Buildings of Baker College
Behind the First residential college on Rice University...
Baker was established as one of the four original residential colleges at Rice in the fall of 1957. It was named in honor of Captain James Addison Baker (1857-1941) who served as the Rice Institute's first Chairman of the Board of Trustees from June 24, 1891, until his death.
Following the opening of the institute in 1912, the first buildings which comprise the present Baker College were designed and constructed by Cram, Goodhue, & Ferguson of Boston, Massachusetts. At a cost of $137,544.52, the present Commons of Baker was the first unit to be completed (in 1912), and it served as the central dining hall for the entire campus for 43 years. The next building completed was "East Hall," which is now known to members as the "Old Wing" of Baker. The addition of the "New Wing" and Baker House formed Baker College with the inception of the college system in 1957. These buildings remained unchanged until the fall of 2010, when an eco-friendy wing was added, fondly dubbed "New New Wing".
Commons or Great Hall. With its high vaulted ceiling, engraved oak beams, and Elizabethan design, the Commons provides a common meeting space and dining area that is the envy of the university. Originally sporting plaster walls, it now boasts dark wood paneling, courtesy of a series of student "food riots" during the early years of the institute that ruined the successive layers of white plaster, and an 88-inch flat screen TV.
Adjoining the Great Hall at the west or "Baker House" end is a section which comprises the Baker Library and a five-story residence tower. The tower contains spacious pre-WWI rooms which in the early years were occupied by faculty members and graduate students. Early Rice alumni still describe it as "the Faculty Tower," while we of modern days term it simply as "Ninth Entrance."
The small, quiet and elegant Baker Library was initially stocked by an original grant and is added to with student and faculty’s no-longer-needed books. Almost every copy of the Campanile, Rice’s yearbook, can be found on the shelves as well. The library serves mostly as a gathering place and studying area. Above the now non-working fireplace, a distinguished Captain Baker looks down on any gatherings from a large oil portrait.
Adjacent to the west end of the college stands Baker House stands the home of the College Magisters. Often a valuable and welcome haven from the rigors of college life, hospitality there is extended to all.
At the "Old Wing" or east end of the Commons, separated by a wood panel partition, is an area known as the "Outer Commons." It serves as a lobby for the dining hall, a lounge and study area, and contains a grand piano, pool table, and Nintendo 64.
The living plan of the entire college is based on a series of "entrances" -- the ninth, mentioned above; three in the Old Wing, and two in the New, and three in New New. The Old Wing is a long, three-story structure with a five-story tower at its east end. Built in stucco and brick with the expansiveness and availability of many pre-WWI days, the Old Wing offers a blend of Spanish and Italian architectural style to its observer, and spacious, varied-sized rooms to its occupants. These rooms, with additions of carpeting and air conditioning, stand much as they did when Rice students occupied them in 1917 -- with high ceilings and long, large, and decorative old-style Venetian windows. The three entrances here open onto the cloisters that extend along the south side of the wing and along one side of a quad shared by Baker and Lovett. Many Baker barbecues are held in the Pits found in this quad. Carved around the capitals of the ten columns in these cloisters are passages from the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom.
Designed by Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson to increase the number of rooms available for students, the New Wing was opened in 1957 with the advent of the college system. Five entrances were situated in this L-shaped brick structure, but only the fourth and fifth entrances remain with Baker today; the sixth entrance tower was demolished when the New New Wing was built, severing the former seventh and eighth entrances which then were ceded to Lovett. The rooms are grouped into uniform eight-person suites (two three-room areas joined by a bathroom). New Wing also houses the Parker Redman Lounge, music room, and laundry room.
The newest addition to Baker, New New Wing, was constructed following the completion of Duncan and McMurtry Colleges in the fall of 2010. The four floor structure has doubles throughout, with eight-person suites on every floor but the first. The first floor contains a kitchen for student use. The construction also included the renovation of Baker’s servery kitchen, the creation of a new, more spacious Baker College office, and the demolition of Baker's former tenth entrance, a second-floor suite known as "2100" that was the university's first (and, for decades, only) officially coed undergraduate suite. Both projects follow a commitment Rice made in 2006 to have every new building be LEED certified. New New was certified LEED silver in the 2012-2013 school year.
In this complex of buildings, the on- and off-campus members as well as the Baker Associates work, live, and participate in a true community. This community can provide you an important segment of your education, as well as your development as a person, here at Rice. Welcome to Baker College.
Captain James A. Baker
Our college is named after Captain James Addison Baker, grandfather of former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and the hero who saved Rice University before it even existed. It happened on September 23, 1900, when William Marsh Rice, the reclusive millionaire who had left his fortune for the endowment of a center for higher education in Houston, was chloroformed by his butler, Charles F. Jones, in his Madison Avenue apartment.
The mastermind behind Rice's suspicious death was Albert T. Patrick, a New York attorney, who had forged a will naming himself as the principal beneficiary of the estate. After preparing the fake will, Patrick plotted with Jones to murder Rice when it became obvious that the old man was not going to die of natural causes anytime soon. After weeks of lacing Rice's food with mercury, and then a further failed attempt at poisoning him (Rice complained that the "medicine" was too bitter and spit it out), Jones finally committed the murder with a chloroform-soaked sponge.
Had Patrick's plan succeeded, there would have been no Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science, and Art. However, Captain Baker, who acted as Rice's attorney in Houston, began an intensive investigation upon hearing about the suspicious nature of Rice's death. Through his efforts, the forged will was revealed. Jones eventually confessed to the killing, and the endowment for the Rice Institute reached the right hands.
Captain Baker went on to oversee the creation of what is now Rice University and served as the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees until his death in 1941. For his invaluable role in the founding of the university, the best college on campus was named after him. If he were here today, we think Captain James A. Baker would be as proud of this college as we are. So, act superior - somebody has to be the best.