Luther Memorial Ruins and Old Baylor Bell Tower
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Luther Memorial Ruins and Old Baylor Bell Tower (general view, ca. 1920), University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
On April 21, 1886, residents and dignitaries of Belton and surrounding towns joined officials of Baylor Female College in laying the cornerstone for the school's first building. The three-story building housed the entire college: classrooms, offices, and living quarters of the president's family, chapel, and student dormitory space. A fourth floor was added in 1914.
Originally known only as the "College Building," this edifice was named Luther Hall in 1919, honoring Dr. John Hill Luther, president of the College from 1878-1891. (His daughter, Annie Bagby (1879) and her husband W.B. were the first Southern Baptist missionaries sent to Brazil.) Through the years, vespers, summer band concerts and other various entertainments were held on the concrete pavement, the gift of the class of 1906, in front of Luther. The long, low, steps served as seats, and the Baylor Bells in their cradles stood under the oaks in front.
In the early morning hours of January 26, 1929, the building burned. Although the structure was entirely destroyed, not one of its 200 residents was lost or injured. The remaining rubble was undisturbed until 1955 when a memorial was constructed on the site using stones from the destroyed building and replicating the arches of the original design. Through the years, this memorial has served as a favorite gathering place for students as well as being the backdrop for various programs, graduation ceremonies, and the annual Easter Pageant.
Long, Chris, and Tory Laughlin Taylor. Baylor Female College Historic District [University of Mary Hardin-Baylor]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1990.