Funding for a Texas university system began as early as 1839 when the Congress of the Republic of Texas dedicated revenues from almost a quarter of a million acres of land to fund higher education. Proceeds from royalties earned through exploiting natural resources, investments, rents, leases, and grazing rights taking place on the acreage were set aside to serve a Texas education system for higher learning. After statehood, the legislature passed an act establishing the University of Texas in 1858, adding to the education endowment with bonds as well as more land and its revenues.
The cash-flow also proved a boon to University architecture, generating construction in the period’s popular style known as Spanish Renaissance, characterizes some of the University of Texas Austin campus’ early buildings. Elsewhere in the state, architecture made its mark in University construction like the Greek Revival-style Old Nacogdoches University Building (today, it serves as a museum) and Old Main, the 1903 Victorian Gothic administration building on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos.
Education funding hit the jackpot in 1923 with the Santa Rita oil well, an exploratory poke into university-designated ground by wildcatter Carl G. Cromwell (funded by Texon Oil and Land Company) that proved to be one of the richest in the state. Today, the Texas university system helps finance an entire network of higher learning centers across the state from El Paso to Houston, and the state’s robust campus constructions provide an ideal, and tour-able, history of the architecture evolution that took place over the last century.