"The students still have exactly the same attitude as they did, in fact, if that makes any sense to you. Teenagers are teenagers and our students were students, and they are almost the same," Anderson said. "The sass is still exactly the same ... the idea of trying to come up with a quick and easy way to get their homework done or a quick and easy way to take it is still the same."

Southwestern University is open to the public, and Firestone encourages visitors to walk in, explore the campus and learn about the university's fascinating history. 

Yvonne Nava on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

KVUE on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube


Elon Musk's tunneling company wants to dump thousands of gallons of treated wastewater into Texas waterways

Gov. Abbott names new chief of school safety and security at TEA

UT employee arrested after allegedly using false press credential to access football game, assaulting band members

Before You Leave, Check This Out