The Etruscans and the ancient Romans were the first to widely use the arch in building structures. The Romans used the arch in a wide range of structures across Europe and throughout the Roman Empire. Roman builders used the arch in aqueducts which revolutionized the transportation and use of water. These ancient aqueducts still stand in France today. One of the most impressive ancient architectural uses of the arch was in the Coliseum in Rome. The arch was also widely used throughout Europe in the construction of larger, longer stone bridges that could bear more weight and better withstand flooding conditions. However, it was the arched entryway that became the most commonly used architectural form of the arch.
The word arch came from the Greek language and meant to “rule.” Ancient Jewish and Christian religious texts referenced the arch-shaped rainbow as a sign of promise that the earth would not be destroyed by flood. The symbolism of the arch had different meanings in different cultures throughout the world, but was frequently used to represent rebirth in a variety of cultures. The arch was commonly used in the entryways to religious places. It was also widely used in structures to commemorate military victories. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Arch of Constantine in Rome are notable examples of such military victory arches. Whether used for religious or celebratory purposes, as one walked under the arch, they left the old behind and entered the new.
The arch has been architecturally used in America in a variety of ways. Americans built the world’s tallest arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot-tall monument to Thomas Jefferson and the notion of westward expansion. The American fast-food restaurant chain Mcdonald's scored a marketing bonanza with their use of the golden arches. The Washington Square Arch in New York City commemorates the 1789 inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States. There is even an Arches National Park in Utah that features natural arches.
Weatherford College also has a historic arch that symbolically connects the current campus to the original campus on South Main. When the original campus was demolished in the late 1960s, the stones that formed the entryway arch on the original building were given to T.D. Terry. Mr. Terry transported the large stones to his farm north of Weatherford where they remained until the 1990s. The original arch stones were then donated back to the college and the arch was reconstructed as part of the Roy and Jeanne Grogan Historic Plaza in the heart of Weatherford College.
The Weatherford College arch also holds great symbolic value. First, the arch provides the current campus with a lasting physical connection to the original “Old Main” campus. Perhaps more importantly, it symbolizes an intellectual rebirth. Through the decades, how many students walked through that arch entryway at the “Old Main” campus and began an intellectual journey toward enlightenment? Now at the current location, how many students have seen the historic arch as they acquired the education and job skills necessary to become productive citizens? Our beautiful WC campus also has arches at the entrances of the Alkek Fine Arts Center and Williams Ballpark, and there are future arches included in the master facilities plan as well.
Like the arch, Weatherford College has stood the test of time. Also, like the arch, Weatherford College has promised both the hope and the realization of a better life to countless sons and daughters. We live in a constantly changing world, but the hope of a better life represented by both the arch and Weatherford College is here to stay.
Tod Allen Farmer
President, Weatherford College