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 …
This summer we had the opportunity to excavate in several different areas of north campus. We began the summer working in conjunction with the Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project. This required us to survey down the center median, as well as either side of the …
Since we last checked in we’ve had a busy week and a half. The Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project is coming to a close, so we’ve been able to finish work there and move onto testing other research questions.
U.S. Weather Bureau
Although the rejuvenation construction was not directly impacting the north west corner of the Abbot entrance, I wanted to conduct a survey in this area so that we could consider the entire west side of the road surveyed. The NW corner was home to the U.S. Weather Bureau. The building was constructed in 1909 and demolished in 1948. Dewey Seeley and his family occupied the building, while Mr. Seeley recorded daily weather data and provided forecasts for the area. As the campus, and East Lansing, grew around the Weather Bureau Mr. Seeley complained about the encroachment near the bureau. He petitioned the federal government for the construction of a new weather bureau in a different location, and a new structure was built by the federal government on land leased by the college. That building is today known as the Wills House, located just west of Mayo Hall. From 1927-1940 the old bureau building served as the music center, from 1940 to approx. 1943 it was the Works Progress Administration Headquarter, and finally the Placement Center until its destruction in 1948.
The bureau was demolished by George Boone of Jackson MI, who paid the college $400 to remove the building. Because Mr. Boone paid the college, rather than being paid by them, our investigation sought to discover how much of the weather bureau remained after he salvaged/scrapped the building.
We were unable to locate any intact foundation walls or floors. However, a dense layer of rubble does cover that entire area. Artifacts were mostly building related including bricks, nails, roofing slate, and concrete. One curious artifact category were bricks made out of concrete, something we had not encountered before. Two of the concrete bricks were sent to Civil Engineering for inspection.
Lansing State Journal
While we were excavating the weather bureau a reporter from the Lansing State Journal came by to write a story on CAP. We even made it on the cover of the journal! The complete article, along with a short video, can be found on the journal’s website.
Beal’s Botanical Laboratory
The location of Beal’s first botanical laboratory is marked with a large historical plaque. We did some brief investigations in this area in 2009 or 2010, but aside from probing have just assumed that the building foundation was still present. Earlier this week we opened three 1×1 units on the eastern edge of the grassy area to determine the extent of the foundations/artifact presence. We were also trying to determine the orientation of the building.
Our excavations were exploratory in nature, and we limited the disturbance to three units. One unit appears to be outside the extent of the buildings footprint, but two units located walls.
Unit one locate a large field stone wall just below the modern ground surface. This wall section ran almost due N/S (4 degrees), and was 80 cm in total height. The wall was surrounded by sterile fill sand, most likely a builders trench from the construction of the building. Interestingly, although this unit had melted glass, they did not have a burn layer.
Unit two located a smaller, possibly interior, wall made of medium size cobbles with a mortar layer on top. On one side of the wall was sterile fill sand, while the other side had a larger rubble and burn layer. This unit also encountered large amounts of burned and cracked glass, as well as hand cut square nails.
Finding these two walls, as well as discussing the presence of a third known wall with people that work in the Beal Botanical Garden, helps us better understand the orientation and current state of the structure.
Author: Lisa Bright
Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes October 21st, 1948: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-43F/meeting-minutes-october-21-1948/
Spring classes have ended, thousands of people have graduated, and a relative calm has spread over the campus. While many people kick back and relax over their summer vacation, this is the busy season for us here at CAP. During the summer we’re busy excavating, …
Today is officially Day of Archaeology (#dayofarch). http://www.dayofarchaeology.com Here at Michigan State, we have finished the field school, completed most construction-related projects, and are cleaning artifacts, organizing things and preparing for the new school year. I (Lynne Goldstein) am personally doing conference calls and trying …
The summer field season has continued to be busy. Last Monday, while making our routine monitoring rounds of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvements construction site we noticed a concentration of bricks and dark soil near the Museum. As previously mentioned, the first week of the season we located the partial foundation of Williams Hall near the museum, so a find in this area wasn’t surprising. However, what this new site ended up being surprised us all.
