Holding Institute was a United Methodist-affiliated former community center in Laredo, Texas, founded in 1882 as a kindergarten and primary school. For nearly a century thereafter, Holding was a state-accredited coeducational boarding school. Having been ravaged by flooding in 1954, the boarding school relocated to north Laredo but closed some three decades later as a result of funding difficulties. It re-opened as a community center downtown in 1987 and functioned for twenty-four years until its closing in 2011.
The roots of Holding date to 1880, when Mrs. Jacob Norwood began to instruct several Mexican girls at her residence in Laredo in Webb County in south Texas. The next year, women of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South set aside funds to establish the kindergarten and primary school. The Reverend Elias Robertson donated ten acres on the bank of the Rio Grande south of the United States Army installation of Fort McIntosh, and in 1882, the first building opened. Known then as "Laredo Seminary", the institution operated under the direction of missionaries Annie Williams and Rebecca Toland.
In October 1883, Miss Nannie Emory Holding, a Methodist missionary from Covington, Kentucky, located two miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio, began a 30-year tenure as superintendent of the institution that later was named for her. Her sister, Delia Holding, also taught during the first few years in the primary school. In 1886, early in the years of Nannie Holding's leadership, the all-girls school became coeducational when ten boys were admitted. Nannie Holding oversaw the growth of the school campus to include seven buildings on twenty-six acres. She planted flowers, shrubs, and trees on the sand dune adjacent to the Rio Grande. She obtained a 50-year charter for the school in 1891.
By the time of Nannie Holding's retirement in 1913, when she was 68 years old, the institution had expanded to the normal school level, conferring some teacher-training bachelor's degrees. Dr. J. M. Skinner, originally from West Virginia, became superintendent in 1913. The name was changed to the current Holding Institute. New buildings were added, and the high school department gained state accreditation. The operation of the school was transferred from the Foreign Missionary Society to the women’s section of the Division of National Methodist Missions.
In 1930, Miss Carmen Blessing became superintendent. In addition to the Great Depression, Holding had been adversely impacted by floods in 1922 and 1932, which destroyed many of the school records. By this time, dozens of students had graduated, some of whom were children of Holding alumni. In 1937, Anton Deschner, a Holding teacher, was named superintendent. About a third of the students came from Mexico; others were from Texas, Japan, China, Cambodia, Bolivia, Cuba, Panama, and the Republic of the Congo.
By 1954, Holding’s enrollment peaked at 350. In June of that year, Laredo experienced its most severe flooding on record, with the Rio Grande cresting ten feet above its previous record flood level. Nine institute buildings were destroyed and three others were rendered unusable. The grand piano was moved to a safe location into Laredo, and many of the books were placed on the top floors of the buildings. The Holding bell, which became the symbol of the institution, an iron archway, and a few papers were all that remained of the 74-year-old institution.
Holding then moved to a new site off Santa Maria Avenue in north Laredo, the land having been purchased by Methodist donors in the anticipation that further flooding would require relocation. The kindergarten and elementary grades were dropped. When Superintendent Deschner relocated to South Carolina, the leadership passed to Victor Cruz-Aedo. Funding was procured in 1956 and 1957 for an auditorium-cafeteria and four classrooms. A boy’s dormitory and a large dining hall, and a kitchen were added in 1958 and 1959. Later additions included a physical education dressing room, a library, a laboratory, and faculty residences. In 1964, work began on a new girls’ dormitory with a capacity to house sixty-six.
Cruz-Acedo left the superintendency in 1964, and the Reverend Maurice C. Daily assumed the post in 1965. Improvements steadily followed. Deschner Memorial Tower was erected to hold the old Holding bell. In 1967, a gymnasium was added, and the boys’ dormitory was air-conditioned. By the early 1970s, the school had sixty-four girls and forty-five boys in the dormitories as well as eighty-three day students. The boarding school closed in 1983.
In 1987, the community center opened at 1102 Santa Maria Avenue in downtown Laredo, where classes were offered in upholstery, cake decorating, and flower arrangement. Holding also enrolled students in day and evening classes in conversational Spanish and English as well as English as a Second Language.
Holding also offered training in computer skills and preparation for those taking the General Education Development high school equivalency diploma. Holding served students on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Several thousand Holding alumni reside and work in countries throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Amber Milton Yeary, II (born 1938), a retired Laredo businessman and a former president of the Texas School Boards Association and the last director of Holding Institute, closed the facility on November 15, 2011.
- Joe B. Finley, Laredo rancher and co-founder of the United Independent School Distric]
- Honoré Ligarde, state representative for Webb County, 1963-1973
- Gabriela A. Trevino, "Flood of 1954: Devastating natural disaster caused serious damage," Laredo Morning Times, June 28, 2015, pp. 1, 18A.
- John H. McNeely. Holding Institute. The Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
- History of Holding Institute. holdingsinst.tripod.com. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
- F. J. Von Zuben, G. R. Hayes, and E. C. Anderson (November 1957). Public Health Disaster Aid in the Rio Grande Flood of 1954. Public Health Reports, Vol. 72, No. 11. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
- "Laredo has long history with flooding," KGNS-TV (NBC), July 6, 2010.
- Holding Institute Community Center. Holding Institute. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
- Tricia Cortez, "Holding Institute serves students on the border," The Laredo Morning Times, October 14, 2009.