Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kidd-Key College and Conservatory

The Chapel, Key-Kidd College
Kidd-Key College and Conservatory

Location: Sherman, Texas, USA

Opened: 1874, as North Texas Female College

Closed: 1935

Notice how this college was nearly destroyed by a series of incompetent male administrators before Lucy Kidd-Key took over, who was obviously quite capable (though very strict).

It's common for any women's college that specialized in the fine arts to be stereotyped as a finishing school for lady-like and decorative young women. But we know of at least two graduates who shattered that image: "Billy" and "Curley" Seale, who ran an all-women ranch in Baird, Texas. "Billy" was a visual artist, and "Curley" was a musician (piano).

From the Texas State Historical Association:

Kidd-Key College at Sherman was founded in the late 1860s under the name Sherman Male and Female High School by Rev. William R. Petty, under the patronage of the North Texas Methodist Conference. In 1870 the trustees appointed by the conference bought land and built a two-story structure for the school, to which it moved from rented quarters in the Odd Fellows Hall. J. C. Parks succeeded Petty in 1872, and the following year the North Texas Conference acquired the deed to the school and began planning its change to a women's college. The institution formally became North Texas Female College in the fall of 1874. Presidents after Parks were W. I. Cowles, James Reid Cole, J. C. Parham, E. D. Pitts, and I. M. Onins. By 1886, however, the school suffered from a lack of administrative stability and was plagued by debts .
Lucy Ann Thornton Kidd-Key

Two years later Bishop G. D. Galloway persuaded a stalwart widow, Lucy Ann Thornton Kidd, who was teaching at Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi, to move to Texas and head the school. She set about her task immediately, and North Texas Female College began its school year in September 1888 with 100 students. From the beginning Mrs. Kidd's curriculum emphasized the fine arts, especially music. Upon her marriage to Bishop Joseph S. Key in 1892, she became Lucy Ann Kidd-Key, and the school became North Texas Female College and Conservatory of Music. The college eventually grew to include seven brick buildings, several cottages, and a gymnasium, after taking over the property of Mary Nash College (across the street) in 1905. Peak enrollments of more than 500 were reached before World War I. By 1910 the school owned 120 pianos and had a library of more than 1,000 volumes.

The conservatory was Mrs. Kidd-Key's primary interest. By hiring prominent teachers from Europe she extended the reputation of the school far beyond Sherman and built a music school of solid quality. Her most important appointment was that of Paul Harold von Mickwitz as head of the conservatory in 1897. Mickwitz, a Finnish pianist, was trained in Russia and Austria by Theodor Leschetizky. Other important teachers brought to the conservatory were pianists Frank Renard, Hans Rischard, Pettis Pipes, and Bomar Cramer; singer Louis Versel; and violinists Jacob Schreiner and Carl Venth. The school gave artist diplomas in music and the bachelor of music degree.

By the eve of World War I, Mrs. Kidd-Key's policy of off-campus chaperonage, compulsory church attendance, and strict regulations regarding dress and ladylike demeanor appealed to fewer and fewer students and parents. The steady decline in enrollment was exacerbated by hard economic times and the opening of Southern Methodist University in 1915, with the consequent reduction of Methodist support for smaller schools. The college made several attempts at self-preservation. In 1917 it joined the Association of Texas Colleges as a first-class junior college, from which credit could be transferred to upper-level institutions. Although it had long been called by the name informally, North Texas Female College officially became Kidd-Key College and Conservatory in 1919, three years after Mrs. Kidd-Key's death.

Two students at Kidd-Key College (early 1900s)
Edwin Kidd succeeded his mother as president and served until 1923, when E. L. Spurlock took on the duties. When, in 1928, ill health forced Spurlock to resign, Kidd resumed the presidency with reluctance and made a last attempt at expanding the college. Despite a new administration building and auditorium, completely refurbished facilities, and heavy expenditures for new furniture, equipment, and landscaping, enrollments failed to rise. In 1930 Kidd-Key and neighboring Austin College attempted to weather the deepening depression by coordinating programs and sharing facilities. Kidd-Key eliminated its junior college and taught only home economics, religion, fine arts, and women's physical education. The cooperative venture prolonged the institution's existence by a few years, but complete withdrawal of Methodist support forced the college to close in 1935. The property reverted to creditors and was later sold to the city of Sherman in 1937 as a site for a municipal center. Nothing remains of the original buildings. A Texas Historical Marker commemorating the college was erected in 1967.

A complete history of the school is here.

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