Engineering Shops (1885—1916, 1916—?)
The Land Grant Act of 1862 had specified the teaching of “such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts,” but it was not until 1885 that the Michigan Agricultural College initiated a two-year course in Mechanic Arts. This soon expanded into a four-year Mechanical course, which ultimately evolved into the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
To support the Mechanic Arts program, a sizable complex of Engineering Shops, also known as the Mechanical Building, was assembled. Professor Rolla Carpenter designed and supervised construction of the shops in 1885, and took part in planning the course of study for the new mechanical course. He designed the iron and wood shops “as places where students might learn by actual practice more than by demonstration,” and even supervised the afternoon sessions. At first, the work had a self-stoking character:
“The shops became a factory engaged primarily in the production of new tools for the shops. In the first year, students began with a few sets of hand tools, a drill, a shaper, a planer, lathes, and a twelve horse-power steam engine. In the next ten years they created larger lathes, a band saw, a dynamo to light the building, an electric motor, a traveling crane and hydraulic hoist, forges for the blacksmith shop, a twenty horse-power steam engine, and, in 1894, an 8x13x12 compound [steam] engine.”[Kuhn, p. 148]
The shops caught fire on March 5, 1916, burning to the ground and taking the nearby Engineering Building (built 1907) with them. “Salvage was negligible. From the older shops a few lathes were saved. The rest was ashes and twisted metal.” That same year, thanks to the generosity of Ransom E. Olds, new buildings for the Shops as well as the Forge and Foundry were built along with the new Olds Engineering Hall.[Kuhn, p. 266]