This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an…
For the past year, I have been investigating the gendered landscape of the historic campus. University Archives keeps the scrapbooks made by past female students and we can find newspaper clippings detailing female exploits on campus, but until recently it has remained fairly difficult to…
For most people, Detroit is known as the Motor City. With the big three companies situated around the city, Detroit is a proud producer of automobiles for customers all over the world. However, what people don’t know is that cars aren’t the only product that Detroit was once famous for. Even before the first Model T rolled off the assembly line and on to the city streets, Detroit was known as the “Stove Capital of the World.” Because of Michigan’s abundance of natural resources, the 19th and 20th century would prove to be an industrious time period for Michigan; the large amount of cast iron stoves produced in Michigan during this time is a clear indication of this. There were many stove producing companies within the state, but the “big three” included the Detroit Stove Works, Michigan Stove Company, and the Peninsula Stove Company.
So why is this important? As you may already know, the Campus Archaeology staff spent part of this past June at the Saints’ Rest site, digging under the sidewalks and eventually expanding to a trench. Saint’s Rest was the first dorm to be used on the MSU campus, and it stood between the years 1856 and 1876, until it (sadly) caught on fire and burnt to the ground. The site was first excavated in 2005 by CAP, and we have continued working on it since then.
This summer, we were thrilled to discover a piece of a (very rusted and burnt) stove door at the Saints’ Rest site. It’s not very large, and with the large amount of rust on it it’s hard to make out many features. However, we do know it says “Detroit Mich” on the center of the door, and the number 25 is on the bottom edge. Because Saints’ Rest burnt down in 1876, we know that the stove had to have been manufactured and used before 1876. This is interesting, because the Detroit Stove Works wasn’t founded until 1864, and the Michigan Stove Company was founded in 1874. This probably means that the stove we found on campus was probably one of the first stoves to be made in Michigan for it to have been on campus the day Saints’ Rest burnt down in 1876.
This is one of the coolest parts about historical archaeology. We can take written and recorded accounts of what was going on at a certain point in history and compare it to the artifacts we find. This comparison then helps us to fill in the gaps between what is written and what is found. The stove door we found is an example of this. From the writing on the door, we know it was manufactured in Detroit, Michigan. From there we can figure out that it was probably made from either the Detroit Stove Works company or the Michigan Stove Company. We also know the stove lived a short life – it was manufactured in the late 1860s to early 1870s, and was then burnt down with the rest of the building it resided in during the Saints’ Rest fire of 1876. Of course, we’ll never know exactly what “life” this stove led, but from the information we do know, we can figure out the general idea of where it was made, who made it, and what became of it.
“Tales of Michigan” by Constance M. Jerlecki
Saints’ Rest was first erected in 1856. It is the second building constructed at Michigan State University and the first dormitory. The name, Saints’ Rest, was a nickname from the students to the building more commonly known as the ‘hall’ or ‘home’. It was named…
The large amount of rain East Lansing has experienced over the past three weeks has deeply affected the construction and archaeology on campus. This delay in work has allowed us at the Campus Archaeology Program to turn our attention to the other side of archaeology: finds…
Summer 2013 has provided MSU’s campus community with many changes. While students are partaking in various summer activities away from campus, MSU has push forwarded with various construction projects to revamp an aging campus infrastructure. Returning students in the fall may not recognize parts of the campus that they left in the spring. In particular, campus north of the Red Cedar has been subjected to various projects throughout these spring and summer months. This means that MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program has been out in full force ensuring that MSU’s rich historical past is preserved and to make sure that we mitigate any potential damage.
On this particular day, we found ourselves working on around fifteen shovel test pits, while monitoring and documenting the continued demolition of Morrill Hall. The area we focused on was a small grass triangle formed by sidewalk borders that were due to be taken up in the next week for reconstruction. This location was of importance to us due to the proximity it had with both the original dorm, Saint’s Rest, and the second dorm, Old Williams Hall. The area of interest is located next to the MSU Museum and the MSU Museum parking lot. The modern day grass triangle is located to southeast of where the Old Williams Hall existed and to the southwest of where Saint’s Rest existed. A potential prime spot for historical artifact concentrations.