Monday afternoon was spent locating the limits of the brick concentration. Consulting some of the overlay maps, we hypothesized that this may be part of the northern portion of the old Engineering Shop. But it didn’t match quite up well enough to the engineering shop on the maps. Upon further reflection the shape of the structure (a 2 meter by 2 meter square) with close proximity to Saint’s Rest and concentrations of extremely dark soil lead us to one conclusion, that this was most likely a privy. This is the first historic privy that CAP has located.
Privy’s are always extremely exciting finds because they inevitably contain large quantities of artifacts. Throughout the life of a privy, objects are both inadvertently dropped into the holding tank, and intentionally deposited as a means of disposal. They also tend to be very intact because even after it is decommissioned it is avoided because no one wishes to disturb its contents. This privy did not disappoint in terms of artifact quantity and quality.
The top of the foundation has only been mildly disturbed by the construction. We worked to first expose all four walls of the privy before excavating the center, and east/west extensions. Once the ruble layer had been removed, a large night soil layer was encountered. Night soil is a polite term for the remnants of human waste that collects inside privies (and other areas). It is a very dark black making is easily distinguishable from the surrounding soil, and only slightly stinky. (We were later told by the Field School that they could smell us approaching for lunch)
The night soil layer produced an incredible amount of artifacts for such a small area. Some of what we uncovered includes whole plates, drinking tumblers, intact bottles, eggshell, a large quantity of fish bones, and two porcelain dolls (one large, and one small). Preliminary research indicates that this deposit is likely from the mid to late 1800’s, with everything examined thus far dating pre 1890. This is an incredible find and we look forward to analyzing the collection and reporting on it as we move forward.
Author: Lisa Bright
As students begin to file out of campus, the orange cones start lining up as a sign of the upcoming summer construction projects. This will be my second summer as Campus Archaeologist and I feel much more prepared this year to expect the unexpected. We’ve …
This coming Thursday CAP has a meeting with MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) and Granger construction to discuss the upcoming summer construction projects. Most importantly, Phase 4 (final phase) of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvement, a.k.a the steam tunnel project. This project began in …
CAP took the last two weeks off of work due to the holiday and a lack of major construction needing our presence as we prepared to start the major accessioning project we are currently working on. However, at the tail end of last week, we were called out to do some survey underneath the bike lanes alongside the south side of the River Trail between Wells Hall and Erickson Hall.
The bike lanes were pulled up in preparation for a renovation of the river trail on the south side from the Sparty Statue all the way to Erickson Hall and Farm Lane. If you haven’t been on the trail recently, I hope you’ll be surprised to see a completely re-done trail with newly laid ‘green’ sidewalks and a smoother bike path running adjacent to the sidewalk! There are even ‘No Pedestrian’ signs painted into the bike path! This was all in an effort to streamline traffic south of the river where renovations were much needed; the gradient of the trail was also re-worked so as to reduce flooding throughout the year.
The area alongside the Red Cedar River has been a high activity area historically, and prehistorically. Native American groups often utilized the natural resources of the river, and CAP has found evidence for prehistoric occupation. From around 1900 to 1925, the era of campus history that CAP refers to as the Expansion Period, the area alongside the river became a focal point of campus. Several campus activities revolved around the river, including Homecoming floats which were sent down the river. Additionally, there are numerous pictures in the archives of students canoeing down the river and lounging by the riverside.
With this information in mind, we knew that systemically shovel testing the River Trail could tell us more about the historical use of the river. As the old trail was being pulled up we put in a shovel test pit every 10 meters from Wells Hall all the way down to Erickson Hall. Unfortunately, the survey wasn’t altogether super interesting, we found some nails and glass as usual. But towards the end of the day when we got down by Erickson Hall, we found a small piece of decorated transfer print whiteware and in another test pit we found an unusual number of nails, a rusted metal water pipe, and some engraved masonry. The increase in artifacts at Erickson Hall makes sense, because of the proximity to the Farm Lane Bridge. That Farm Lane Bridge is one of the oldest on campus (obviously the bridge itself isn’t original, but the location of the crossing is) therefore it is logical that artifacts would be more prevalent closer to a water crossing. Additionally, the riverbank closer to Wells Hall shows evidence of modification, which was most likely done to prevent flooding.
We look forward to more River Trail renovations so we can discover more about MSU’s use of the Red Cedar.
Author: Josh Schnell