Even during a quarantine, archaeology does not stop. While we have not been able to get out into the field until recently, we at CAP have been working hard to create historical background summaries of areas that will be impacted by construction (a critical part …
As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated in several seasons by CAP near the location where Saints’ Rest …
During this semester, I have been researching the use history of the Adams Field/Music Building area ahead of proposed construction. This work has reminded me just how complex, and sometimes odd, college campuses can be, and the many activities that take place within them. On researching this one particular area, it seems as if a million different things happened there in just the last 162 years; a slight exaggeration, but not by much! Sporting events, side shows, dances, two presidential visits, farming, construction and landscape modification, and temporary camps are just a few of the many documented happenings in this particular part of campus. Here, I will quickly review a few of these events that I have not already discussed elsewhere and explore their importance for us at the Campus Archaeology Program.
One of the more important activities, the reason an armory and Adams Field were originally constructed around 1885, was for military training. While much of this training involved marching, drills, exercise, and the occasional skirmish, practice with different firearms also took place (Kuhn 1955:155-156). Physical training facilities, in high demand by students, were also housed in the armory, such as “parallel and horizontal bars, a trapeze, rings, ladders, dumb bells, and Indian clubs” (Kuhn 1955: 156). Directly north of the armory, an updated bathhouse was constructed in 1902 in order to aid in this physical training and provide students with a readily available place to bathe. The two buildings were connected by a corridor and the bathhouse held, among other features, a “plunge bath” that was 35 ft. by 17 ft. in dimensions and about 5’ 6” deep (Beal 1915:277).
While military and athletic pursuits were a major activity in this part of campus, other events took place here as well. The armory was occasionally used for lectures, speeches, and even commencement ceremonies early in the history of the University (Beal 1915:271). It was also utilized as an extra living space for summer visitors when rooms were short, as well as the headquarters for doctor’s visits before a hospital was established on campus (Kuhn 1955:168, 188). While we don’t often think of this space as a residential area, in 1888 the first Abbot Hall was built just north and east of the present Music Building. This space became the women’s dormitory early on and housed a fully equipped cooking laboratory and dining room (Beal 1915:271-272; Lautner 1978: Key to Map, 120).
Large university events also have a long history in this part of campus. Before the university athletic program was funded by the university and ticket purchases, teams were supported by fundraising. The largest fundraiser, started in 1907, was the athletic carnival, which took place in the armory and Adams Field. For one day each year, each campus group would host or create an attraction or side show, including a gambling station, wild west saloon, shooting gallery, the Russian bearded lady, and “Wadji, the fossil bedbug, sole survivor of ‘Saint’s Rest’” (M.A.C. Record, March 2, 1909; April 13, 1909). Along with these attractions, the domestic science department supplied food for hungry attendees. The day began with a parade through campus and ended with a large dance in the armory, where the “floor was covered with dancers tripping the light fantastic” (M.A.C. Record, April 30, 1912). The revelry continued long into the night (M.A.C. Record, April 30, 1912). This event was able to raise enough money to help support the athletic program each year, until it became unnecessary in 1912 (Kuhn 1955:257). Other campus dances, such as the Junior Hop, an institution in campus social life for decades, were held in the armory as well (Kuhn 1955:191). One sitting President, Theodore Roosevelt (1907), and one future President, Barack Obama (2007), have also given speeches on Adams Field, which drew massive crowds from all over the area (Kuhn 1955:202; Stawski 2011).
All of these different activities involve material culture in some way. While many of these events would have been cleaned up, leaving few archaeological traces, even the loss and trampling of individual objects over time may contribute to the archaeological record that we at Campus Archaeology find and document. Other activities, such as the leveling of Adams Field for sports and military drills, might destroy earlier archaeological evidence and context by moving and mixing up objects that were once peacefully buried. All of these events, no matter how large and what types of objects were used, are important to document, as they all, over time, possibly contribute to what we find, or do not find, in a particular area. They also contribute to our overall understanding of a space and the role it played over time in campus history. While this area today is just an open field and a few school buildings, it has seen things over the last 162 years that few other parts of campus have.
Author: Jeff Painter
Beal, W. J.
1915 History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors. Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing.
1955 Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
Lautner, Harold W.
1978 From an Oak Opening: A Record of the Development of the Campus Park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969. Volume 1. Self-published manuscript on file at the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
M.A.C. Record, Vol. 14, No. 22, March 2, 1909
M.A.C. Record, Vol. 14, No. 27, April 13, 1909
M.A.C. Record, Vol. 17, No. 30, April 30, 1912
2011 “Walter Adams Field Survey: Archaeological Report”. Campus Archaeology Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
It may seem unusual to dig up a pair of shoes, yet shoes are not totally uncommon on archaeological excavations. Just last week a report from Northumberland, England announced a find of more than 400 shoes discovered at the Roman fort of Vindolanda. Typically the entire …
The West Circle neighborhood is known for its beautiful Collegiate Gothic dorms, with beautifully sculpted gardens and peaceful stands of trees. One grove of trees though holds exceptional significance in the legacy of our university. Just east of Williams Hall is a grove of thirty-three …
This summer CAP has the opportunity to again look for the site of the Faculty Row buildings located where Landon Hall currently is as well as artifacts that might give us insights into early student life. Cowles House is the only building left of the Faculty Row buildings that ran along West Circle Drive from almost the beginning of MSU to the 1930s-40s. Landon Hall was built in 1947-1948 on the site of two of the Faculty Row buildings. As former Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock stated in an earlier CAP blog post from 2009: “Previous archaeological work done by CAP has investigated the sites of the other Faculty Row buildings, located where Landon and Campbell Hall are now located, but there were no intact archaeological deposits.” With the removal of asphalt and concrete behind Landon Hall this summer to renovate and enlarge Landon’s dining hall, CAP will again have a chance to investigate this area that has been so important to the development of Michigan State University.
