Saints’ Rest (1856—1876)
Saints’ Rest, c. 1857, with College Hall in the right background.
Note the tree stumps remaining to be cleared. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Archives.
The first student dormitory on campus, this building did not have an official name during its lifetime and was variously known by such generic terms as “the hall” and “the home.” The name “Saints’ Rest,” after a popular religious book of the time,* was not applied to the building until after it burned down during the winter break in December 1876.
A small concrete paving stone, situated between sidewalks just east of the Museum, marks the northeast corner of the Saints’ Rest foundation. The engraving is faded, and the stone all but invisible to the hordes of pedestrians that pass it every day. But at certain times of year, when the grass is cropped short, a close observer will be able to see hints of the building’s foundation in the color variations in the lawn.
The marker’s inscription reads:
BURNED DEC. 9, 1876
Saints’ Rest marker in foreground, Linton and Morrill Halls beyond, November 2003. In the middle background is a large oak tree believed by this author to be one of the original “Oak Opening” trees that had their tops cut off in the very early years of the College, in the mistaken notion that this would “induce them to spread out and improve in appearance.”[Beal, p. 259] Most were enfeebled by this procedure and later died. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.
During summer term 2005, the M.S.U. Department of Anthropology held its Archaeology Field School at the Saints’ Rest site. For six weeks in June and July, about twenty students in the senior-level course employed rigorous archaeological methodology to excavate the remains of the long-gone building.
Within the foundation walls of mortared field stone, amid piles of brick rubble from the collapsed and demolished walls of the hall, the students unearthed the detritus of nineteenth-century life: square cut nails; parts of cast-iron stoves that had been used to heat the dormitory rooms; broken dishes and empty bottles; and brass and iron keys. Many of the items were put on display in the M.S.U. Museum as part of its Sesquicentennial exhibits.