Randall Scott April 18, 2020

Methodist Children’s Home on Herring Avenue in North Waco began in 1890 because of the vision of Bishop Joseph S. Key of the Northwest Texas Conference and Dr. Horace Bishop, pastor of Waco’s Fifth Street Methodist Church. The City of Waco donated cash and a 10-acre estate for the creation of the home for children. They opened in 1894, with the first child, David Harrison, arriving in April. By the end of the year they had 26 children. (1) During the early years of the home, it was sponsored by special offerings collected at Christmas in Texas Methodist Churches. Another source of income was from evangelists Abe and Louisa Mulkey who “pledged the proceeds from one night of each of their revivals to the home. This money funded the construction of an administration building in 1899, and in 1901, leaders dedicated the new building and the remainder of the orphanage at an official ceremony…(by)1905, the debt-free institution resided upon 28 acres of land supported by a 173-acre farm on the Bosque River.” (2) Now called the “Methodist Children’s Home”, it is still located at 1111 Herring, where it has changed many lives since 1894.

The Faculty and Staff of Add-Ran College, which first began in Fort Worth and then moved to Thorp Springs, Texas came to Waco on Christmas Day, 1895. “On Christmas Day in 1895, a train carrying around one hundred members of Add-Ran Christian College rolled into Waco. Following a formal reception at First Baptist Church—attended by Waco politicians, university officials such as Baylor president Rufus C. Burleson, church representatives, and city clubs—Add-Ran students, faculty, and staff marched three miles to the former campus of Waco Female College near North Eighteenth Street.” (3) Period maps show that it was located on 15 acres between Eighteenth and Twentieth and Lyle and Alexander in North Waco. This was before Mitchell Avenue was constructed and the main building sat about where North Nineteenth Street intersects Mitchell. In 1902, the name was changed to Texas Christian University. In his book “McLennan County Before 1980”, Bob Poage wrote: “Add-Ran College was the product of the work of the two Clark brothers, Addison and Randolph. Devoted workers in the Disciples of Christ Church, they wanted the church to establish a worthwhile college. They put their own funds into the projects. They opened a school in Fort Worth,. The name was an abbreviation of the names ot the two brothers. They soon purchased land at Thorp Springs, just west of Granbury, where they erected several buildings and developed a creditable institution, but the location was unacceptable. After over-expansion had placed Waco Female College in a difficult financial situation, Add-Ran College bought that school’s North Waco property and moved to Waco. In 1902 the name was changed to Texas Christian University. For some years the school did well. A great rivalry developed between TCU and Baylor University. The schools played two football games per season, each of which was often followed by a general fight, In North Waco there were a number of large houses built to accommodate out-of-town students. Only a very few of these houses are left standing. There was an independent post office called “North Waco” on North Eighteenth Street, and several stores. This shopping center still exists, although few of the local people understand that it developed in connection with the university. In 1910, fire destroyed the main building, Insurance was utterly inadequate to rebuild. A second fire followed the next year. The trustees sought a location which would provide a maximum of assistance. Fort Worth made the best offer, and in 1912 the school was again located in that city. The campus was sold and developed into the Waco Vista residential addition to the city of Waco.” (4)

St. Basil’s College was actually a private Catholic high school for boys. It was founded in Waco in 1899 by Basilian Fathers from Canada and France. (5) At first, it was in a two-story building at Eighth Street and Clay, but moved into a new building on their property in North Waco in 1902. Out-of- town students lived in the building, but many local boys attended as well. From the beginning, both Catholic and non-Catholic boys were accepted.(6) “The first principal was Father Thomas Hayes, who was assisted by two other priests, V. J. Donnelly and Charles Collins. The opening enrollment was sixty. The main purpose of the school was college preparation, to which were added business courses, Romance languages, and a small amount of music. The library contained 3,000 volumes.” (7) On May 25, 1915 it was announced that the school would be closing for good at the end of that term, June 9, 1915. The Fathers cited “lack of patronage” as the reason for the closing. In that article, it is stated that they owned twenty-three acres, not twenty-two as was stated earlier. (8) The building was put up for sale, but never sold. The building was vacant until it was demolished in 1943. (6) St. Louis Catholic Church, built in 1968 on the corner of North 25th and Windsor, is built on the former site of St. Basil’s College.

