Excavating behind Old Hort

We had a busy summer here at CAP. We were able to excavate at some interesting and important places such as the Abbott Entrance and Beals first botanical lab. Our last project area for the summer was behind the Old Horticulture building on north campus. IPF was planning to repave part of the Lot #7 parking lot, so we thankfully had time in the schedule to begin investigating in that area to better prepare us for what we might encounter.

Although this area is a green (at the right time of year) field popular for tailgating this space has had many different identities. CAP had done some investigations in this general area before, when we surveyed the Old Botany greenhouse before its demolition, however we had never surveyed the area directly south of Old Horticulture. Since the opening of campus this area served three main purposes: 1. Farm/barn area, 2. Detention Hospitals, and 3. Experimental Greenhouse.

View of farm area and barns taken from atop the Dairy Building - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

View of farm area and barns taken from atop the Dairy Building – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Prior to the early 1900s this area contained a horse barn, dairy/cattle barn, grain barn, horticultural barn, miscellaneous small buildings, grazing/animal pen areas, as well as at least two residential buildings for farm employees.  Some of these buildings were demolished or moved to make way to the building of the Dairy and other buildings.

Detention Hospitals with Horticultural Barn visible in right corner - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Detention Hospitals with Horticultural Barn visible in right corner – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Showing Detention Hospitals (52-55) and the Horticulture Barn (57) - Images Source: MSU Map Library

1915 Campus Map Showing Detention Hospitals (52-55) and the Horticulture Barn (57) – Images Source: MSU Map Library

In 1908, to better meet the public health needs of the growing university, four Detention (aka Quarantine) Hospitals were built.  These cottages were demolished in 1923 to make room for the Horticulture building.  At that same time a large greenhouse was erected that was used for experimental work on flowers and vegetables.

View of Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

View of Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse were built in 1925.  Though Old Horticulture remains today, the Greenhouse was demolished in the late 1990s since it had fallen in disrepair.

We started a series of shovel test pits in the area, wondering if we would be able to find evidence for the past uses of this area. Unfortunately we were quickly faced with obstacles as the soil was dry and incredibly compact, slowing our progress. However, we soon found ample evidence from the campus greenhouse. We are still working on washing and cataloging everything, but we uncovered terra-cotta pot fragments, water pipes, plant tags, and plant material.

STPs behind Old Hort - Image Source Lisa Bright

STPs behind Old Hort – Image Source Lisa Bright

Jack Biggs uses a mattock to dig in the compact soil. Image Source Lisa Bright

Jack Biggs uses a mattock to dig in the compact soil. Image Source Lisa Bright

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs remove a large piece of water pipe - Image Source Lisa Bright

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs remove a large piece of water pipe – Image Source Lisa Bright

Artifacts including a salt glazed brick, plant tag, flower pot fragment, and snickers wrapper.

Artifacts including a salt glazed brick, plant tag, flower pot fragment, and snickers wrapper.

The extreme compactness of the dirt, as well as the overall depth of the material, which required unit expansion, meant we only completed a few rows of stps/units.  Perhaps in the future we will be able to return and continue to look for evidence of the detention hospitals and farm buildings.

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