In 1845, the Republic of Texas chartered Baylor University at Independence, and it began on the west side of town on Academy Hill. Shortly, work on a second campus began here at Windmill Hill (Allen's Hill). James Huckins developed a site plan and a nearby quarry provided "superior building rock." Initially, Academy Hill served as the preparatory campus and Windmill Hill as the academic campus. In 1851, though, president Rufus Burleson directed development of the male department here, with the female department at Academy Hill.
Early school buildings on Windmill Hill included frame dormitories and Graves Hall, a stone classroom structure built 1849-51 and named for the school's first president, Henry L. Graves. In all, eight buildings are known to have existed here as part of the school, and there may have been others. The structures included: Burleson Domicile, "The Octagon," built 1856-58; Houston Hall, for science classes and the library, built 1859-62; and Tryon Hall, the three-story main building, begun in 1861, prior to the Civil War, but not completed until 1882.
Baylor University showed early promise at Independence, but facing declining enrollment and economic concerns, trustees voted to merge with Waco University, abandoning this site by 1886. Crane College and an orphanage for African American boys later
utilized the buildings, but the efforts were short-lived. Fires, neglect and demolition took their toll, and by the mid-20th century all structures were gone and cattle owned by the Charles Klatte family grazed the hillside. Later archeological investigations and historical research provided evidence of the buildings, and the core of a campus that once included over 40 acres is now a park, commemorating Baylor University's historic ties to Independence and Windmill Hill.