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Texas Military Institute

Historic Site (4.00)1
1870-1878 N/A
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1111 W 11th Street
Austin Travis
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People often think of Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets the oldest military-oriented school in the state. However, it's predated by several years by a small school in Austin that eventually moved in everything but name to College Station. The organization that would become the Texas Military Institute was initially organized by West Point graduate Robert Allen as the Texas Monument and Military Institute sometime around 1856 following the closing of Rutersville College. In 1868 it changed its name to the Bastrop Military Institute. Among the institute's most famous students was none other than Sam Houston, Jr., son of the General of the Texas Republic and its first President after independence.

The building now serves as a private residence, so do not trespass.
The school administration had larger goals in mind for the school that could not be met by the buildings in place in Bastrop. So plans were hatched to move the facility to Austin, provided suitable funding could be acquired. The city of Austin rose to the challenge and raised $10,000 to purchase a 32 acre tract in west Austin and to construct a suitable building. West Point served as model on which the architecture was based, but Virginia Military Institute (VMI) also provided inspiration. The castle-like main building was to feature four corner towers, of which only two were ever completed. Today, only one tower remains.

A close up of the top of the remaining tower. The main building shown here is but one of many buildings that made up the institute. Barracks and mess halls are also known to exist in the area, on separate properties.
The new Austin campus opened on June 10, 1870. Between 1870 and 1878 about 1,000 cadets attended the Institute. The school's leader, Colonel John Garland James, was a graduate from the Virginia Military Institute and widely regarded as an author and scholar.

Texas A&M was founded in 1876. The tenure of its first president was mired in turmoil and the school was looking for a fresh start. James became the second president of Texas A&M in 1879 and he brought most of the TMI faculty with him. He served as A&M's president through 1883, after which James pursued business and banking activities. He died in 1930 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Without the only president it had ever known and most of the faculty, TMI was doomed. The last graduation took place on June 11, 1878, with Governor O.M. Roberts speaking.

From 12th Street opposite of Lamar Boulevard, the old TMI building sits high atop a ridge.
After TMI ceased to exist a Texas German and English Academy operated on the premises for some time. The prominent wide porch at the building's base was added in 1890. Today the old school building serves as a private residence, situated in a quiet dead-end street overlooking Shoal Creek and Lamar Boulevard. Some call the neighborhood in which the building stands Castle Hill, an obvious reference to the then prominent institution.

Although historical markers appear on the building itself, one should not trespass on the owner's property to get a closer look. Actually one of the best views of the building is from afar, on the opposite side of Lamar Boulevard with old TMI sitting high atop the ridge that parallels Lamar to the west. From this vantage point it's possible to imagine the dreams the organizers had for creating a West Point of the South, right here in Austin.

Sources:
Austin - The Past Still Present
History of Travis County and Austin 1839-1899
The Handbook of Texas Online


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