Before dormitories and off-campus apartments became a permanent part of North Texas life, boarding houses owned by locals and even faculty members accommodated the growing student population.
According to James Rogers' The Story of North Texas, about 80 boarding houses surrounded the campus in the early 1900s, a number that would rise to nearly 200. In the early years the cost to board was about $14 a month. That later rose to $16 to $20, but by then the houses featured electric lights, gas heat and more modern plumbing.
Boarders had strict rules during the administration of William H. Bruce, president from 1906 to 1923. On class days the curfew bell rang at 7 p.m., signaling students to return to their boarding houses for study hours, which ran until 10:30 p.m. Other regulations included limits on social visits and restrictions on the use of the boarding house telephone — no idle conversation.
Some students, especially during the Depression, worked at the boarding houses to help pay for their accommodations. Tasks included waiting tables and washing dishes.
One homeowner was credited with housing some 2,500 North Texas boys from 1930 to 1940. According to a 1971 North Texas Daily article, Maye McKenney rented rooms in her 20-room house to as many as 30 boys at a time.
"If they didn't have the money to pay the rent or their tuition, I would help them with the understanding that they would pay it back after they got out of school," she said.
Boarding houses also provided healthy competition for North Texans. The 1932 Yucca shows photos of "winning" houses on Homecoming Day. Students (presumably under the watchful eyes of the homeowners) decorated the houses and provided lunch for ex-students and other visitors.
With the opening of dormitories (Marquis Hall was the first in 1936), the number of boarding houses began to decline — though they did not totally disappear. The student population after World War II outpaced campus housing, and when African American students were allowed to attend classes in the '50s, most had to live off campus.