When I arrived to work last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we would be surveying the old Botany Greenhouses, particularly since I’ve walked by them for several years and, in passing, have always wondering about it’s “story.” The old Botany Greenhouses are slated for demolition sometime around January 2013. This complex consists of two greenhouses (one of which has already been torn down) and one headhouse and is located east of Old Botany and next to Lot 7 in the north academic district.
Why are the buildings being torn down? According to Physical Plant, the structures are relatively aged (~81 – 100 years old) and, because of safety hazards, were deemed to be unsafe and, as a result, are no longer in use.
Why are we documenting and mapping it? Once the building is razed it will be a green space. If future archaeologists survey or excavate here we need to have a record of what was there. The greenhouses had a number of ponds and an interesting landscape that could be confusing if future archaeologists were to dig it up without a reference.
At first glance, from the outside, the greenhouse looked run-down, abandoned, and decrepit. Once we gained access inside to carry out our survey work, my colleagues and I took a few moments to visually poke around the place, noting all of the invasive/pioneer species growing throughout. Soil was upturned, vine-y plants had forged unexpected pathways, and snippets of old identification cards were strewn throughout – with familiar Linnaean classificatory names such as Brassicaceae. We carried on with our assignment and took a series of measurements, such as the perimeter of the greenhouse, various depths, and remaining wooden walkway.
According to the Student Greenhouse Project, the nearby greenhouse and its accompanying “Butterfly House” were multi-functional and were used for various student activities, such as poetry readings, drum-circles, and concerts. In addition to being used as an educational facility, the local community used these spaces for weddings; health walks for heart patients from nearby Sparrow Hospital, and educational tours for elementary students from as far away as Saginaw Bay. For more on this, please visit the Student Greenhouse Project website for more information and be sure to check out their photos that document the recent history of these nearby greenhouses!