Hudspeth Hall- “Buckingham Palace to some, a hovel to others”

By on June 26, 2012

Male resident of Hudspeth Hall in 1968

As the population of students at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (now UTEP) grew the need for more residential halls increased. In 1947 construction began on a two new dormitories. The new residency hall for men was to be “located a few feet south of Worrell Hall.” It was rumored that there would be passageway connecting the two buildings but The Prospector informed the students that no hall was to be constructed. In 1948 the construction was complete and the College had to find a name for the new men’s dormitory. The Prospector offered the following suggestions: “Dean C.A. Puckett, who acted as the head of the college back in the ‘30s; Dean Judson F. Williams, as the Dean of Student Life he has much contact with the students; Dr. L.A. Nelson, Associate Professor of Geology; Professor of Mining and Metallurgy, John. F. Graham.” The dormitory was named Hudspeth Hall in 1950, for Claude B. Hudspeth, an El Paso Congressmen from 1919-1936 who was instrumental in the development of the School of Mines (now UTEP) when he served in the Texas state Legislature from 1902-1918.

After receiving the official name of Hudspeth Hall, the 1950 Flowsheet described the dormitory as the “Newest home for men…A long line waiting for the phone…Dominoes in the lounge…Study and other sessions…Buckingham Palace for some, a hovel to others…A collection of interests, types, faces, and geographical locations…” In 1963 Hudspeth Hall was still the one of the men’s residential halls. In fact, the long-standing rule, “all single undergraduate students not living with their parents are required to live in the dormitories on campus to the full capacity of the facilities,” was still in effect. In 1963 the charge for room and board per person was $325 a semester in Hudspeth Hall. The student catalog from 1964-1970 described Hudspeth Hall as having room enough to house 100 men, two per room. “Conveniences include a washbasin in each room, evaporative cooling, television and study lounges, and a kitchen.”

The 1968 Flowsheet offered the following regarding Hudspeth’s male residents: “The men also painted signs and sidewalks around campus during football season to boot school spirit. The dorm houses men from all sections of the country as well as foreign countries. Hudspeth is active in the campus intramural program, often winning first place in football, basketball, and baseball.” The following the year the Flowsheet suggested that the Hudspeth residents continued to be active on campus and in intramural sports. “Hudspeth Hall houses 100 men combining their abilities in friendship, school spirit, intramural sports and leadership to make the hall one of the most impressive dorms on campus.”

By 1972 living in Hudspeth Hall had lost its aesthetic appeal. The Prospector offered that living in the older dorm was more affordable than living the new Barry Hall; a double room in Hudspeth cost $455 a semester compared to $520 a semester at Barry Hall. If a student wanted to pay less the accommodations were considered “more slum than shrine with paint peeling from walls, and door hinges, shower heads and toilets often in disrepair.” The Prospector further described the dormitory as lacking doors on the bathroom and shower stalls. The students living in Hudspeth recognized that their home was not as appealing as Barry Hall but preferred Hudspeth. “I like it here, the rats are friendly.” “Choosing Hudspeth over Barry is like choosing Nixon over Humphrey. But I still like it here.” “I wouldn’t live anywhere else on campus. You get to meet a lot of people because it’s a small dorm.” This story was the last time that Hudspeth Hall would be described as a residential facility.

Hudspeth Hall was not listed as a dormitory in the 1974 student catalog. By 1979 Hudspeth Hall’s interior had been renovated and to house classrooms and offices. The English Department had found its home in Hudspeth Hall by 1979 and continues to reside there at present.

[Sources: UTEP collection in Special Collections at Library; Heritage House Flowsheet collection; Undergraduate Catalog Archive, http://academics.utep.edu/Default.aspx?PageContentMode=1&tabid=92839; The Prospector, November 10, 1972.]

Ashley Swarthout was a student in the Masters of Arts in Teaching English program at UTEP. She graduated in May 2013 and is now teaches dual credit at Chapin High School.