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Sherman Hall was completed in 1915 and offered classrooms and a large auditorium on the second floor for a growing Austin College. Over the years, Sherman Hall hosted former president William Howard Taft, influential Populist leader William Jennings Bryan, and Harry Houdini. The building is the oldest structure on the Austin College campus.

Street view of Sherman Hall (Grand Ave.)

Street view of Sherman Hall (Grand Ave.)

View of Sherman Hall facing Grand Ave.

View of Sherman Hall facing Grand Ave.

Front side of Sherman Hall, taken in 1926

Front side of Sherman Hall, taken in 1926

Austin College was founded in 1849 in Huntsville and relocated to Sherman in 1876. Sherman Hall was dedicated on April 8th, 1915 after construction which began in 1914 in response to the previous main campus building being destroyed due to fire.

Citizens of Sherman donated $50,000 to support the construction of the new building which included an auditorium with a seating capacity of 1,000. Only a few weeks following the dedication of the building, it hosted the college’s 66th Commencement where the brother-in-law of President Woodrow Wilson, Dr. Stockton Axson, gave the commencement speech.

On April 25th, 1919, former president William Howard Taft along with then Governor of Texas William P. Hobby, gave a speech to over 1,200 students and citizens of Grayson County in the auditorium. Governor Hobby opened up the event, and former president Taft followed. Taft expressed his support for the U.S. to join in the League of Nations, saying that this would “not make wars absolutely impossible, but to make wars as remote as possible and make peace as permanent as can be”. Taft, was a long-time friend of the president of Austin College Dr. Thomas Clyce, and stayed as a guest in Dr. Clyce’s home located a block away from Sherman Hall. After the event, Taft took a formal photo with the entire student body of approximately 300 students.

While the building has held countless classes, the Lyceum course in the fall of 1924 holds historical significance. On October 16th, 1924, the famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini gave a “highly entertaining and enlightening lecture” for the class which included magic tricks. He also spoke on the practices used by magicians.

When the building opened in 1915, the first floor held the library and reading rooms, while the second story was a large auditorium. In 1961 the building was renovated starting a conversion to faculty and administrative offices. The second-floor auditorium was renamed the Hoxie Thompson Auditorium and was used for smaller events and as a classroom. As of 2019, the building holds the main offices for the humanities, including history, religion, philosophy, and English.[xix] The stained glass windows on the second floor are original to the building and are dedicated to some of the early trustees of the college.

Austin College. The Chromascope 16 (1915), 157.

Austin College. The Chromascope 17 (1916), 119.

Austin College. The Cropascope 25 (1925), 204.

Cummins, Light T., and Justin Banks. Austin College. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2009.

Landolt, George L. Search for the Summit; Twelve Decades of Austin College History. Austin, Texas: Von Boeckman-Jones Co., 1970.

Phillips, Edward H. A Short History of Austin College. Sherman, Texas, 1988.

"Former President Taft Speaks to Large Audience in Sherman." Sherman Daily Democrat. April 26, 1919, 1.

Sherman Daily Democrat (Sherman, Texas). "Great Crowd Attends Opening Sherman Hall." April 9, 1915, 6.

"Sherman Hall." Austin College. Last modified April 2, 2018.