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul broke ground on a building on Colcord in North Waco in 1903. In 1904, three sisters left their Maryland community to come to Waco, and Providence Hospital, Waco’s first hospital, opened on January 11, 1905. In 1906, a nursing school was created. In 1948, Providence opened the Crippled Children’s Hospital, a heart clinic in 1950, and a psychiatric division in 1952. Additions and expansions continued into the 1970s and by the early 1980s, Providence Hospital moved to a new facility on Highway 6, just north of Highway 84, where it stands today.(9)

The land that is now Cameron Park was given to the City of Waco by The William Cameron Family. Cameron Park is named in honor of Willam Cameron, a Waco philanthropist and lumber baron. It was dedicated on May 27, 1910. The park also contains the 52-acre Cameron Park Zoo. (10)

Camp MacArthur, named for General Arthur MacArthur, was a training camp in Waco during World War I. Construction began July 20, 1917, and 18,000 troops arrived in September. The campsite was 1,377 acres, although 10,699 acres were set aside for its use. Construction cost was estimated to be $ 5 million dollars. It was built to hold 45,000 troops, although no more than 28,000 ever lived in the camp. (11) The troops, which formed the Thirty-Second Infantry Division of the National Guard, were from Wisconsin and Michigan. The camp “consisted of administration offices, a tent city, a base hospital, and a number of other military buildings”.(12) It closed on March 7, 1919, and the land became a part of the City of Waco.(11) A historical marker for Camp MacArthur was dedicated in 1966, and is now located on the northwest corner of North Nineteenth and Park Lake Drive.

Just after ground was broken at Camp MacArthur in July of 1917, the War Department and the Military Committee of the Waco Chamber of Commerce approved the creation of an Army Air Base on a 690-acre plot of land in North Waco in August of 1917. The sixteen-hanger base was named Rich Field, in honor of C. Perry Rich who had died when his plane crashed into Manila Bay in the Philippines in 1912. “The three main units assigned to Rich Field were the 39, 150, and 249 Aero Squadrons. Other squadrons were equipped and trained at Rich Field to then be moved to other bases. Others also went straight from Rich Field to the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe and received further training from the Royal Air Force of Britain. In all, four hundred pilots were trained at Rich Field, and only eight training fatalities occurred. Most of the young men who made it through training saw combat in France. After the war, the airfield stayed in business until the 1940s, much longer than its counterpart Camp MacArthur, which closed in 1919.”(13) Waco Municipal Airport was located at Rich Field until the late 1940s, when it moved to the former Blackland Army Air Field. In April, 1953, The Heart of Texas Coliseum (Now Extraco Events Center) opened on the grounds of Rich Field. Also on the former grounds, Lions Park was created in the late 1950s, and Richfield High School (now Waco High School) opened in September, 1961.

The Waco State Home was located on the southeast corner of the intersection of North Nineteenth and Park Lake Drive. This 95-acre property had been a part of Camp MacArthur 1917-19, but became the “State Home for Dependent and Neglected Children” in 1919 after it was established by the Thirty-sixth Legislature. In 1945, the name was changed to “The Waco State Home”. In 1945, there were 276 children, and they maintained around 300 into the 1970s. In 1965, the State Home was placed under the administration of The Texas Youth Commission and remained so until 1979, when control was transferred to the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, who renamed the facility “Waco Center for Youth”. (14)

In 1909, Arthur James Barton, pastor of Waco’s First Baptist Church, had a dream for a Baptist hospital in Waco. It took many years, but on July 10, 1917 ground was broken at the original location on Herring Avenue in North Waco. The Hospital and Nursing Buildings were both completed in 1920. The original name was The Central Texas Baptist Sanitarium. By 1938, the name had changed to Hillcrest Memorial Hospital. In 1963, the name was changed to Hillcrest Baptist Hospital. There were many expansions of the original facility through the years. In 2009, Hillcrest moved into a new facility at Interstate 35 and Highway 6. (15)

The construction of the original Lake Waco Dam was begun in January of 1929 and completed in April of 1930. It provided the City of Waco with 39,000 acre feet of water.(16) Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to build a new dam and construction of the new Lake Waco Dam was begun in July of 1958, (17) and was completed at the end of 1964. Deliberate impounding began February 26, 1965, (18) and the new Lake Waco Dam was dedicated on September 4, 1965. The new dam is about one-half mile downstream from the 1930 Lake Waco Dam, and first secured 59,000 acre feet of water. (19) The Waco City Council voted in 1998 to raise the level of the Lake an additional seven feet. The current level secures 79,000 acre feet of water for the City of Waco. (16)

