University is officially listed by the National Parks Service in recognition of architect O’Neil Ford’s vision
by Susie P. Gonzalez
Trinity University is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the only Texas campus to be designated a modernist historic district and one of just three in the country.
The National Parks Service designated the Trinity campus as a National Historic District in late May, four months after the Texas Historical Commission approved Trinity’s nomination as a Historic District. The designation honors the architectural work of O’Neil Ford, who designed most of the University’s mid-century buildings, and will enable Trinity to shape a modern campus that honors the past.
“I am pleased that the National Parks Service has listed the Trinity University campus on the National Register of Historic Places,” says Trinity President Danny Anderson. “This distinction honors the legacy of renowned San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford and the vision he shared with Trinity President James Laurie. Our historic district calls attention to the forward-thinking, modern vision that guides Trinity University and the spirit of entrepreneurial innovation, expressed in bricks and mortar and construction techniques, that has differentiated our campus for generations of students.”
This designation is a key component of the Campus Master Plan, which pairs the University’s academic mission and the strategic plan objectives with Trinity’s design history. The district will contribute to the creation of a vision for the campus that is inspiring, functional, and enduring.
As a historic district, the University will seek to preserve the exteriors of buildings. With the exception of notable interior features, Trinity will be allowed significant latitude to renovate the interiors of the buildings within the district.
The district was proposed by a Master Plan committee that worked in partnership with the architectural group Page. Larry Speck, senior principal at Page, says Ford's contributions to Trinity deserve national recognition. “The stature of its architect, the consistently high quality of design work over decades, and the intact nature of much of the work now are all extraordinary distinguishing features that combine to make Trinity University a premier architectural ensemble that will now be preserved in the foreseeable future,” Speck says. Ford was the founding partner of Ford, Powell & Carson Architects & Planners, Inc. in San Antonio.
Ford designed most of Trinity’s campus buildings from the 1950s to the late 1970s using the site’s unique topography to fashion modernist red brick buildings connected by walkways and lush native landscaping. Trinity has the largest concentration of Ford-designed buildings anywhere in the world, and 26 buildings on the campus contribute to the historic district.
The Texas Historical Commission voted unanimously in January to approve the proposal by Trinity to preserve Ford’s mid-century modern buildings. The Commission then forwarded the district to the National Parks Service for final approval.
Susie P. Gonzalez, senior manager of public relations, can be reached at susie.gonzalez [at] trinity.edu or on Twitter @susiegonz.