MSU’s First Veterinary Laboratory
Our first week of CAP summer work focused almost exclusively on the remains of the first Veterinary Laboratory that was uncovered by construction work related to the ongoing West Circle Steam Renovation project. This week we were finally, able to get into the MSU Archives to do some research on the building. We found out quite a bit of history on a building that most don’t even realize was there.
The building was built in 1885 during President Willit’s administration. Like all early buildings on campus, it was built low bid. According to the Board of Trustees minutes (onthebanks.msu.edu), bids ranged from $5,400 to $7,600. The contract was awarded to Fuller and Wheeler for the amount of $5376.79. The building was to be finished by December 1st, of 1885 with plans being finalized by the Board of Trustees as late as April 20th, leaving only seven months to complete the construction. The deadline for construction was later extended to January 15th of 1886.
The construction of the laboratory put the newly formed Veterinary Science Department on a good working basis. President Willit even made it a condition of his taking up the position of President that the State place veterinary science on an independent basis at the college. The building stood three stories tall, built as a chateau-like structure, and contained an operating room, a lecture hall, a dissecting room, and a model room.
The Professor of Veterinary Science, Dr. E. A. A. Grange, who was a graduate of Ontario Veterinary College, was also named the State Veterinarian. The implementation of the veterinary program and the hurried construction of the laboratory was due to President Willit’s opinion regarding its necessity and Dr. Grange’s enthusiasm to make a name for MSU’s Veterinary Science. Dr. Grange said, upon the completion of the Vet lab, “The spring of 1886 may be looked upon as the most important epoch of our history in the veterinary department…for it was at the beginning of this term that we took possession of our new quarters.”
The Board of Trustees minutes also revealed details about the furnishing of the lab. The lecture room was to be furnished with raised seats at an extra expense of $55. Dr. Grange was given $150 to seat the lecture room as well as furnish his personal office. A sum of $150 was used to furnish an elevator to carry animals from the first to second floor, $25 for a stove in the lecture room, and $10 for a truck for the program. Dr. Grange was also given $60 to purchase specimens for veterinary lectures. In 1886, Dr. Grange was allotted $100 to acquire a compound microscope as well.
The Veterinary Department took possession of the laboratory during the spring term of 1886, a move which revolutionized the instruction of Veterinary Science at the college.
By 1930, the laboratory had been torn down to make way for a new drive that would curve south of Agriculture Hall and around in front of a new anatomy building to an entrance on Haslett Street. The Report of the Dean of Veterinary Science, Ward Giltner, from the Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture in 1930 said, regarding the construction of the new Surgery and Clinic that, “the old veterinary building had to go. It was in the was of needed Campus improvements, and it was in great need of repair and not worth repairing. It was carried on the inventory of $5,000, and it housed equipment listed at $23, 902.41.” We were unable to find an exact year that it was torn down, but we know it was between 1928 and 1930. There is not mention of its removal in any of the annual reports of board minutes, which leads us to guess that its removal was expected and anti-climactic.
Author: Josh Schnell
24th Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture of the State of Michigan from October 1, 1884, to September 30, 188.(1886). Lansing: Thorp and Goldberry Printers and Binders.
25th Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture of the State of Michigan from October 1, 1885, to September 30, 1886.(1886). Lansing: Thorp and Goldberry Printers and Binders.
Kuhn, M. (1955). Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
Meeting Minutes, 1885. (1885). On the Banks of the Red Cedar. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-21A/meeting-minutes-1885/
Sixty-ninth Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture of the State of Michigan and Forty-Third Annual Report of the Experiment Station from July 1, 1929 to June 30, 1930. (1930)