You may have noticed that the area around Michigan Avenue from Harrison Road to East Grand River Road is completely covered with construction equipment, orange cones, and various people in neon yellow. In a half mile radius there are three different construction projects that are occurring, two of which will take part on portions of MSU’s campus. Over the next few months, Michigan Ave between Harrison and Grand River, the Beal Street Entrance to campus, and portions of West Circle Drive will be removed for various reasons. The construction began this week, and we were out there bright and early monday morning to discuss the projects and monitor the initial progress.
Tomorrow we will begin to survey one portion of the Michigan Ave project; the green space and sidewalks around the Beal Street Entrance to campus. During the survey we will be digging shovel tests so we can get a sample of what the area is like, and determine if it requires further archaeological investigation.
In order to determine the historic significance and potential of discovering archaeological sites, we first look at maps to see what has been located in this area and how it has changed over MSU’s history. A map drawn in 1959, but based on historic sources, recreates what the campus would have looked like in 1857 when it was first opened. We can see the area under investigation was forested, and the road that was present at the time appears quite similar in direction and pathway to the current road.
However, a map from 1870 shows that there was no road in this area, and that it was simply forest. This could mean that there was no large main road allowing access, perhaps a smaller path that didn’t warrant placement on the map, or that the 1959 reconstruction map of 1857 was incorrect about accessibility in this area. By the 1890’s though it is clear from maps that a road definitely exists in this area. More research needs to be done to determine what was actually in this area, how it has changed, and what we might possibly find. The survey will also help us determine what is in this area.
From historic sources, we know that this road would have led to Michigan Ave and Collegeville, a residential area founded in 1887 by Beal and Carpenter. As this area became more populated, this entrance under investigation would have been used more. By the 1920’s Collegeville was full of inhabitants. However- it appears the Beal Street Entrance area itself has been fairly vacant throughout history.
Feel free to come out to the site and visit us tomorrow! It may be a little cold, but the sunshine should help. We will be working at the site from about 8 to 10am, and would love some visitors!