An Afternoon in Waco, But Not at Magnolia

Hankamer Treasure Room at the Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library in Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There’s a Waco landmark that I’ve been wanting to visit for years.

No, it’s not Magnolia Market at the Silos from the interior design TV show Fixer-Upper (although I did enjoy a stop there recently.)

Instead, it’s a small library and museum near the Baylor University campus, free to visit, that is dedicated to the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Heading home from a business trip one afternoon, I finally had the right timing to investigate.

But first … lunch.

I already have some favorite Waco eateries, including Health Camp – not healthy and not a camp, it’s kind of a dive with fabulous burgers and milkshakes – but it was food truck time.

At the corner of University Parks Drive and Franklin Avenue in downtown Waco, right along the Brazos River, is a small food truck area called “Chowtown.”

Food trucks by the Brazos River in downtown Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Two of the local food trucks parked by the Brazos River in downtown Waco, Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I decided on the Mad Hasher Waco truck, and like an idiot ordered way too much food. The loaded carrot and parsnip fries were an entree to themselves, but I also had to do justice to their enormous breakfast taco.

Yes, it was lunch, but whatevs; it’s always the right time for breakfast tacos.

Their buttermilk fried chicken sandwich made with a candied bacon and jalapeño waffle gave me pause, but I just couldn’t do it.  #wimp

Tacos at Mad Hasher food truck Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Veggie fries and breakfast taco at the Mad Hasher food truck, Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Waddling back to my car, I headed to the afternoon’s main objective – the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum near Waco’s Baylor University campus.

The Library began as the personal collection of a Dr. A. Joseph Armstrong, who was head of Baylor’s English Department from 1912-1952 and a dedicated scholar of Browning’s work. His tireless gathering of memorabilia and his fundraising efforts resulted in the world’s largest collection of Browning materials, housed in a stunning Italianate building.

To enter, you pull open giant heavy bronze doors that are modeled after the Ghiberti panels on the Baptistry doors in Florence, Italy.

Every room in the Library is graced with beautiful stained glass windows (62, to be exact) most of which include snippets of Browning poetry, either Robert’s or Elizabeth’s.

The photo at the top of the post is accurately named the Treasure Room, and here is the research and study room….

Jones Research Hall in the Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Jones Research Hall in the Armstrong Browning Library near Baylor University, in Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I only had a little over an hour, but there was so much to see that I couldn’t get through it all, and never even made it up to see the rooms on the third floor.

Thanks to donations and auction purchases of a huge variety of 19th century literature-related items, you’ll see furniture, paintings and portraits, books, desk items, and cases full of emphemera like Elizabeth’s lace fingerless gloves:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning lace glove Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lace gloves at the Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Here is the only working draft in the Library of the famous Sonnets of the Portuguese:

Working draft Sonnet 5 1844-5 Sonnets From the Portuguese Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Working draft of Sonnet 5 dated 1844-5, from Sonnets From the Portuguese at the Armstrong Browning Library, Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Library building itself is a work of art, with a story behind everything in every room, especially the stained glass windows.

As a Navy person, the one with the ship is of course my favorite, and includes a snippet from Robert Browning’s Epilogue.

Greet the unseen with a cheer stained glass window in Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

“Greet the unseen with a cheer” stained glass window in the Armstrong Browning Library, Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

This is still an active research facility, but my own early student days in libraries came back with a rush when I saw their card catalog cabinet, left as it was, unchanged since 1991.

Original card catalog Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Original card catalog for the Armstrong Browning Library in Waco, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A little sign on it reminds people that it is not accurate anymore, to use the University’s online catalog instead, and tells you where the computer terminals are in the building.

Don’t miss the Garden of Contentment on one side of the building – “celebrating a poet’s life and a professor’s dream.”

Garden of Contentment Armstrong Browning Library Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Garden of Contentment at the Armstrong Browning Library, Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Garden was completed in 2012 – the 200th anniversary of Robert Browning’s birth – and marking 100 years since Professor Armstrong arrived at Baylor University to chair the English department.

It made me smile to see students hanging out under the huge live oaks.

There was one more stop to make on the way out of town; a late afternoon pick-me-up in the soda shop at Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum.

A classic, handmade Dr Pepper float made with that Texas favorite, Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.

Dr Pepper float from the soda shop at the Dr Pepper Museum Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Dr Pepper float from the soda shop at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

 

All in all, quite a satisfactory afternoon, even though I never saw a bit of shiplap.

If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is toward the top of the right sidebar. Thanks!

About The Author

Reply