Heading down Washington Street in downtown Laredo toward Laredo College’s original campus takes you back in time to Laredo’s early days. Nestled on the banks of the Rio Grande, the 200-acre site traces its history back to 1849, when Camp Crawford was established to protect Laredo’s frontier. It was later renamed Fort McIntosh, in honor of war hero Lieutenant Colonel James McIntosh.
Since 1947, the old fort has been home to the city’s oldest institute of higher education.
At the end of World War II, the Laredo Independent School District created Laredo Junior College in 1947 on the site of historic Fort McIntosh to prepare returning soldiers for America’s new workforce. With 13 junior college sophomores achieving their associate in arts diplomas, that first year was the beginning of a long tradition of higher education in Laredo.
Today, the college is a two-campus district serving the diverse needs of a growing community. The downtown Fort McIntosh Campus maintains its historic origins, while history begins anew at our South Campus in South Laredo, with contemporary architecture and the latest technology, which opened in the spring of 2004. Our two campuses serve more than 10,000 students each semester through a variety of affordable academic programs, technical and vocational programs, non-credit community interest courses, and adult education courses that help area adults obtain English skills, job skills or a General Educational Development diploma.
Both campuses serve a three-county area composed of Webb, Jim Hogg and Zapata counties.
At the Fort McIntosh Campus, many classes and offices are housed in the same buildings that once housed military troops. Located on 200 acres at the western edge of Laredo, the fort was established as Camp Crawford in March 1849 near the point of an old Spanish and Indian river crossing. By 1850, the fort was renamed in honor of Lieutenant Colonel James Simmons McIntosh, a hero who lost his life after the Battle of Molino del Rey.
Fort McIntosh was one of a series of forts along the frontier named in honor of fallen officers in the Mexican-American War. Streets running throughout the campus also honor fallen heroes, presidents, fort commanders, officers and soldiers. The military buildings and the fort itself are archaeological landmarks listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
More recently, other campus buildings have honored military heroes, such as the Maravillo Gymnasium, named for Cpl. Quintin Maravillo, the first Laredo Junior College student to die in the line of duty in overseas military action. Also, the original post chapel was named for Private David B. Barkeley Cantu, the first Hispanic soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War I.
Once the college district was created, it quickly grew into the premier location for higher education in the region. By 1967, a campus master plan was developed and construction of new buildings was necessary to meet the demands of a growing community. From this plan developed a slew of modern facilities, including a math and science building, a first-class library, nursing and allied health classrooms, and facilities for business education, criminal justice and physical education. A vocational building opened in the spring of 1973, a college student center followed in April of 1974, and by 1978, a new learning center opened.
Recent history saw the name of Laredo Junior College change to Laredo Community College in 1993 and most recently to Laredo College in 2018. And these weren't the only changes on the horizon. The new millennium brought the construction of world-class facilities such as the Joaquin G. Cigarroa Science Laboratory, the Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center, and the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center.
As we look toward the future, the Laredo College District Board of Trustees has approved a nearly $100 million facilities master plan for the downtown campus, which will bring new facilities and renovate many of the historic buildings that still grace the historic campus.
In 2000, 83 percent of Laredo voters approved a bond for the construction of a new campus in Laredo’s southern region. Four years later, the affectionately named “South Campus” opened with great fanfare, sporting contemporary architecture and state-of-the-art equipment and programs. The 60-acre campus nestled near the banks of the Rio Grande contains seven buildings, including an academic and advanced technology building, a full-service library, and a state-of-the-art child development lab. Other anchor programs at the South Campus are transportation technology, where students learn the latest techniques in automotive technology and repair, and the South Texas Border Regional Police Academy, which houses the area’s first indoor firing range. The South Campus also offers core curriculum courses so students don’t have to travel between two campuses for their studies.
Completion of a comprehensive recreational complex is on the horizon for the South Campus, as well as expanded student activities to add more student life to the young campus.