Sand Hill Plantation (1914)
View from within the Sand Hill Plantation, August 2006. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.
In 1913, Michigan Agricultural College leased the 336-acre C. D. Woodbury farm, an area south of the river and west of the original campus, much of which was previously owned by George Harrison. The lease included a ten-year privilege of purchase, which the College soon exercised. This acquisition brought the total area of the school to 1,020 acres. Today the former Woodbury farm is the site for much of the athletic complex and the South Neighborhood of residence halls.[Beal, p. 133. Chadwick, p. 1]
Part of this land included a long, sandy ridge that was arid and unsuitable for planting crops. The loose sand was often blown by the wind into nearby fields, creating a hazard for plants and workers alike.
Frank Hobart Sanford (1880–1938, M.A.C. BS ’04, MS ’13), Professor of Forestry from 1906 to 1920, platted the ridge into sub-plots in 1914 and, as an experiment, planted five different varieties of evergreen trees: Eastern White Pine, Western Yellow Pine, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Engelmann Spruce. While the last of these species failed and was replaced by Red Pine in 1920, the experiment was an overwhelming success, demonstrating the efficacy of the trees in preventing soil erosion and "sand-blows." A marker, frequently vandalized and occasionally stolen, stands along the path through the woods and pays tribute to Professor Sanford.
The preceding paragraph takes its information from the on-site marker. However, Lautner claims a distinctly different origin for this grove:
About this year , Mr. Thomas Gunson (at first in charge of the greenhouses and late Superintendent of Grounds, perhaps under the supervision of Professor Taft) planted a long narrow grove of pines to stop wind erosion on a winding esker ridge.[Lautner, p. 70]
Lautner’s description of the ridge’s location, while not repeated here, is clearly one and the same. Originally, the ridge extended from what is now the area south of Jenison Fieldhouse, toward the southeast to where Spartan Stadium now stands. Construction of the Men’s IM building (now IM-West) and its outdoor pool in 1958 eliminated the ridge for much of its length. Of the 3.76 acres that were planted, less than a third remains, which may be found just south of Demonstration Hall.
Sand Hill Plantation, aerial view from the north, as published in the 1937 yearbook. Demonstration Hall is to the right, the west stands of the stadium at far left. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Physical Plant.
As an aside, this site was known to the author during his years at Michigan State as the "Enchanted Forest," due in part to the secluded feeling one gets while within, and the eerie way in which the trees sway in a gentle breeze.