Archive for November, 2009

Early Greenhouses

Recently the Campus Archaeology team could have been found just west of the Main Library digging once again.  This time in search for Beal’s greenhouse.  The green house is thought to be located on the crest of the eastern embankment of the Beal Gardens.  As an intern who has vested interests in making a map encompassing all of the campus buildings, both past and present, this was an intriguing topic.

On the campus today if one inquires about greenhouses they will be directed either towards the Old Botany building and the Greenhouse directly behind which plays host to a wonderful gallery of different climates and the plant species found there, as well as research.  The other option would be the massive complex of greenhouses located just south of the Bio-Chemisty building.  These greenhouses on the  other hand are used solely for research.

However, before the university was as large as it is today, and before it carried the title of a university, greenhouses could be found in a more central location on campus.  This first greenhouse was built in 1866  and torn down in 1974 and all of the plants moved to the new greenhouses closer to the Botanical Gardens, started in 1873 by professor William J. Beal.

The second greenhouse was constructed in 1874, shortly after Beal’s gardens had been created.  This greenhouse however was dubbed to small for the growing college and was torn down around 1913.  The third greenhouse was enlarged and built directly on top of it.  The location of our most recent excavation is somewhere near the location of these two greenhouses.

In 1904 a greenhouse for experimentation was built in front of the Horticultural Laboratory, known today as Old Horticulture.  This greenhouse was a gift of the Lord and Burnham company.  Also, two greenhouses built by professor Taft in 1889 were being used to test the preferable methods of greenhouse heating.  One was built to use steam as a heat source and the other hot water.  These were located Northwest of the Botanical Laboratory and were torn down before 1900.

Going back to our excavations. Near the end of our excavation an interesting artifact was found.  It was a flat corrugated piece of material.  It was gray and beige in color and was extremely fragile.  Though my analysis of the material was brief and my hypothesis is purely speculation, I believe it may be a piece of cooling ventilation.  Working in a greenhouse I have seen similar material used.  These sheets of corrugated material are stacked vertically, one next to the other and placed perpendicular in an exterior wall.  The small gaps between the sheets allow for a small amount of air-flow to enter the greenhouse and therefore air-flow can be constant but not too drastic or dynamic.  Also, nowadays these sheets will have water running through them, which allows for air to cool even more when entering the greenhouse on a hot day. I would find it to be very interesting if the artifact was, in fact, used for the similar function as in today’s greenhouses because it would show how although technology is rapidly increasing, in some cases it is better not to reinvent the wheel and use previous methods that have proven their functionality.


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It seems I’m long overdue for an update on my work with Morrill Hall.   Thus far I have concluded my raid of the archives in the search of Morrill Hall’s history.  A synopsis of the history I’ve collected can be found on the Campus Archaeology Wiki page at  http://campusarch.wikispaces.com/Morrill+Hall+%281900-Present%29

I have started diggin into my presentation I am to do as part of my internship at this point but for this post I’d like to share a particularly neat thing I came across in the archives.  One of the most interesting things I found was a list of “Regulations for the Women’s Building” which gives enormous insight on the lives of the women living in Morrill Hall in the early 1900s.  The archives have the list of regulations from 1901, 1904, and 1911.  Originally I came across a copy of one of the documents in a box of information compiled by a former History professor at MSU.  There was no context to this document and I was unsure where it came from or what year it was for.  The people at the archives are really something and when I asked them if they had any ideas to its origin, they found where it came from almost immediately.  It turns out the regulations were part of a handbook that the women living in Morrill Hall would have received.  It was a separate handbook from what the men would get, which makes sense since men and women were treated very differently at the college during the early 1900s.  These documents help to illustrate those differences and get a sense of a female student’s life at MAC.  Also it’s a good way to see both the differences and even a few similarities between the lives of college students today and those in the past.  


Some of the regulations include: 

“GUESTS – No student should have a guest over night without permission from the Dean.  Permission for meals must be obtained from the Steward before taking guests to the dining room and written notice left at her office.”  

Quiet Hours: – Quiet must be preserved during day and evening study hours.  Students should be in their rooms and quiet from 10 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. every day, and from 3 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Party Hours: – Social functions should be limited to one a week.  Four eleven o’clock parties are allowed each student during the term.  Students will register in Dean’s office before going to parties and cancel the same on return.

Hours for Callers: – On Friday and Saturday evenings until 9:45 p.m. callers may be received in the parlor and in the reception room. ” 

“LIGHT AND HEAT – Students will provide their own bulbs or electric light standards and are requested to turn out the light when leaving the room.  Neither alcohol, kerosene or gasoline lamps will be allowed under any circumstances.” 

“ILLNESS must be reported at once.” 

“WALKS – Students are not allowed to walk about the grounds after supper nor with young men outside the limits prescribed.” 

Also included in the regulations was a schedule of the hours in which bells were rang summoning women to meals and announcing study and rising times (6:15 a.m. every day except Sunday)!   There were also specifics on how women were to treat their dorm room as well as club regulations. 


It is quite clear the lives of the students at the college were much more regulated in the past than they are today.  Morrill Hall in particular was meant to be a safe haven for women and these particular regulations helped to ensure that.  Although in many ways these sorts of regulations represent a drastically different way of life from today, I think a few similarities can be found.  The dorms still play a big role in the social lives of students with mentors organizing floor activities and all the advertisement for University events.  Also, the University continues to do what it can with long lists of things one can’t have in a dorm room and the rule about showing your ID and signing in guests after midnight to make the dorms a safe place for students to live just as the Regulations for the Women’s Building did. 


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