Navarro College 70th Anniversary: From Barracks to Bricks

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Navarro College’s 70th Anniversary, the Daily Sun is running a series of articles each leading up to homecoming and an alumni celebration on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Pictured left to right: President Ray Waller, Faculty member Margaret Berry, and Registrar Gaston Gooch in front of the original Administration Building.

Pictured left to right: President Ray Waller, Faculty member Margaret Berry, and Registrar Gaston Gooch in front of the original Administration Building.

 

Bulldog gym was an airplane hangar at the Air Activities of Texas site and moved to the new campus.

Bulldog gym was an airplane hangar at the Air Activities of Texas site and moved to the new campus.

 

A building moved from the Air Activities location to the new campus to serve as science building.

A building moved from the Air Activities location to the new campus to serve as science building.

 

Navarro Junior College began classes Sept. 16, 1946, with an abandoned military base as its campus. Located six miles south of downtown Corsicana, the facility was adequate but the Board of Trustees determined from the outset that the Air Activities site would be only a temporary campus. Consequently, in December of 1947 the Board authorized President Ray Waller to meet with officials of the IOOF to discuss the purchase of a 47-acre tract of land four miles west of downtown Corsicana to serve as the permanent campus. The purchase price was $14,176.26. Highway 31 split the property, with three acres on the south side of the road and the remainder on the north side. The three-acre tract was subdivided and sold as residential lots, with the revenue from the sale applied to the purchase of the remaining area.

In 1949 Navarro County voters approved a $540 thousand bond package to construct a permanent administration/classroom building on the new location. The Board planned to move buildings from the Air Activities site and renovate them as classrooms, offices, dormitories, and a dining hall-student center. The most challenging building to move was an airplane hangar that was transformed into a gymnasium. A five member building committee, chaired by O.L. Albritton, provided oversight for the new structure.

Plans were to open the new campus in the fall of 1951. The College had two campuses but neither were usable. Buildings had already been moved from the Air Activities site, and the administration/classroom building was not yet ready for occupancy. President Waller decided to begin the new semester on the designated date at the new location. Classes were conducted all over campus that fall — in the grandstands in the gym, the lobby of residence halls — wherever a suitable place could be found. The new building was ready in the spring of 1952, but on the first day of classes, a rainstorm turned the campus into a quagmire, as there were no sidewalks or paved parking lots. As they entered the building, students removed their shoes, lined them up by the door, and walked to class in their sock feet rather than track mud into the new building.

A formal dedication ceremony was held on April 1, 1952. With a new campus, Navarro now had a sense of permanence, no longer a struggling institution located on an abandoned military base. Adding bricks on the Air Activities buildings eliminated the barracks appearance. Only four buildings sat on the 44 acre campus, giving the impression of wide open spaces, but at least it was a real college campus. Besides, the open space provided ample room to expand, which would be a legitimate need in the near future.

Today, the campus has been expanded to 117 acres with 41 permanent buildings. In addition, Navarro has satellite campuses in Waxahachie, Midlothian, Mexia and Fairfield and offers dual credit classes in area high schools as well as online courses. Navarro has certainly far exceeded the expectations of the founders 70 years ago.

SOURCE: Corsicana Daily Sun