Breathing New Life in to Scoates Artwork

Built in 1932, the Agricultural Engineering Building, now known as Daniels Scoates Hall, was designed to provide agricultural engineering instruction, research and extension. The building features a beautiful wrought iron doorway, exterior ornamentation, and a highly decorated foyer and lecture room. The lecture hall originally contained a stenciled-tile ceiling, an ornate chandelier, a wooden turntable, and murals. The frieze was painted for the building opening in 1933, followed by the six panel color mural in 1939 at the request of Daniel Scoates, the department head at the time. Texas artist, Gertrude Babcock created both artworks which depict agriculture, industry, Texas landscape and the impact of the agricultural engineering profession. The paneled mural is an excellent example of the Southwest Regionalism style, and is recognized for its historical significance, including listing as the second entry in Texas A&M University’s fine art collection.

As time went on, the building began to show its age, having been subjected to modifications that obscured the original beauty and ornamentation of the building. In conjunction with the 2013-15 Capital Improvement Project, architectural restorations, funded by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Provost’s office, the department, and generous donors, was restored to its former glory. Phase 1 of the restoration was completed in 2015. The wooden turntable, chandelier, stenciled ceiling, medallions, light stands, and wrought iron entryway were restored, as well as repainting areas of the south wing with original colors.

The Scoates Hall lecture room chandelier and ceiling tiles have been restored to their original condition. The photo on the left is from 1933 and on the right is a current view of the ceiling.

While much was accomplished in phase 1, more work remained. Phase 2, initiated over the summer break, includes recreation of the original light fixtures at the rear of the lecture hall, repair and conservation of the paneled mural and frieze, and the restoring gold highlights on the cast plaster ceiling of the foyer. The mural and foyer work has been done by Polish conservator, Stashka Star, and the recreated light fixture were constructed by Ted Voss, grandson of Theodore Voss, the artisan that created the original light fixtures and the entryway. With immense gratitude, the department acknowledges all the supporters who are committed to retaining the art and architectural heritage of Scoates Hall for future generations of Aggies.

On a related note, Aggie architect Nancy McCoy has recently coauthored a book about the architecture of the Texas A&M campus entitled Architecture that Speaks.  Scoates Hall is one of the featured buildings in her book.

Article by Whitney Steinmann

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