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The Main Building was originally constructed in 1887 and burned in 1903. It was rebuilt that same year. It is now a three-story and basement Gothic Revival structure with gabled metal shingle roof and slender corner towers at the projecting end wings topped by conical caps. The E-plan building has rock-faced limestone walls pierced by openings alternating horizontally between flat, basket and lancet arched openings on the south and west elevations. The east and north elevations are primarily of Austin Common Brick. The rear central stair tower and belfry is of rock-faced ashlar masonry and is capped with an octagonal spire. Crosses top the spire, gabled dormers, gable ends and corner towers.
Nicholas J. Clayton (1840-1916), architect, was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1848. He began his practice of architecture in Galveston in 1872, and was subsequently responsible for so many of the major public, commercial, and residential buildings constructed in Galveston between 1870 and 1900 that Howard Barnstone described this period in the city's history as the "Clayton Era." Clayton was a High Victorian architect. His buildings were exuberant in shape, color, texture, and detail. What made Clayton's architecture so distinctive in late nineteenth-century Texas was the underlying compositional and proportional order with which he structured the display of picturesque shapes and rich ornament. His architectural drawings and office records are deposited in the Galveston and Texas History Center of the Rosenberg Library and the Galveston County Historical Museum, both in Galveston, and the Barker Texas History Center and the Architectural Drawings Collection, both at the University of Texas at Austin.
Barnstone, Howard. The Galveston That Was. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
Bell, Klein & Hoffman, Architects and Restoration Consultants. Saint Edward's University: A Presentation Analysis for Five Older Campus Buildings. Austin, TX: Bell, Klein & Hoffman, Architects and Restoration Consultants, 1981.
Catholic Archives of Texas. Texas Catholic Historical Society, Austin, TX.
Daily News [Galveston, TX]. February 20, 1972.
Dunn, William H. Saint Edward's University: A Centennial History. Austin, TX: Saint Edward's University Press, 1986.
Nesbitt, Robert A. Bob's Reader: Galveston Island, Texas. [s.l.]: Galveston, TX, 1985.
Nesbitt, Robert A. and Stephen Fox. "Nicholas Clayton, Architecture." Texas Highways, January 1980.
Steely, Jim. "The Fall and Rise of Nicholas Clayton." Texas Architect (March-April 1986).
Bell, Wayne, and Claude Kennard. St. Edward's University Main Building and Holy Cross Dormitory. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1973.