Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Olsen House

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Institution Name: Hardin-Simmons University
Original/Historic Place Name: Olsen family residence
Location on Campus: 1204 Vogel
Date(s) of Construction:
1926-1929original construction Olsen family
Designer: attr. to Olsen family
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: pier and beam
Walls: light brown brick, wood stud walls interior
Roof: wooden shingle
ca. 1929private residence
ca. 2004-present (2006)other (vacant)

The Olsen name has been associated with Hardin-Simmons University since 1902, when Dr. Julius Olsen arrived to teach for one year, immediately after earning his Ph.D from Yale University. When he passed away forty years later, he was still serving the school, having held the posts of Professor and Dean of Science. Dr. Olsen taught mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, and botany with expertise and enthusiasm.

Dr. Olsen came to be known as one of the distinguished scholars and scientists of the Southwest. In 1922, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Science Degree from Bethany College, his alma mater. He belonged to several professional societies and helped established Alpha Chi societies across the South, including the chapter at Simmons. He also served as national president of that organization.

In the 1920s, Dr. Olsen built a home for his family behind the university on Vogel Street. Family members have continued to reside in this home until only recently. At his death in 1942, after suffering paralysis since Thanksgiving on 1939, tributes and messages poured in from throughout the continent. People realized Dr. Olsen could have chosen many places to build his career, but instead elected to give himself to the students of West Texas.

"Not only in the fields of physics and chemistry but as a counsellor and example to thousands of HSU students did Dr. Olsen leave the impression of his life and character upon generations to come," the Abilene Reporter News wrote on February 16, 1944. University President Dr. Rupert N. Richardson wrote that Olsen was uniformly recognized as a great teacher, a gentleman, and a sympathetic and understanding Christian. In 1944, Dr. Olsen was posthumously honored with the naming of a Liberty ship. The Julius Olsen was christened by Mrs. Olsen and one of her daughters, Ollie Lena Olsen. (This material was taken from a report by Ms. Britt Yates Jones, Asst. Vice President for Advancement.)


Hardin-Simmons University Facilities Master Plan. [n.d.] Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, TX.

Richardson, Rupert N. Famous Are Thy Halls. Abilene, TX: Abilene Printing & Stationary Company, 1976.

Stackhouse, Yvonne. Hardin-Simmons University, a Centennial History. Abilene, TX: Hardin-Simmons University, 1991.


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Last update: November 2006