Pioneering Medical Education in Texas
Publication Year: 2013
Tucked away in a corner of the University of Texas Medical Branch campus stands a majestic relic of an era long past. Constructed of red pressed brick, sandstone, and ruddy Texas granite, the Ashbel Smith Building, fondly known as Old Red, represents a fascinating page in Galveston and Texas history. It has been more than a century since Old Red welcomed the first group of visionary faculty and students inside its halls. For decades, the medical school building existed at the heart of UTMB campus life, even through periods of dramatic growth and change. In time, however, the building lost much of its original function to larger, more contemporary facilities. Today, as the oldest medical school building west of the Mississippi River, the intricately ornate Old Red sits in sharp contrast to its sleeker neighbors.
Old Red: Pioneering Medical Education in Texas examines the life and legacy of the Ashbel Smith Building from its beginnings through modern-day efforts to preserve it. Chapters explore the nascence of medical education in Texas; the supreme talent and genius of Old Red architect, Nicholas J. Clayton; and the lives of faculty and students as they labored and learned in the midst of budget crises, classroom and fraternity antics, death-rendering storms, and threats of closure. The education of the state’s first professional female and minority physicians and the nationally acclaimed work of physician-scientists and researchers are also highlighted. Most of all, the reader is invited to step inside Old Red and mingle with ghosts of the past—to ascend the magnificent cedar staircase, wander the long, paneled hallways, and take a seat in the tiered amphitheater as pigeons fly in and out of windows overhead.
Published by: Texas State Historical Association
Title Page, Copyright
Tucked away in a corner of the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) stands a majestic relic of an era long past. Designed by renowned Texas architect Nicholas J. Clayton and completed in 1890, the beautifully ornate, red brick Ashbel Smith Building, fondly nicknamed “Old Red,” represents a remarkable page in...
1. In Search of aMedical School
It was the moment the aged physician had long awaited. On March 30, 1881, the Texas Legislature voted to establish the University of Texas and a medical department to go with it. Almost a half century had passed since Ashbel Smith left a successful medical practice in North Carolina to pursue life in Texas. In 1837, with a medical doctorate from Yale...
2. The Talented Mr. Clayton
Few, if any, architects shaped the physical characteristics of an American city more than Nicholas Joseph Clayton influenced Galveston. With an almost overwhelming talent and energy, Clayton designed and built many of the major public, commercial, and residential buildings on the Island, most of them built between 1874 and 1902. From breathtakingly...
3. Times of Turmoil andTriumph
It was early autumn in Galveston, October 5, 1891. The summer heat had lifted, and a cool, soft breeze stroked the crowd assembled in front of Nicholas Clayton’s majestic red brick edifice for the opening ceremonies of the University of Texas Medical Department. Ashbel Smith had not lived to see this day. His tough body had given out five years earlier...
4. Student Life
Student life inside Old Red was dynamic from the beginning. Each year, the University of Texas Medical Department (later called the University of Texas Medical Branch, or UTMB) welcomed a fresh batch of pupils to three separate schools: the School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy, and the School of Nursing. Throughout the first...
5. Restoring a Legacy
It probably never occurred to most of those who worked, studied, and sometimes played inside Old Red that one day the building might be gone. But such a possibility became a genuine threat as UTMB advanced into a world in which many historical structures were slowly becoming obsolete. The task of preserving Old Red became a formidable...
For more than twenty years after its restoration, the Ashbel Smith Building remained untouched by natural or manmade disaster. But a huge setback occurred on September 13, 2008, when Hurricane Ike blanketed the Island with floodwaters causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage to UTMB campus buildings, hospitals, and clinics. More than...
Old Red Timeline