Faculty look back on life in their 'fort'March 25, 2003
By Elivia Aguilar
In the fall of 1965, Dr. Robert Packard was handed the keys to a new house located on Guittard Street. He and his wife Joyce were the third family to move into the Fort Faculty neighborhood, constructed by former Baylor President Abner Vernon McCall.
Packard remembers one of the first steps he took to make his new house a home was to plant two magnolia trees and an oak tree in the front yard. Thirty-eight years later, Packard decided to sell his home back to Baylor administrators.
In October 2001, Baylor officials began negotiating with Fort Faculty residents to attain the faculty housing. According to the 2002 updated master plan for construction, the area now known as Fort Faculty is being considered for green space and a campus living and learning residential village. Baylor bought back the houses from those willing to sell for the full appraisal value.
'The master plan is a living document, so the plans are not set in stone, but those are the considerations,' said Rick Creel, assistant vice president for operations and facilities.
Baylor currently has two faculty and staff neighborhoods. The original is known as Fort Baylor, or Fort Faculty, and the other is known as Edgefield. About 30 to 35 houses make up the 14 acres of Fort Baylor, located between Speight Avenue and Bagby Avenue. Edgefield has about 30 houses and is the neighborhood by University Parks Drive and Bagby Avenue.
The Fort Faculty neighborhood was constructed in 1961 in an attempt for faculty to be able to live closer to Baylor students. Most of the houses were built on Harrington and Guittard streets, which were named after Baylor professors.
After buying the property, Baylor administrators decided to lease the land to professors who were willing to stay.
Packard said there were a few regulations presented to them before they were allowed to move into their houses.
Some of the stipulations included mandatory underground utilities, garages not facing the street and houses with brick in the facade. Over the years, there were a few exceptions to those rules.
After a few years of living in the faculty neighborhood, the Packards and other residents began a neighborhood association. Families with children participated in Fourth of July parades and other events throughout the year.
'It was neat to see everyone in the community participate in the parades and picnics that we had,' Packard said.
Dr. Kent Gilbreath, professor of economics and a resident of Fort Faculty for 30 years, also remembers his children participating in the parades.
'This neighborhood was ideal for rearing children,' Gilbreath said. 'The university was basically my children's playground because we went for walks around campus.'
Gilbreath added that over the years he has had the opportunity to become acquainted with many of his neighbors and has invited his students over for dinner.
New kid on the block
In 1974, construction for the Albritton House, also located in the Fort Faculty neighborhood, began. The Albritton House, 336 Guittard, is where President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and his family live. Former President McCall and his family were the first to live in the Albritton House and in 1981, former President Herbert Reynolds and his family moved in.
'There is lots of memorabilia from other families that have lived here and from people that have donated items throughout the years,' Sue Sloan said.
Years take their toll
However, things in the neighborhood began to change when people started to age.
Many of the residents moved from Waco with their sons and daughters and others died. Slowly, the community began to grow smaller.
Landscaping was not being maintained and the houses looked unkempt. Very few professors arriving at Baylor had interest in living in the community.
It was at this point that the neighborhood association grew concerned and gathered a committee of members to try to repair the deteriorating community.
'The idea was for members of the neighborhood association to get buyers for the houses so that they could be maintained properly,' Packard said.
Shift in fate
Buyers were found, but after meeting with Baylor administrators, the association discovered that the houses were not for sale.
'I planned to retire there and eventually give the land back to Baylor, so when I found this out I had to reconsider,' Packard said.
After negotiations on his property, Packard decided to appraise his home and accepted the money that Baylor offered. He and his wife found a new home away from the campus within a few months, but they continue to stay involved with Baylor events.
'Baylor was good to us,' Packard said. 'We gave up the house, not our home.'
Seven houses are still available for lease in the Fort Faculty neighborhood according to www3.baylor.edu/faculty_housing.
Memories in neighborhood
Gilbreath and Sloan continue to enjoy the sense of community that the neighborhood brings.
'We love being here and especially having students come visit,' Sloan said.
Sloan said she still smiles when she thinks about the time when she found a plastic pink flamingo with a banner wishing her family a 'Merry Christmas.'
'We have had our share of laughs living here,' Sloan said. 'It's wonderful.'
Gilbreath said that one of the perks of living so close to campus is that he rides his motor scooter to class and only uses a gallon of gasoline per week.
'I don't know many people that can get to work and back like I can,' Gilbreath said.