The City

Collegeville (1887, 1895)
College Delta (1898, 1899)
Oakwood (1899)
Cedar Banks (1900)
College Grove (1903)
Fairview (1904, 1905)
College Heights (1904)

Charter of 1907

Avondale (1913)
Bungalow Knolls (1916)
Chesterfield Hills (1916)
Ardson (1919)
Ridgeley Park (1921)
Strathmore (1925)
Glen Cairn (1926)

The Campus




Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures


Power Plants (1882, 1904, 1921, 1948, 1966)

The first Boiler House was built in 1882. Designed by R. C. Carpenter, it had a square chimney, 60 feet tall, and provided steam heat for Wells Hall, Williams Hall, the Chemical Laboratory, and the Library–Museum. A power plant was completed in 1894, and allowed the campus’ first electric lights.[Beal, p. 271]

First Boiler House, circa 1894. Note the power lines on the pole in the background. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 100.

In 1901, the Pere Marquette railroad spur was completed, providing for easy delivery of coal to the boiler house and the shops, as well as building materials for the campus.

Pere Marquette trestle over the Red Cedar River during a spring thaw, view toward the northeast, circa 1909. The square smokestack of the first boiler house may be seen at right, with second Wells Hall at left and Engineering at center. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Archives. Reprinted in Nixon, p. 31.

A second Boiler House was designed by Bowd and built in 1904. Its round chimney, ten feet in diameter at its base, stood 125 feet tall. After its completion, the old boiler house was converted to store rooms and a tin shop.[Beal, p. 280. Minutes, 10 Nov 1903, p. 189]

Second Boiler House, viewed facing southeast, date unknown. At left rear is the Horse Barn of 1906. Photo courtesy of Tom Duncan.

Along with this building was built a system of tunnels, six feet six inches tall and some 4,100 feet long in total, which carried “steam pipes for heating purposes, the electric lighting wires, and the telephone wires.” Among many improvements, the steam tunnels made possible the demolition of a small boiler house which stood just to the north of Morrill Hall and was a temporary expedient (1900–1905), providing heat to Morrill and the Dairy during those buildings’ first few years.[Beal, p. 271. Minutes, 9 Mar 1905, p. 272. 40th AR, p. 25. MSU CAPBlog, 18 Jul 2012.]

Steam tunnel under construction, 17 September 1904. View is toward the southeast, with the southernmost corner of Morrill Hall at center and the second Botany Laboratory faintly visible in the right distance. Photo Credit: Fred J. Wagenvoord, courtesy of Jonathan McGlone.

The third Power Plant (a name that implied the ascendancy of electric power over steam heat) was built in 1921 on a site southeast of Olds Hall and the replacement Engineering Shops—today, the front lawn of the Hannah Administration Building. Its chimney incorporated tan-colored bricks, arranged to spell “M.A.C.” The 1904 boiler house was incorporated into the new building and later served, in part, as a service garage. The older (1882) boiler house was emptied of its machinery and used for a while as a repair shop and storage before it was torn down in 1923.[MAC Record, 29(7), 5 Nov 1923, p. 6]

Third Power Plant, shortly before its demolition in 1966 to make room for the Hannah Administration Building. Not visible in this view, the lettering on the north (far) side of the stack had been altered to read “M.S.U.” Photo Credit: M.S.U. Archives.

The fourth Power Plant was built in 1948 along Shaw Lane, southeast of the football stadium. It was designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, common for campus buildings of that era. Its location was chosen due to the proximity of the old Pere Marquette railroad spur, which ran along the west side of the building. As in the previous power plant, light-colored bricks were used in the chimney stack, this time spelling “M.S.C.” The boxy east wing was added in 1958.

Power Plant – Shaw Lane, August 2006. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.

The Shaw Lane plant was the campus’ main power source from its completion until 1975. In the meantime, “Power Plant № 65,” the original section of the T. B. Simon Power Plant with two boiler units, was completed in 1966. A coal-burning facility like all campus power plants before it, № 65 received its fuel by way of a new rail spur that was extended from the nearby C&O line (now owned by CSX). When № 65 was brought on line, it enabled the demolition of the 1921 power plant and its “M.A.C.” smokestack, which occurred in August 1966.

Third Power Plant’s smokestack comes down, August 1966. View toward the northeast, with the rooftops of Ag Hall (left) and Kedzie Hall (right) visible in the distance. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Archives, which has footage of the demolition (mismarked as 1960).

An addition for a third boiler unit, built in 1974, allowed the Simon plant to assume the role as primary power generator a year later. Additional boilers were added in 1993 and 2006. In April 2016 the Simon plant transitioned to use exclusively natural gas, thereby eliminating coal-fired power throughout the University.

T. B. Simon Power Plant, August 1989, with “M.S.U.” lettering barely visible on the far stack. At left is a line of full CSX (and a few Chessie) coal cars. At right, beyond the transformers, is a mountain of coal. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.

For many years the Shaw Lane plant served as an electrical substation. Its “M.S.C.” smokestack, for decades a campus landmark—in particular during football games as it loomed over the southeast stands of Spartan Stadium—was removed beginning in May 2011 following years of disuse, neglect and deterioration.[Stanford, p. 112. PP Databook.]

Now in 2018, the Shaw Lane plant is at the heart of a major construction project to house a newly created STEM Teaching, Learning and Interdisciplinary Research Facility. The estimated $72.5 million project (including $29.9 million in state funds, the first major building appropriation in decades) will add new wings to the north and south, along with adaptive reuse of the old plant’s 40,000 square feet of space. The facility is slated to be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2020.[MSU Today, MSU IPF]

Note the short spans of appropriateness in the old plants’ chimney lettering. The “M.A.C.” stack was erected just four years before the school officially changed its name to Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. Its north face was altered to read “M.S.C.” in the summer of 1937, some twelve years after the name change. At some point in 1955 or later that face was changed again, to “M.S.U.” Its south-facing “M.A.C.” remained intact until the stack’s demolition in 1966.[MSC Record, 43(2), Dec 1937, p. 10]

The “M.S.C.” stack of the Shaw Plant was accurate for a whole seven years before the College became a University. It was never changed.