Archive for March, 2010

Hello again to all you avid Campus Arch followers. Recently I have had to spend some time in the Archives, and let me tell you if you have never gone, you should treat yourself. It is full of old books and photographs dealing with the History of our great University. My first few visits dealt with the Beal Botanical Laboratory. The original one was built in 1880 and tragically (But as you will see, not without warning) burned down in 1890. The original building was located near the Botanical Gardens across from the Music Building. Dr. Beal wrote this in 1880 in his annual report to the Michigan Board of Agriculture. Read the last paragraph carefully, maybe one of our past Presidents was a psychic.

“The building is situated on the west bank of the ravine, near the main drive and northwest of the green-house, to which it will be connected by a foot bridge across the ravine. It is built of wood with a foundation of brick and stone; two stories high, and is modified gothic style, being provided with a rose window and two towers. The extreme height of 66 feet, extreme length north and south 66 feet and extreme width of 46 feet.” (Board of Agriculture 1880)

In his next section Beal details the interior use of all the rooms within the building. The first floor is a large work room, and had cases/drawers. There was a teacher’s desk, and three rows of tables. It must have been beautiful inside on a sunny day because it had high windows that allowed for the Sunlight to fall over all of the floor space. It was outfitted with blackboards on pulley’s a fairly important convenience. There is a study as well on the first floor. Here Beal details the second story and the following quote discusses his apprehension about the building being made entirely of wood.

“The second story is intended, with the exception of a small work-room, exclusively for a museum of vegetable products. The ceiling of this room is nine feet high, ample for good exhibition cases. In the center is an open space in the ceiling 13×30 feet. From the floor through this opening it is 31 feet to the ceiling near the roof. As will be understood, the museum has a gallery all around it. The amount of space in this new museum room is ten times as great as that occupied by the general museum.” (Board of Agriculture 1880)

“Nearly every one who sees the building regrets that it was not built of brick or veneered with brick. This can still be done, and would give the building a more substantial appearance, which is quite desirable. The amount appropriated for the building was $6,000, much to small a sum to make an ample fire proof building.” W.J. Beal. (Board of Agriculture 1880)

As you can see Beal was very aware of the dangers of using this building, but if you look at the pictures (Which I will upload as soon as we have them scanned) you can see the building was truly beautiful. Now in 1890, as the story goes it burned down. Beal again recounts the event in his address to the Michigan Board of Agriculture.

“Late on Sunday Night, March 23, 1890, the Botanical Laboratory took fire somewhere in the upper story in the north-west part of the building, near the large chimney extending from the furnace in the cellar. The night was still and pleasant, and the fire seemed to make slow progress. Many of us believed that the hose from the water works was going to throw water and extinguish the fire, but it failed to do much good, and the building burned down.” (Board of Agriculture 1890

Following the above quote Beal recounts the items saved from the fire; some equipment, books, and plant species from the lower floor. In the passage below he discusses the tragedy in losing the plant specimens in the museum:

“The greatest loss to some extent irreparable, was that of the museum specimens, which have been slowly accumulating, after repeated and urgent solicitation from many sources, a few were purchased, but most of them were hunted don and brought to the college by one who has for the past seventeen years constantly been looking for something interesting and valuable to add to the collection.” (Board of Agriculture 1890)

Beal recounts how he feels that an average person could not have understood the lost. After this he talks about the lasting affect of the Laboratory for the National and International prestige of the University. In the following quote he again discusses how they had expected the building to burn down eventually and take one last shot at Administration:

“Fire sooner or later was to be expected in such a building, and is another warning to colleges, never to trust valuable museums and libraries to a tinder box,” (Board of Agriculture 1890).Following this quote Beal discusses the different recognition the Laboratory/Museum had received.

As you can see Beal was fairly upset with what had happened, and rightfully so. As the quote above indicates the museum and its collection had been the life work of Dr. Beal. His previous statements showed that he had always feared the building could catch fire, and after it did obviously he was bitter.

The Second Botanical Laboratory was built in 1892 and the Cornerstone Ceremony was hailed by many as “The most imposing corner-stone ceremonies ever carried out at the College.” (Beal Pg 272). Beal was sure to have this one made of Brick. It has lasted so long that you would actually know it as Old Botany; you could even walk around it today!

Although the First Botanical Laboratory was a short lived addition to the MSU campus its affect was great. It gave the University more National and International recognition and affected building policy and philosophy in the future. That’s all for this one. Sorry for all quotes but since it was Beal’s Laboratory I felt he should be the one to tell the story. For those of you interested in the other things that Beal said but I cut out of the blog post visit our Wiki page here http://campusarch.wikispaces.com/First+Botanical+Laboratory+1880+-+%3F. There is a  Historic Marker located on the actual site.  Also here is a link the Archives Flickr page with a picture of the First Botanical Laboratory http://www.flickr.com/photos/msuarchives/4443949092/

  1. History of the Michigan Agricultural College, Beal. Pg 272
  2. Michigan Board of Agriculture, Annual Report by W.J. Beal 1880. Pgs 44-46
  3. Michigan Board of Agriculture, Annual Report by W.J. Beal 1890. Pgs 47-49

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Photo Shoot

Sorry for the long time between blogs but I felt that I should have more than just lab work to write about. After a long couple of weeks I had finally been able to go through and process all of the artifacts that had not been cleaned or sorted. They were from this past summer/fall and included some pretty interesting items. The excavations were some test plots around Beal Gardens, and the Beal Phase 2, or College Hall preliminary excavations. Historic Archaeology is a very interesting subject but it is important to remember that the artifacts are probably not going to be as intriguing as finding a Prehistoric Hand Axe or an Antler of an Elk that has been turned into some type of tool, but they are interesting and important in their own right. For those of you who don’t know a lot of Preliminary Archaeological Lab work is not very glamorous. There are usually no white coat (unless you bring your own) and the tools aren’t very high tech (most of the time), but it is a very important aspect of any Archaeological Dig/Project. The tools usually include some type of brush (toothbrush, scrubbing brush) and a tub full of water, I know it sounds exciting. For me at least the one big payoff of doing cleaning and sorting is that it is relaxing. You get to sit down stairs, listen to music and basically brush whatever the object is until most traces of dirt are gone. The Beal Garden Test offered some pretty interesting artifacts. The amount of artifacts from the College Hall excavation was quite large for the short amount of time it was there. Mostly yielding brick, glass, and coal the job of cleaning and organizing into new acid free plastic bags was quite the tedious job. Documentation is a large part of any excavation and I am sure sooner or later I am going to have to set up a database for all the finds. Note Cards are inserted into each bag with the Site Name, Unit designation, Level designation, Excavators, and if you’re lucky bag numbers. All this information is important because Archaeological Site interpretation is all about Context and if you hadn’t guessed after you excavate something you know longer have its original context. Documenting all the important information is therefore very important for people who are involved later on in the excavation. Now remember that these are just some of the aspects involved in Archaeological Lab work. Cleaning and Documenting are just some of the basic things that get done. Other more sophisticated analysis such as Use/wear analysis, residue analysis and other things all fall under the title of “lab work” so don’t go judging. Like I said earlier most of the objects that were represented were either brick, glass or coal. This does not mean, however, that there were not other artifacts worth mentioning. As the title of this entry indicates we did indeed do a photo shoot of some of the more interesting items. As mentioned above the Beal Garden Test offered some pretty interesting things and you might of guessed it they had to do with flower pots. The ceramic flower pots came in all shapes, color, and sizes and it was important to document some of the more interesting remains of them. A lot of the pot sherds probably came from the same pot or pots and did indeed fit together. A nice flower patterned ceramic sherd may have come from a dish that was located on the grounds. Another interesting item seemed like siding of a house, but apparently has something to do with the watering/heating of a greenhouse and was more likely inside the structure.

College Hall/Beal Street excavations yielded some items that were the property of students not only apart of the building. A beaded necklace was found and probably was dropped/lost around the building. A Canadian dime was also found that as you guessed might indicate that Canadian money was as useless back then as it is now…. Just joking Canada, good game. An eye drop cap, a button, and even a Syringe Stopper were also found and photographed.

The crown jewel of the finds regarding personal items, however, was a rather bent Beer bottle Cap with what appears to be the label “Goebel”.Goebel Brewing Company was a brewing company in DetroitMichigan from1873 to 1964 eventually acquired late in its existence by Stroh Brewery Company. The beer was locally popular in Detroit from the company’s inception, but grew in popularity and was eventually available in many states for a brief period in the 1940s, with an ad campaign in Life magazine that featured restaurant ads from many famous eateries around the country using Goebel beer as an ingredient. The beer, billed as a “light lager”, was golden in color, and was noticeably drier than most everyday beers of the era. Their longtime mascot was a bantam, called Brewster Rooster, who wore attire with Goebel’s logo, and the beer was a long-time sponsor of Detroit Tigers baseball broadcasts on radio.” (Thanks Wikipedia). Another interesting item photographed, and something I might do a seperate blog post about, was a tile that would have gone over the brick wall/floor. It has text on the back and reads “Patent RIP back A.E. Tile Co.” and was found in Unit 2 Level 3 Feature 1 of Beal Phase 2 excavation. Preliminary research (Google) tells me that there is a lot about the company and since this blog is already quite long I will save an explanation for later. Other artifacts were of course just as interesting but we did not photograph them all so I am not going to mention them….. Yet Thanks for reading my ramblings followers.


PS: Some of the pictures came out rather small so please visit our Flickr site to view better images of them at http://www.flickr.com/photos/capmsu

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