In 1941, Waco Municipal Airport, located at the old Rich Field in Waco, began building a new Waco Municipal Airport north of Waco, just a few miles west of Bosqueville. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, which had begun two years earlier. “In early 1942 the War Department leased the site and it was provided to the United States Army Air Forces for a training airfield. At the time, construction consisted of three runways partly completed. The Army Air Force began to rush the project to completion and changed the civil building plans to that of a military airfield and ground station. Barracks, mess halls, a hospital, church, theater, administrative buildings, aircraft hangars and a control tower were built. The facility was initially named China Springs Army Air Field and later Waco Army Air Field No. 2 before being renamed “Blackland Army Airfield” after the local black soil. Blackland AAF was activated on 2 July 1942, initially being a glider training school. The AAF brought a nucleus of experienced airmen from other airfields in the AAF Gulf Coast Training Center, and then civilian specialists were recruited from around the United States to supplement the military garrison. The civilian workers were instructed in Army aviation procedures and to fill hundreds of jobs necessary to support the pilot training program. In October 1942 the Army Air Force Pilot School (Advanced Twin-Engine) was activated (phase 3 pilot training). On 8 January 1943, the War Department constituted and activated the 33d Flying Training Wing (Advanced Twin-Engine) at Blackland and assigned it to the AAF Central Flying Training Command. Flying training at the airfield ended on 4 February 1945 and it became a sub-base of Waco Army Airfield. The field became inactive on October 31, 1945. By 1950 the facility was disposed of by the War Assets Administration (WAA) and deeded to the local government, being operated as Waco Municipal Airport. Some buildings were used as a public housing project. (20) Today, Blackland Army Airfield is Waco Regional Airport.

In 1964, a committee began to meet to discuss the feasibility of starting a junior college in McLennan County. On November 2, 1965, the citizens of McLennan County voted to establish the McLennan County Junior College District, as a way to raise money through taxes. They also approved the creation of a seven-member governing board and a $2,000,000 bond issue. In early 1966, the new school was named McLennan Community College and Dr. Wilbur Ball became the first president of the college in March, 1966. In September, 1966, classes began to meet in temporary quarters at the James Connally Air Force Base. In the summer of 1967, construction began on a permanent campus in North Waco on a 150-acre piece of property that once belonged to the Cameron Family. In January, 1969, the first classes were held on the new campus. (21)

(1) “Our History” from the Methodist Children’s Home website.
(2) “Methodist Children’s Home” by Amanda Sawyer. WacoHistory.org
(3) “Texas Christian University” by Amanda Sawyer. WacoHistory.org
(4)” McLennan County-Before 1980” (1981) by W.R. Poage.
(5) “St. Basil’s College” by R.E. Lamb, C.S.E. The Texas State Historical Association Online.
(6) “St. Basil’s College”. Photo with cutline in The Waco Tribune Herald, October 15, 1961.
(7) “St. Basil’s College to Close Its Doors”. The Waco Morning News, May 25, 1915.
(8) “Cornerstone Box From St. Basil’s College Opened”. The Waco News Tribune, July 23, 1943.
(9) “Providence Hospital” by Amanda Sawyer. WacoHistory.org
(10) William Cameron Park-A Centennial History: 1910-2010” (2010) by Mark E. Firmin.
(11) “Camp MacArthur” by Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl. The Texas State Historical Association Online.
(12) “Camp MacArthur” by Amanda Sawyer. WacoHistory.org
(13) “Rich Field Army Air Field” by Anabel Burke. Waco History.Org
(14) “Waco State Home” by James W. Markham and William T. Field. The Texas State Historical Association online.
(15)”Hillcrest Hospital” by Anabel Burke. WacoHistory.org
(16)The WCC-TV video ”Water: A Resource for Life-The History of Waco’s Water”, by Mark Randolph.
(17) “Work on New Lake Waco Dam to Be Started by July 1” The Waco News Tribune, April 18, 1958.
(18) “New Lake Now Catching Water as Gates Closed” The Waco Tribune Herald, February 27, 1965.
(19) “Facts and Figures” The Waco Tribune Herald Special Lake Edition, May 16, 1965.
(20) “Waco Regional Airport” Wikipedia.
(21) “McLennan Community College” from “The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County” (1972) by Dayton Kelley.