Old Baylor at Independence

Baylor University was founded in 1845 in Independence, Texas. This community served as the home of Baylor University until 1886. Today the remnants of the male (Windmill Hill) and female (Academy Hill) campuses along with the Independence Visitor Center make up Old Baylor at Independence.  

 The Mayborn Museum maintains these historic properties in collaboration with many partners. Old Baylor at Independence is a popular tourist destination during wildflower season, is utilized for staff retreats, and welcomes new Freshman to Baylor University each year during orientation, referred to as Baylor Line Camp.  


The congress of the Republic Texas, meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos, chartered Baylor University on February 1st, 1845. In December 1845, trustees placed their institution in prosperous town Independence, Washington County, and determined that best permanent campus location would be Windmill Hill.

In 1886, Baylor's trustees decided to merge with Waco University (another Baptist school) and relocate to Waco, 112 miles north. The trustees of Baylor Female College, later known as Mary Hardin-Baylor, moved their institution to Belton the same year. 


Academy Hill | Female Campus

The very first building utilized by Baylor University was located on Academy Hill. On May 18th, 1846, Professor Henry F. Gillette opened Baylor University in temporary quarters on Academy Hill, the former campus of Independence Academy. In the two-story frame Academy Building, Gillette, a devout Episcopalian conducted every class for the 24 students during that first term.  

Academy Hill later became the site of the female campus. With Sam Houston's endorsement in 1854, the trustees unilaterally decided to raise funds for building a stunning three-story academic building for the female campus. Finished two years later, the Female Edifice faced east toward the town and Windmill Hill. and its front included four massive stone columns. These columns survive today, and are the famous ruins at Old Baylor Park, operated jointly by Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

Windmill Hill | Male Campus

The foundations of the Male Campus began in 1848. Three stone buildings had been constructed on three sides of a quadrangle, which Baylor sources labeled as "College Square." The College Well had been dug prior to Baylor's acquisition in 1849. Graves Hall, built in 1849-1850, was located in the southwest corner. In 1859-1862, Houston Hall was built on the north end of the quad. Tryon Hall was begun in 1860 in the northwest corner, used in an unfinished state, and finished in 1882. The trustees erected a Bell Tower between Houston and Tryon Halls in 1882. On the east side of the quadrangle was located the central street and the grave of Judge Baylor, who was laid to rest in 1873. The residential area was located to the southeast of College Square. In 1856, President Burleson constructed a three-story cedar frame octagon building to serve as the president's residence, men's dormitory, and dining hall. The Octagon Building became known as Burleson Domicile, as it was used for residential functions until Baylor's relocation in 1886. A number of other residential facilities were built for the students in the area around the Octagon Building. 

Today, only rough outlines of these buildings remain. The Male Department of Old Baylor at Independence was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2024. 


More information about Independence and how to visit these historic campuses can be found at the Independence Visitor Center or on the Independence Preservation Trust website.  

Independence Visitor Center 
10270 T.S. Saul Road 
Brenham, TX 77833-6491 
[GPS: 30 19'07.66" N | 96 20'40.39" W] 

Phone: (979) 251-9227 
Hours: Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm 
Call ahead. Hours are subject to change.