St. Basil’s College
Short histories by Randall Scott for Waco, Texas, Centennial: 1849-1959 and R. E. Lamb for the Texas State Historical Association are available online. School ads appeared in the Houston Post, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Waco Morning News, and the San Antonio Gazette. The DeGolyer Library of Southern Methodist University provided a scan of the 1904 commencement program. The Basilian seal (right) is from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basilian_Fathers.png by Alekjds
St. Basils College was founded by the Basilian Fathers who came to Texas from Toronto. The college opened September 3, 1889 for 60 boys. Father Thomas J. Hayes was the first principal, assisted by two other faculty members.
Ads show that St. Basil’s was primarily a preparatory school. Courses of study included the classics, English, mathematics and science. It offered a complete business course as well as classes in German, Spanish, French, music and elocution. By 1910 St. Basil’s had opened a “Minim” department for boys under 13.
Later ads began to emphasize the academic successes of students. Some ads promised “Progress Assured,” stating,“ If your boy CAN learn, he WILL learn.” The key to success became “intellectual development through discipline and moral formation.”
The 1904 commencement program shows both a College Orchestra and a College Glee Club. In 1914, the Dramatic Club of St. Basil’s performed “My Uncle From India” at the Byers Opera House in Fort Worth.
In 1915 St. Basil’s announced that it was closing due to “lack of patronage.” The 1912 Texas Almanac had listed enrollment at 85—well below the capacity of school facilities.
Bricks and Mortar
St. Basil’s was able to purchase twenty-two acres of land in the Provident Heights section in north Waco. It lay between Windsor Avenue and Pine Street and between 24th and 26th Streets. Ads describe it as just outside the then city limits. The cornerstone for a new building was laid on April 5, 1902. The local architect firm of Glenn Allen built the four-story brick structure to house up to 100 students. The building featured steam heat and electric lights. It contained an auditorium, a library of 3,000 volumes, a natatorium, and a gymnasium. The grounds were extensive enough to provide a baseball and football field as well as handball alleys.
The building was first used by the Academy of the Sacred Heart and then sat empty until 1943, when it was razed. According to Roderick Scott, the St. Louis Catholic Church sits on the exact spot where the building once sat. The Catholic High School is also located on the grounds.
College Football Data Warehouse lists seven games for St. Basil’s during the 1912 season. In addition to six games against area high schools, St. Basil’s tackled Baylor University’s seconds, losing either 27-0 or 34-0, depending on the source.
But the sports program was considerably more extensive than one season of football. The Houston Post shows a football game as early as 1909—a 6-0 victory over Marlin High School. Rivalry games were against Waco High School and Hillsboro High School.
Baseball may have been the major sport. At least three St. Basil’s players earned professional contracts. One, Louis Drucke, pitched four years in the majors with the New York Giants, winning 18 games. Teams from St. Basils defeated the touring Majestic Juniors 12-3 in 1909 and represented the city against the Houston Knights in an annual Knights of Columbus celebration.
St. Basil’s College held an annual intramural track and field meet, and a team participated in the Cotton Palace Relays in 1913. But in 1911 the Waco Morning News reported that St. Basil’s students were keen on handball, and that a team was very successful in the local YMCA league.
Louis Drucke. Image from the Library of Congress
Postcard image of the St. Basil's College building.