Our initial shovel tests (STs) began closes to the east part of the museum and its parking lot, or the west part of the triangle. Most of our test pits showed regular stratigraphy and small or no artifact densities. As we moved to the east of the triangle, closer to Saint’s Rest, we began encountering higher artifact densities. Our test pits closes to Saint’s Rest provided interesting finds. One test pit provided evidence of animal butchering, while another had a high enough concentration of whiteware, stoneware, pipe pieces, and glass that we decided that we should open it up to a one meter by one meter test unit.
As we dug the test unit, the concentration of artifacts began to wane. This high concentration was only present in the A horizon and the very top of the B horizon. Once we made our way through this artifact concentration we came upon some unique, linear soil lines. One line, separated the north third of the unit from the middle third. The north third of the unit was the natural B horizon, a dark orange loam. This was right next to the middle third of the unit, which was a light tan fill. The south third of the unit was the same as the middle third but had been mostly removed by the original STP. This strange anomaly left us contemplating what might have caused this. Original thoughts were that prior excavations had all ready happened in this area. Why would there be such a distinct, linear line?
As the modern day archaeologists that we are, we decided to turn to Twitter to see if our follow archaeologists could help us solve this mystery. With the help of past Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock, we were able to determine that the light tan fill of the middle third and south third of the unit was likely due to a backhoe, presumably for a utility trench. To make sure that we were not dealing with a feature of a different kind, we put in test pits about half a meter to the north and south of our test unit. Both of these units had little to no artifact densities, as well as a natural stratigraphy. These final two STP’s helped support the idea that the soil lines in the test unit we were dealing with were due to a utility line disturbance.
Michigan State University’s landscape is consistently changing. The area north of the Museum and west of Linton hall, known as the sacred space, is a great example of this. Although no buildings have been built within this space the changing of the roads from inside the space…
I spent my year working on the sustainability project with a specific focus on using University Archives materials to understand food and transportation on the historic campus. Through pamphlets, diaries, newspaper clippings, photos, reports, and ledgers, I pieced together information about early student experience in…
This summer, Campus Archaeology is going to be very busy doing archaeological surveys and monitoring various construction projects. There are eight different projects occurring over the summer that we will be a part of in some manner. Over the past couple months we’ve been meeting with Physical Plant and construction company members to discuss the projects. We’ve done research with the MSU Archives to determine the historic significance of the area. We’re just about ready, and now all we have to do is wait for all the projects to start up!
The first project is the reconstruction of the Jenison Parking Lot. As we’ve discussed about before, parking lots and sidewalks can be great for archaeologists, because they protect any historic or prehistoric material underneath them. We’ve also had good luck finding things on the banks of rivers, so this project will give us the opportunity to do just that and explore a new section of the Red Cedar River.
Next, there is the renovations occurring at Landon Hall. This will also involve removal of asphalt and concrete, under which will we be testing for artifacts. We know that this area was once Faculty Row, and had a number of residences for faculty that were built in the late 19th century. Third, the Bogue Street round-about is being redesigned to match the intersection between Farm Ln, Shaw Ln, and Red Cedar Rd. This project has already begun. There is also a possible project along the railroad and arboretum to the south. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams will be placing power ducts from the Power Plant to their main site on Bogue and Wilson, so this will required some survey.
There are also two major demolitions that are going to occur. The first is the Old Botany Greenhouse, part of which has already been removed. The greenhouses are over 100 years old, and no longer are in use. The second demolition is the one we’ve all been talking about- the Morrill Hall demolition. Sadly, the building cannot be maintained, so it will be torn down over the summer. For both of these, we will be recording the process for history and then checking the sites prior to renovation.
Finally, just as there was last year, a section of West Circle Drive is going to be removed to replace steam tunnels. We will be closely working with the team to record and survey all their work. In particular we hope to find out more about what happened to the brook that ran through MSU’s north campus, and whether there are remains of the bridge that once was there. Along with this project there will also be some sidewalk replacement around the Sacred Space.
It will be an exciting summer, and we invite you to come out to visit us throughout May, June and July. Further updates on the blog will be given about specific project details, and we will be sharing information from the field on facebook and twitter!
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…