Foundation Beneath our Feet: Uncovering the Old Vet Building

By Josh Schnell, Erica Dziedzic, and Kate Frederick

We began this CAP excavation season with an exciting find; on the first day of monitoring the construction work near Agriculture Hall revealed an old foundation! The layer was only about a foot thick and covered with a waterproofing-cement type of covering. Our initial guess was that this was some sort of patio, but it was pretty deep for a patio foundation.We mapped the feature and took plenty of pictures, but since no artifacts were found, we couldn’t do much more.

Portion of "patio feature" that was found in front of Ag Hall.

Portion of “patio feature” that was found in front of Ag Hall.

The construction crew also had found a “few bricks” south of the patio feature, across Auditorium Road, where they were starting to dig the trench for the West Circle Steam Renovation project. Upon further investigation, these “few bricks” turned out to be a foundation layer layer with a substantial amount of brick rubble on top. The foundation was composed of large stones and while most of the bricks were jumbled, and not structured, we soon found an intact corner of the building. Measurements and photos were quickly taken, but with our skeleton crew (just two of us), we didn’t have the manpower for any more excavation.

Portion of foundation and brick rubble found south of Ag Hall

Portion of foundation and brick rubble found south of Ag Hall

We decided instead, to turn our attention to figuring out what the building could have been.  Unfortunately, MSU Archives was closed last week, so we had to rely on only the resources CAP had. Our research revealed that the first foundation feature by Ag Hall (the patio feature) was most likely the remnants of the original Ag Hall, which burned in 1916. We also discovered that the brick jumble and foundation to the south of Ag Hall may be the remains of the Veterinary Lab, which was built in 1885 or possibly the old carpentry shop.

1885 photo of the Veterinary Lab

1885 photo of the Veterinary Lab

Using old campus maps, we had we were able to overlay those maps onto our GIS map of campus. Based on the overlay and the GPS coordinate taken at the site, we determined that the building was most likely the “Old Veterinary Lab” as it was labeled on the 1927 campus map. Additionally, the artifacts we recovered (animal bones and a metal tag) also pointed us in the direction of the Old Vet Lab.

Luckily, we were able to test our hypothesis further because the following day we found even more of the brick rubble when the steam trench was being expanded. The newly exposed debris show heavy signs of burning, evidenced by huge charred beams along with melted window glass.

CAP crew working side by side with the construction crew.

CAP crew working side by side with the construction crew.

West wall of Old Vet Lab

West wall of Old Vet Lab

We really wanted to know the extant of the building, so we dug a trench to the west, in an effort to find the wall. The wall was discovered at the end of the day, so we asked the construction crew to halt digging of the trench for another day.

The following day, with a much larger crew, we continued to chase the wall in hopes of finding a corner. Further to the north of the construction trench we could see a corner of the building (which was not going to be excavated further) so we knew we were on the right track. Finally, with the help of a mini-excavator removing the overburden, we found the southwest corner of the Old Vet Lab.

 

Now that the MSU Archives are open this week, we will continue to research the history of this building; when is was destroyed/burned is our biggest question. So expect another blog post soon with some more answers.

3 thoughts on “Foundation Beneath our Feet: Uncovering the Old Vet Building

  1. In the third paragraph you mention “the remnants of the original Ag Hall, which burned in 1916.” Did you mean to refer to the Mechanical Shops which burned in 1916? It was next to the old Veterinary Laboratory.

  2. That sounds like a pretty fascinating summer job, Josh, Erica and Kate! Kudos, and we look forward to hearing more about it in the future.

  3. We found two separate foundation features that day, one which we believe to be the old vet lab, and the second (found 2ft from the front of Ag Hall)was most likely part of the original Ag Hall (which burned down in 1916). The mechanical shops also burned in 1916 (apparently it was a bad year for fires), but those were to the SW of the old Vet Lab.

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