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Abilene Hall: the Flood Washed Away the Ashes By: Vaughan Hall

On Aug. 29, Abilene Hall reopened to Hardin-Simmons University students for the third time, now housing the University's engineering program. The building has quite the legacy to live up to and avoid given its previous iterations fell victim to the elements.

Post World War II college enrollment flourished thanks to the G.I. Bill. For Hardin-Simmons University in 1947, this meant a tripling of the number of students enrolled. Abilene Hall, originally erected in 1913, was the main academic building at the time, hosting the majority of classes, campus bookstore and Cowboy Band memorabilia.

The University’s daily chapel services were also held there. Abilene Hall seemed to be a hub for student engagement, making it a tragedy when the building burned down on February 10, 1947. That said, the importance of the building could not be denied. The funds to erect the building once more were raised quickly, allowing Abilene Hall to be rebuilt and reopened the following year.

The building stood tall from 1948 to 2021, continuing to provide at least one class for every student to ever walk the campus. Abilene Hall no longer served as a student hub, but it did not lack importance. This was clearly determined in February 2021. A freak winter event hit the United States. The country was devastated, the disaster being the first billion-dollar weather event of that year.

Though, peril was hardly faced by the students at Hardin-Simmons University, who enjoyed the near week-long event as a reprieve from classes. The damage was not understood until after the frost subsided: Abilene Hall’s pipes burst, flooding the basement and damaging the electrical system. Furthermore, the boiler had burst. The building had to be closed off and the administration was left rushing to relocate classes.

Since the winter storm, Abilene Hall has been undergoing renovations. Nearly two years later, it is being reopened to students. It now houses Hardin-Simmons’ engineering program and is planned to house the University’s nursing program in 2025. The building will be accessible to all students via keycard locking mechanisms.

Through two disasters, Abilene Hall stands as testament to resilience, continuing to return better than before and likely gracing the Hardin-Simmons’ campus for many years to come.

[Abilene Hall Fire], photograph, 1947; ( accessed September 8, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Hardin-Simmons University Library.


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