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From Dining to Drawing: The Reconfiguration of Harrington House

By Lindsey Kay Hurtt

After serving as both a faculty center and guesthouse for thirty-five years, Harrington House has been transformed into a drawing facility and gallery space for Baylor’s Department of Art.

The history of Harrington House and its many uses are as intriguing as the building itself. The two-story Victorian home sits on Eighth Street, across from Collins Residence Hall. The exact age of Harrington House is one of the mysteries of this relic of architectural antiquity. Harrington House, thought to have been built in the 1870s, was the home of Dr. J. T. Harrington before it came into Baylor’s possession. Harrington was a prominent Waco-area physician and a member of the Baylor board of trustees for more than fifty years. He was always patching up the neighborhood boys from the repercussions of their rowdy romps. After years of making house calls in a horse-drawn buggy, Harrington was one of the first Wacoans to own an automobile.

Harrington lived in the house with his family for seventy years. After his death, Baylor negotiated for years to buy the building and the property on which it sits. Harrington’s descendants finally consented to sell the house to Baylor on the condition that the house would be preserved.

After seven years of vacancy, Harrington House was renovated and opened as a faculty center and guesthouse on February 2, 1974. A full-time host or hostess lived at Harrington House and was responsible for coordinating activities. A student couple lived in the caretaker’s apartment and was responsible for the cleanup and upkeep of the house. Harrington House had three guest rooms available for rent by special guests, visiting dignitaries, and visitors involved with university programs. Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, is among those who stayed there. Harrington House was replaced as the faculty center by the McMullen-Connally Faculty Center on October 7, 2008.

On the other side of campus, Dr. Julia Hitchcock, associate professor of art, was teaching drawing classes in the art annex, a building on Fifth Street that formerly contained a fast food restaurant. The art annex held the drawing classes that had outgrown the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Building. As the Department of Art continued to overflow its facilities, it became apparent that the art annex, which was in poor repair, would not suffice.

“When the McMullen-Connally Faculty Center was built, there was not an immediate need for Harrington House, and then-chair Dr. John McLanahan put in a bid for it,” said Dr. Mark Anderson, chair of the Department of Art. In January 2010, following a year of renovation, Harrington House reopened as a drawing building and art gallery. The dining area was turned into a studio classroom, track lighting was installed, rooms were reconditioned, and walls and flooring were redone. During Homecoming 2010, an Art and Sciences Advisory Board meeting was held in Harrington House, and a number of alumni who had come in for Homecoming were able to see the reconfigured building.

Last fall, six separate six-hour-a-week drawing classes were taught in Harrington House. “We’re getting pretty good use out of the building,” Anderson said. Harrington House also contains a studio classroom, three offices, two exhibition spaces, and private upstairs studios.

The art, theater, and music departments hope to one day expand into a larger art district. “The plan is to move the various arts closer to one another and have a new facility for art, but until that happens, we are very happy to have Harrington House, and we will continue to use it as long as the university permits,” Anderson said.

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