For the first few months of 2015, the University Archives at the Southwest Collection is hosting “A Resilient Symbol of West Texas: The Texas Tech Dairy Barn,” an exhibit about the almost 90-year-old structure that has weathered storms and near-endless nearby construction to become a symbol of Texas Tech’s history.Finished in 1927, the original Dairy Barn could accommodate up to 40 cattle, and had three miles of wire fencing surrounding it for grazing animals paired with a 120-ton concrete silo. Equipped to sanitarily produce whole milk and cream, it soon saw the Department of Dairy Manufactures extend the milking room at the south end of the building due to proceeds from its sales. It then added butter, ice cream and cheese to its product line. But take a look at the photo above: this was all happening on the Texas Tech campus back when cattle grazed a few hundred yards in front of the Administration Building, Agricultural Pavilion, Agriculture Building, and in the far distance the Home Economics Building!When the new college opened, agriculture students were allowed to bring their dairy cattle to reside in the barn. The money earned by selling the milk to others and by working in the dairy facility helped pay for these students’ education. The Student Dairy was organized by six students in the summer of 1926 and, until it was dissolved in 1935, delivered milk and other dairy products by a horse-drawn wagon and a truck.A fire on January 29, 1930, and a lightning strike in 1958 both resulted in the deaths of some of the cows and damage to the building, but operations continued until 1965, when the barn closed its doors. From then on it was used only as storage, and even then the section for the Dairy Manufacturing Department was removed in 1966 to make room for the construction of the Foreign Language Building. The young men above, observing the final stages of processing, bottling, and inspecting the milk products in the 1950s, had to find lactose-based educational opportunities elsewhere.[All the milk bottles and cheese produced at Texas Tech also sported a proud Double T.] (ca. 1950)
The Dairy Barn has been a part of the Texas Tech landscape for 89 years. It weathered tornadoes, dust storms, encroaching buildings, and heavy foot traffic as the campus continued to grow, and as its useful functionality was placed on hold. Yet although it experienced periods of neglect, it has ultimately received its share of recognition. The Barn was even registered in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic places on April 2, 1992, after extensive campaigns of support by various alumni and campus organizations. Some still lobby diligently for the barn’s restoration and repurposing so that it may remain a part of the TTU landscape for decades to come.
– by Lynn Whitfield & our Texas Tech University Archives