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Introduction

Origins

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

Chronology

1855–1870
1871–1885
1886–1900
1901–1915
1916–1927

 

Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures

Sources

Weather Bureau (1910—1948)


Weather Bureau observation building, circa 1934, when it was in use as the Music Building. Road in foreground is Grand River Avenue; at left are Abbot Entrance and the Union. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Physical Plant.

Accurate weather forecasts are an important part of scientific agriculture, but meteorology is an exceedingly vague science without steady observational data. For this reason records were kept at M.A.C. beginning in its very earliest years. At least as early as November 1858, John C. Holmes tracked atmospheric pressure, winds, clouds, and precipitation three times a day. Perhaps surprisingly, outside temperature was not recorded.


Register of observations made by J. C. Holmes for the month of November 1858. Image courtesy of Eric Freeman.

Dr. R. C. Kedzie made his first recorded observation in April 1863, noting the temperature, rainfall, atmospheric pressure, wind direction and velocity, humidity, and cloudiness. He made a daily routine of this and reported his data to the Smithsonian Institution, “faithfully [and] with almost no interruption,” until his death in 1902.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Signal Service established a regular reporting station at Lansing in January 1887; it was subsequently closed in July 1891 when its reporter was recalled to Detroit. About that same time, the weather service was honorably discharged from the Department of War, given a new home in the civilian Department of Agriculture, and named the Weather Bureau. (This became known as the National Weather Service in 1970.) The Weather Bureau re-opened the Lansing station in February 1895, but closed it again on June 30, 1903. Yet observations at the Agricultural College went steadily on, with chemists from the Experiment Station keeping Dr. Kedzie’s legacy in fine form. Those data are now the “oldest series of continuous weather observations in the state.”[Kuhn, monograph of 14 May 1969, quoted in Stanford, p. 69]

The Weather Bureau finally got its act together in 1909, and from that summer to the spring of 1910 it constructed the two-story observation building shown above. The building stood just east of the original north entrance to the college, directly across Grand River Avenue from the Woodbury house. It served as the residence of the local Bureau forecaster, Dewey A. Seeley, and his family; it was fitted with the latest instruments and had a rooftop cupola and “widow’s walk” for sky observations. The Weather Bureau building was dedicated on May 1, 1910, and from that day onward Mr. Seeley provided not only daily observations, but also forecasts, weather maps, and bulletins. These were based in part on telegraphic reports he received from all parts of the country and Canada, and generally could predict events some 36 to 48 hours in advance. Towar claims the post had an 86% accuracy rate.[Beal, pp. 256–257. Towar, p. 114]

In 1927, the Weather Bureau built a new, larger building to the west. The original Weather Bureau was given over to the Music Department, which remained there until the Music Building was completed in 1940. The old building, which stood prominently near the southwest corner of Abbot Entrance, was torn down in 1948.[Lautner, p. 97. Minutes, 21 Oct 1948, p. 2653]

Wills House (1927)


Second Weather Bureau building, circa 1934. Today this is called Wills House. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Physical Plant.

The second Weather Bureau building was designed by the firm of Bowd–Munson and built at a cost of $38,000. It too was a combination residence/observation post and served a similar purpose as that of its predecessor into the 1940s, when improvements in meteorological equipment precluded the need for such elaborate trappings.

In 1945 the State Board of Agriculture decided it wanted the site for a new women’s dormitory but found that, having deeded the land to the Federal Government in 1926, it would take an act of Congress to reacquire it. A bill to that effect passed the Senate in 1946 but was pocket vetoed by President Truman. By the time negotiations with the Department of Commerce were completed in autumn 1947, with the College paying $43,000 for the building but nothing for the land (having deeded it for free in the first place), the new dormitories—Landon, Yakeley, and Gilchrist Halls—were well on their way to completion on the former site of Faculty Row houses № 1 through № 5. Thanks to a combination of government red tape and the urgent post-war need for more campus housing, the Weather Bureau building was saved. The Michigan Press Association was assigned space there in 1948.[Minutes, 17 May 1945, p. 2129; 21 Jun 1945, p. 2140; 15 Aug 1946, p. 2323; 18 Sep 1947, p. 2491; 21 Oct 1948, p. 2652]

Today the building sits mysteriously in a secluded spot near the north residence halls, overlooking Michigan Avenue. Since 1969 it has been known as Wills House, after its first occupant and owner H. Merrill Wills, and has been quietly used by many units of the school over the past several decades. Today it is the home of the M.S.U. Virtual University Design and Technology Group.[Towar, p. 114. Minutes, 16 May 1969, p. 6448]


The Spirit of Michigan State

by J. Bruce McCristal