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Located in the heart of the campus, McFarlin Library is both the University's academic centerpiece and one of the oldest and grandest examples of architecture on campus.
Built in 1929 at the same time as the Tyrell Fine Arts Building and the Phillips Petroleum Engineering Building, the fine craftsmanship and materials that went into these buildings reveal a commitment to quality not often found in construction today. The variegated materials of Tennessee Crab Orchard sandstone, Indiana Bedford limestone, and Vermont slate were combined with a small amount of blue limestone by Nashville architect Henry C. Hibbs to obtain the desired architectural effect. The walls of all three structures are of solid stone, 15-24 inches thick, furred on the inside with two-inch clay tile. Slate roofs are placed on tongue-and-groove wood sheathing, insulated and protected underneath by concrete slab. All flashings and gutters are made of copper. The steel window casements are glazed with a delicate shade of leaded cathedral glass, supplemented by stained glass medallions.
McFarlin Library was the first of the three new buildings to be erected and was selected as the central feature. The library became the primary axis, directing further development and growth of the campus. Robert M. McFarlin, known in the Southwest for his contributions toward church and educational memorial buildings, and his wife, Ida Mae Bernard McFarlin, donated the structure, the book stacks, and the furnishings. McFarlin, with his partners P.A. Chapman, J.A. Chapman, and H.B. Gooch, had drilled an oil well in the Glen Pool District in 1906 and continued to expand his oil, gas, and ranching interests until his death in 1941.
Rising from the middle of the building is the tower that originally contained an electric elevator, stairs, and a spiral book chute. The first floor of the library contained the catalog room, librarian's office, work space, lobby, and entrance vestibule. The three other floors and their mezzanines were devoted to book stacks. Locker rooms for men and women were in the basement, Reading rooms were situated in the north and south wings of the second floor and the north wing of the third floor. A browsing room was in the south wing of the third floor. Stenciled acousti-celotex still decorates the spaces between the beams of the ceilings in these rooms.