The College buildings have been the contribution of many architects, combining to create not only a beautiful campus plant but also an interesting narrative.
The earliest years of the College were marked by a slow rate of construction, its buildings designed by several different architects. The original trio of buildings—College Hall, Saints’ Rest, the brick horse barn, all 1856—are generally attributed to John C. Holmes. These were followed in 1857 by a quartet of professors’ residences by Scott & Bunnell of Toledo. (This author assumes that President Williams, having recently moved from Toledo, is the reason for this out-of-state firm having been chosen.) For the next dozen years, only utility buildings—barns and a farm house—were added, all from faculty or vernacular designs and often built using student labor.
A new era of construction began in 1869, and with it a shift toward established architects. Williams Hall was designed by William Henry Mallory of Ann Arbor. Mallory is fairly obscure today but following a move to southern Ontario circa 1873 (or 1867, or 1877—sources vary) he became quite prolific and the patriarch of a three-generation family of architects.
In 1874 the College hired Elijah E. Myers, fresh off his Michgan State Capitol commission, to design three residences including the President’s home. There is a bit of intrigue here, although the Minutes never seem to face it head-on. All three houses had their share of issues, such as interior walls needing to be recalcimined due to “unslaked lime in the mortar.” There was some contentiousness from Myers too; he billed the College for additional expenses in supervising their construction, and he might also have balked at the fact that the College bought two designs but built three houses (as № 2 and № 3 were identical) without paying commission for the third. Negotiations were protracted, and complicated by the fact that Myers’ offices were at Detroit in a pre-telephone era. At one point board member Franklin Wells traveled to Detroit by train to resolve their differences, only to find Mr. Myers “absent from the city.”[Minutes, 17 Oct 1876, p. 307] Given the travel conditions of the time this must have been a multi-day trip for naught. It took more than two years after the dwellings were completed before the contracts were finally closed.[Minutes, 31 Jan 1877, p. 316; 17 Jul 1877, p. 324]
Following this, and perhaps as a reaction to the difficulty of working with such distant firms, the Board began to look toward Lansing-based talent. The first of these was the firm of Watkins & Arnold, who built three commissions over four years: the first Wells Hall, Faculty Row № 8, and the original Botany Lab.
In 1881 the College began its association with William P. Appleyard, born March 17, 1857 in Canandaigua, New York, who studied architecture at Notre Dame before opening his practice in Lansing. For eight years he was the architect of choice, as all major constructions came from his hand: Library–Museum, Faculty Row №s 9 and 10, Armory, Vet Lab, Mechanical Shops (as consultant on Carpenter’s plans), Abbot Hall, Howard Terrace (presumed), and Hort Lab. Three of these remain standing today.
Appleyard left the field of architecture in 1890 to enter the railroad industry, joining the Pullman Company of Chicago as Mechanical Inspector. A few years later he moved to the New Haven Railroad and rose to the rank of Master Car Builder, developing a line of “curious” if not “radical” copper-sheathed passenger cars, said to increase cleanliness and reduce the amount of time a car spent in the paint shop. Appleyard returned to Pullman in 1904 as Superintendent of Equipment, but died the following year at age 49 when he was struck by a train at the Illinois Central Station in Chicago.
Before his untimely passing, and before he left the field of architecture, Appleyard had occasion to work for a time with the central figure in this tale, a man who was the single most important architect of the Michigan Agricultural College.
Edwyn A. Bowd
Edwyn Alfred Bowd was born November 11, 1865 in Cheltenham, England. He emigrated with his mother to Detroit in 1882 and started his career with architect Gordon W. Lloyd. After a few years Bowd moved to Saginaw, and in 1888 he arrived at Lansing where he associated with William Appleyard.
That same year of 1888, Appleyard and Bowd participated in a competition for designs of low-priced schoolhouses held by the New York State Department of Public Instruction. There were six size classes in the competition, ranging from a modest one-room schoolhouse up to a five-room model with space for 250 students. Appleyard and Bowd submitted plans for three classes, and won first place in all three by unanimous decision.
Bowd bought out his associateship from Appleyard the following year, and when Appleyard left the business, the College’s next commission, Old Botany, went to Bowd. Although he would not contribute another building to the College for the next ten years, this was the start of a long and mutually beneficial partnership between Bowd and the College.*
On January 1, 1902 Bowd was appointed College Architect with an annual salary of $1500.[Minutes, 27 May 1902, p. 55] As a result he was the principal architect for the vast majority of campus buildings for the next four decades until his death in 1940, including:*
- Bacteriology Lab
- (2nd) Wells Hall
- Engineering Hall
- 1st addition, Old Botany
- Agriculture Hall
- (2nd) Dairy Building
- Veterinary Clinic
- Olds Hall
- Macklin Field (now Spartan Stadium, the original grandstands of 14,000 seats)
- Home Economics
Bowd was prolific beyond campus as well. Some of his more substantial creations that are still standing include (in Lansing unless otherwise noted):
- 1892 - First Baptist Church, 227 N. Capitol Ave. [Bowd & Mead] [NR]
- 1903 - Carnegie Library, now part of LCC, 210 W. Shiawassee St.
- 1904 - Ingham County Courthouse, Mason
- 1905 - Arbaugh’s Department Store, 401 S. Washington Ave.
- 1907 - Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald House, Grand Ledge
- 1909 - Shiawassee Street School, Corunna
- 1910 - Montcalm County Courthouse, Stanton
- 1911 - St. Mary Cathedral, 219 Seymour Ave.
- 1912 - Genesee Street School, 835 W. Genesee St.
- 1915 - “Old Main”, Michigan School for the Blind, 715 W. Willow St. [NR]
- 1916 - Franklin Avenue Presbyterian Church, 108 W. Grand River Ave. [NR]
- 1917 - (second) Central School, East Lansing [NR]
- 1919 - Lewis Cass State Office Building, 316 S. Walnut St.
- 1924 - Masonic Temple (which replaced his prior design of 1905), 217 S. Capitol Ave. [NR]
In 1924 Bowd partnered with Orlie J. Munson (14 Dec 1891 – 6 Oct 1957), incorporating as Bowd–Munson in 1929. Along with many campus buildings (Library [now Museum], Old Horticulture, Wills House, Demonstration Hall, Anatomy, Abbot–Mason Halls), the duo is responsible for two of Lansing’s most distinctive and iconic buildings: the J. W. Knapp Company Building and the Ottawa Street Power Station (both 1937 and National Register entries).
After Bowd’s death in 1940, Munson continued the firm, although competition for campus commissions—especially from Ralph Calder, a former partner of Malcomson—decreased his exclusivity. Munson’s last major works for the school were Giltner Hall (1952), Anthony Hall (1955), and three additions to Spartan Stadium (1948, 1956, 1957) that increased its capacity by 52,500 seats.