Agriculture Hall (1909) SR
Agriculture Hall, shortly after completion in 1909. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Physical Plant.
When the Michigan Agricultural College was founded in 1855, its primary purpose was to provide an education in scientific agriculture. Yet at the time, the field of scientific agriculture barely existed even as a concept. The College’s early years were marked by rudimentary experimentation and, occasionally, a steep learning curve. A famous example is the 1857 turnip crop, which was sown so generously that despite repeated thinnings, the plants grew “thick as hair on a dog” and the resulting roots came out more slender than carrots. (Later successes, such as the 1859 bumper crop, were less publicized by the school’s detractors.)[Kuhn, pp. 38–39]
Prior to the first Agriculture Laboratory, built in 1889, the Department of Agriculture “had occupied… one classroom at a time when chemistry, botany, veterinary, engineering, and horticulture each enjoyed separate buildings.”[Kuhn, p. 227] With its own building, over the next twenty years research in agriculture grew to the status of a full-fledged science. As a result, the department received a new building commensurate with its paramount importance to the College.
Built at a cost of $182,000, Agriculture Hall was the largest building on campus when it was dedicated in 1909, being 86 by 190 feet and five stories tall.[Beal, p. 285] It was designed by College Architect Edwyn A. Bowd and constructed on the former site of the College’s second horse barn, a placement made possible by the consolidation of the school’s farm buildings on a site to the south of this building. The hall housed classrooms and laboratories for subjects such as farm mechanics and machinery, animal husbandry, agronomy, and soil chemistry. Upper floors contained offices, and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources resides there to this day.
Original first floor plan of Agriculture Hall, with judging pavilion. Image credit: M.S.U. Physical Plant.
The center of “Ag Hall” originally included a livestock judging pavilion, which protruded to the rear and included a gallery for spectators. This was converted into a classroom auditorium after it was superseded by the Judging Pavilion, which stood between North and South Shaw Lanes from 1938 until 1997. A new, ADA-compliant rear entrance to Ag Hall was completed in 1991, and a 27,000-square-foot annex, attached to that, was dedicated on October 13, 2000.[Stanford, p. 55]
Cornerstone of Agriculture Hall, showing the year of construction rather than completion, Spring 1993. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.
As part of the Laboratory Row, Agriculture Hall is listed on the state historic register. In April 2013, with the demolition of Morrill Hall about to commence, the Board of Trustees voted to rename Ag Hall as the Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture.