The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will join with Stephen Terry, author of the postcard book “Michigan Agricultural College: 1900-1925,” for their first-ever walking tour of MSU's West Circle at 10 a.m., Saturday, August 22. The tour is free and begins at Beaumont Tower. Attendees should park in the ramp adjacent to the Olin Health Center just off Grand River.
Terry said the area to be covered in the walk was called the College’s “sacred space” where most of the earliest buildings and activities took place.
The tour will cover both standing buildings and those that were lost to demolition or fire such as Engineering and Wells Hall which both burned.
Terry said it is important to discuss MSU’s earliest days from the perspective of its architecture.
“There are only 12 buildings on the current MSU campus that were erected before 1925,” he said.
Included in that are the original Library-Museum building which anchors part of the east end of the Circle.
The building, which was built in 1881 and was repurposed over time for uses such as the Administration Building, was a place where students in the 1960s could go for a $5 loan to tide them over. It is now called Linton Hall.
Other sites on the walk include the newer Museum building, Agricultural Hall and numerous building and sites on what once was called Laboratory Row including Eustace-Cole Hall, Old Botany, Cook Hall, Chittenden Hall, Marshall Hall and Morrill Hall which was torn down in 2013.
Terry said the construction of Morrill Hall in 1899-1900 was really the marker for the establishment of the first Women’s College on campus even though there was a women’s curriculum as early as 1896 and women first attended the College in 1870. He said it served both as living quarters and classroom space for teaching domestic arts among other classes.
One example of the varied history of the buildings on the Circle is Chittenden Hall which was originally built in 1901 at the cost of $15,000 to house the dairy program and in 1913 was renamed the Forestry Building. It was recently renovated and now houses the University’s graduate programs.
Terry also will discuss the area where Gilchrist Hall is now located which was once home to Faculty Row, a collection of faculty residences. Only Cowles House is now remaining and that only has fragments from the original structure.
The “sacred ground” was also the site of many memorable gatherings and student events including the 1907 visit of President Theodore Roosevelt.
The author also will point out numerous quirky items along the tour including a horse watering trough which was a Senior Class Gift of the class of 1907 and was near where President Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “A Man Who Works With His Hands.”
Valerie Marvin said that the walking tour is one way to learn about the earliest architecture on campus but also about what went on inside and around the beautiful buildings.