The dorms that make up West Circle Dormitory complex are all name for women that have made important contributions to MSU. Landon Hall was named for Linda Eoline Landon the first female instructor and the first female librarian at MSU. According to the Board of Trustees minutes from 1891, Linda’s first salary as a librarian was for $500 a year. This was during the time that the library was in Linton Hall which was also the administration building. Linda oversaw the library from its time in Linton to when it was in the current MSU Museum. For 30 years Linda was also the person that put the ribbons on diplomas. She was beloved by her students which is shown in the 1912 yearbook which was dedicated to her for “tutoring thousands of students in the art of appreciating, loving, and valuing these true friends in life – books”.
Landon Hall has a particular personal interest to me as my mother Karen Moon Schaefer (known as a student by her maiden name Karen Moon) lived in Landon as a student from 1966 till her graduation in 1969. She served as Landon Hall’s President in 1969 and therefore sat on the Women’s Inter-residence Council which was made up of all of the presidents of the women’s residence halls.
Landon Hall has four floors and an “H” shape to it with the east wing smaller than the west wing and the middle hall extending slightly beyond both the west and east wings. In the center of the building on the ground floor is the cafeteria that is being expanded this summer. In the cafeteria there are terra cotta reliefs that where created by Professor Leonard Jungwirth who also created Sparty (Standford and Dewhurst 2002:67). Landon was a female only dorm but now is co-ed. My mother told me stories that during her time there if a boy was in the dorm on her floor the girls would yell out “Boy on the floor!” to the rest of the girls so the girls would know not to leave their rooms in robes, curlers or other states of undress that they wouldn’t want a boy to see.
My own personal connection to Landon Hall drove me to volunteer to investigate the history of Landon for CAPs when it was offered. What I found makes me hopeful that our investigation this summer will be successful. As well I am proud to be a student at a university that from its beginning has recognized the women that have been a cornerstone of its success.
Carefully look at this map of MSU’s campus from the 1880’s. There is a dark black line running from East Grand River Road into the Sacred Space, and then it turns into a squiggly line that goes all the way into the Red Cedar River. …
You may have noticed driving around the newly replaced West Circle Drive that they are beginning to pull up and replace the sidewalks around Linton Hall. Sidewalk removal is a wonderful opportunity for archaeology. Unlike roads which are deeply excavated, sidewalk construction is a shallow …
It’s been a busy summer for Campus Archaeology. If you were on campus it was hard to miss all the construction thats been going on. West Circle Drive was completely torn up on the northern side, Chestnut Road and Kalamazoo Street were alternatively interrupted, and various smaller projects are continuing to occur across the campus. Campus Archaeology was quite busy bouncing around these projects. We conducted surveys along the entire length of the northern portion of West Circle Drive and along Chestnut Road’s western boundary. We also were actively overseeing and testing areas around the Hannah Admin building, Music Practice building, and Brody-Emmons complex. We conducted a major excavation of a portion of the Morrill Hall boiler building found under East Circle Drive as well!
Overall, we were actively present at 8 different construction or demolition projects on campus, conducted 3 full archaeological surveys, surveyed 11 sweeps, dug 220 survey test pits, opened up 3 excavation units, and conducted one rescue excavation. Our team varied over the year, but in total we had 11 field and lab volunteers including graduate, undergraduate and high school students from a variety of schools. From our field work we recovered approximately 640 artifacts including various nails, pieces of bottle or window glass, ceramic sherds, and unique items like a portion of a plastic comb, a penny from 1897, a porcelain bead, and the great bottles we discussed in the past couple weeks (Read about the Vicks and Whiskey bottle here or the Listerine and Vitalis bottle here). We also found the old boiler building for Morrill Hall that dates from 1900-1904! You can read about the find and excavation on this blog post: Historic Boiler House Uncovered.
The map above shows all of the shovel test pits (STPs) that we excavated for the West Circle Steam project, with the blue dots representing holes that we didn’t find artifacts and green representing those which did contain artifacts.
So after five months of survey, excavation and lab work, what have we learned about MSU that we didn’t know before?
Morrill Hall had an early boiler building attached to it that fueled the women’s dorm prior to the construction of the larger main utilities facility in 1904. It was a large stone building, and while it was razed to make room for new roads there are still portions of the foundation and walls left underneath West Circle Drive.
The sidewalk pattern currently found within West Circle Drive (also known as the Sacred Space) are not where the historic sidewalks are. We found remnants of the old cinder pathway near Linton hall that travels in a completely different direction than the modern sidewalk. It also matches a historic sidewalk we uncovered last summer during the fieldschool!
The current elevation of campus isn’t what it historically used to be either! Throughout our excavations near Linton Hall, we found layers of old rubble and building material suggesting that when buildings were removed they were placed on the landscape to even out the elevation. As we know from testing near Beal Street, the campus has frequently used collapsed buildings in order to build up the landscape and prevent flooding. Our finds this summer show that it wasn’t limited to the banks of the river.
Our community wants to learn more about our history at MSU! Throughout the project we’ve had numerous people stop by to check out our work including those attending Grandparent’s University, the various construction crews we worked around, and people who were just walking by. We’ve even had people get involved in our work, bringing us historic photos and artifacts that they’ve found on their own.
Thanks for following us throughout the summer. We’re looking forward to the return of students in the next week and the beginning of the new semester!
This is a blog post by Rachel Cohen; Rachel has been volunteering for Campus Archaeology throughout the summer. She is an undergraduate student from University of Michigan, majoring in archaeology. While I had some previous experience working with ancient artifacts, this was my first experience …