The chief function of the Armstrong Browning Library building is to house the world's largest collection of Browning materials. But because of its incomparable mixture of handcrafted architecture and unique furnishings, the building has become a popular attraction for travelers--tempting over 25,000 people a year to enter the bronze doors and find a place of beauty and tranquility. Its elegance also provides an ideal setting for a variety of library exhibitions, cultural events, and university-related activities such as conferences, lectures, and musical occasions.
History and Architecture
Dr. A. J. Armstrong, founder of the Browning Collection, spent over forty years gathering ideas and inspiration for the creation of "the most beautiful building in Texas." He was 70 years old in 1943 when Baylor president Pat N. Neff offered him $100,000 toward the construction of a Browning library, if he could match the figure. With extraordinary determination and energy he did just that--and much more.
This grand three-story Italian Renaissance-style building, with exterior walls of Indiana limestone and front terrace and steps of granite, is decorated with sixty-two magnificent stained glass windows, soaring marble columns, black walnut marquetry paneling, intricate ceiling designs, and an impressive terrazzo entrance floor bearing a brass-inlaid bells and pomegranates motif, a motif that is reflected throughout the building. The McLean Foyer of Meditation (shown above) was the heart of Armstrong's great design. He wanted it to be a retreat of "such compelling beauty" that "if we by that means give the world another Dante, another Shakespeare, another Browning, we shall count the cost a bargain." Its interior astonishes all visitors.
The associate architects for the main floor of the building were Eggers and Higgins of New York, who also served with John Russell Pope as associate architects for the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. The finest artisans and craftsmen, under the direction of chief architect and engineer, Wyatt C. Hedrick of Fort Worth, and builder, S. B. Swigert Construction Company of Waco, Texas, spent three-and-a-half years assembling an amazing 1.75 million-dollar structure.