Summer 1998
Top Frog
Practicing Medicine
Alma Matters
Memīries Sweet
Riff Ram
Purple Heart
Class Notes
Back Issues

TCU Magazine Mem'ries Sweet

Marvelous Jarvis

By Joan Hewatt Swaim

TCU's NEWEST building -- the Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Center for Performing Arts -- is placed in juxtaposition with one of the two oldest buildings on the campus, Jarvis Hall.

A residence hall for women when new in 1911, Jarvis is a residence hall for women now. And it surely is among my earliest memory imprints of TCU. From age 6 through my teen years, I lived with my family on Rogers Road, just one-half block from the northern boundary of the TCU campus. Until Landreth was built in 1949, Jarvis was the first building one saw when looking campusward from the corner of Rogers and Cantey Street, a corner I passed daily on my way to Alice E. Carlson Elementary School farther west down Cantey. I also often walked behind, through, or in front of Jarvis to get to my Grandma Georgia's workplace in the basement cafeteria of what is now Reed Hall (the other 1911 structure), and to get to my father's biology office in the basement of old Clark Hall. The latter was razed in 1959 to make way for the new Sadler Hall.

In those early days when I first knew it, the attractive and comfortable parlor of Jarvis was the primary site of university social gatherings, including receptions for visiting dignitaries, TCU Faculty Woman's Club teas, senior women's teas, and other students' events. Since my mother, as a faculty wife, and my grandmother, as university dietitian, were involved in many of these "socials," I was often allowed to observe, from the periphery, the splendor of the decorated table with its silver trays of dainty sandwiches and pastries, and to watch the ladies and gentlemen in their fine clothes and listen to their polite, pleasant talk. I didn't know then, nor for a long time after, that this very parlor was the scene of a more somber occasion, my maternal grandfather's funeral service in 1923. Frank L. Harris had been the first steward of the cafeteria-style dining room at TCU; after his death, his wife, my Grandma Georgia, would take over that office and stay for 21 years. There was no church on the TCU hill at the time of his death, much less a funeral chapel, so Jarvis' parlor served.

Sometimes, too, if I was with my grandmother on her way to our house from work, we would go through Jarvis to visit the dean of women, Miss Elizabeth Shelburne, and her tiny little mother, Mrs. Cephus Shelburne, who had rooms on the first floor. And, as a Camp Fire girl, I used to sell donuts in Jarvis Hall. To this little girl, all of the TCU buildings then were cavernous halls where important and interesting grownup activities took place. Jarvis was my first view of campus dormitory life. Jarvis girls were grownups living together and having a good time; everyone was pleasant and smiling and laughing -- and buying my donuts. Every now and again, I could hear someone say "That's Dr. Hewatt's daughter" in a tone that made me proud.

Jarvis is not only old in years, but its name also is venerable. Called simply the "Girls' Home" when built, it was soon named by vote of the Board of Trustees in honor of Major and Mrs. J.J. Jarvis, devoted and lifelong supporters of the university. Major Jarvis was a Fort Worth lawyer, businessman, and entrepreneur. When the infant forerunner of TCU had been relocated from Fort Worth to Thorp Spring, Major and Mrs. Jarvis gave generously of their money and time to secure its mission. When Add-Ran College was chartered in 1889 as Add-Ran University (today spelled AddRan), Major Jarvis was elected the first president of the Board.

Major Jarvis' wife, Ida Van Zandt Jarvis, was herself not only active but indeed influential in the affairs of TCU. An account written by Add-Ran alumna, Frankie Miller Mason, represents her as sympathetic to students, and one delightful story has her with white-flagged "truce" umbrella in hand confronting the president of the college, Addison Clark himself, on behalf of a large portion of the student body whose expulsion seemed imminent, all because of what she considered to be a slight infraction of the rules. The controversy was sparked by the discovery that a young male student had walked a young lady from the Thorp Spring campus to her home in the little town one evening, a strictly forbidden practice in 1882. In his defense, a large number of classmates owned up that they, too, had at one time or another violated that rule as well as others, whereupon Dr. Clark informed them all that they could consider themselves dismissed from the school. Mrs. Jarvis, viewing the punishment as too severe for the crime, made such a case that the president soon saw the absurdity in his rigid discipline, reportedly broke into laughter, and ended in not only pardoning the offenders, but also awarding them special privileges for a brief time.

By her own statement in an interview in 1935, it was Ida who authored the 1889 charter making Add-Ran College a university. In an 1895 catalogue, she was listed as supervisor of the Girls' Home at Thorp Spring. In 1915, she was successful in having established the University's School of Home Economics, believing that every young woman should be taught how to sew and to cook. In 1931, she was the first woman elected to the Board of Trustees and served in that capacity until her death in 1937. Interestingly and appropriately, her place was filled by another woman, Sadie Beckham, who had since 1919 been the Jarvis Hall matron, supervisor of women, and later, dean of women. It was Mrs. Sadie who, as legend has it, each evening at 7, stood on the front steps of Jarvis ringing her cowbell to summon her charges into the fold for the night. In her time, young ladies living on the campus were not permitted out "after hours," nor to "date," nor to dawdle, and certainly not to dance!

Seems I have always known some member of the Jarvis family. Until rather recently some one of the Jarvis clan was on the campus in some capacity. Van Zandt Jarvis, Ida and J.J.'s oldest son, was a board member for 39 years, 11 of those as chair. Many who read this will also remember geology student and later professor, Dan Jarvis, and his sister, Ann Day Jarvis McDermott, who was special collections librarian in the Mary Couts Burnett Library. Dan and Ann Day were children of Van Zandt's brother, Daniel. Van Zandt's son-in-law, B.C. "Blackie" Williams, and his son, Van, were students and football stars at TCU. You might recall Van in his later fame as television's Green Hornet.

Eighty-seven years separate Jarvis and the Walsh Center, but somehow the side-by-side works and seems okay. In fact, the modern lines and materials of the Walsh seem to throw into greater relief the simple charm of the neoclassical Jarvis. And while Jarvis is full of ghosts and memories for me and many others, Walsh is essentially a blank book to be filled in by future storytellers.

Joan Hewatt Swaim '56, author of Walking TCU: A Historical Perspective, retired in 1995 as coordinator of bibliographic control for the Mary Couts Burnett Library after 18 years of service. She now lives in Granbury, working part-time as an office manager for an oil company and playing full-time with her grandson, Asher, who is 6.