College Hall was the first building built at Michigan Agricultural College (1956) and was the first building in America erected for instruction in scientific agriculture[1] . Holmes had originally planned for the building to include a central structure with two detached wings on either side, but only the west wing was constructed; which became College Hall. College Hall was 50 x 100 feet and stood three stories tall above a low basement. The brick for the building was made at the west end of the present Circle. Where the clay was dug, a depression remains that was known to later generations as "Sleepy Hollow." As the building neared completion, may major flaws were revealed that delayed the opening of the College for several months. The Board complained that some doors wouldn't open, others wouldn't close, and few would lock. In the opening month of classes, piers were placed under a sagging portion of the building. From 1857 to 1870 it was the center for all class-room work. Plans to rebuild College Hall as the Union combined student interest in a social center with alumni sentiment for the preservation of an otherwise doomed landmark. However, the workmen found that College Hall rested on plank footings, the foundation at one point enclosed a standing stump, the bricks were soft, and the walls were hollow. As a result, reconstruction was stopped. At 5 o'clock in the evening of August 12, 1918, while a band played the national anthem at a war trainees' retreat, two of College Hall's walls came crumbling down. Sometime later, after the debris had been cleared, an artillery garage was built on the foundations of College Hall. Today, the site and memory of College Hall are marked by Beaumont Tower , which stands just to the north of where the northeast corner of College Hall stood.

1887

"During the May vacation it is intended to tear out the "Freshmen Heaven" in College Hall, and so arrange the stairways that there shall be a corridor on the first floor. The folding doors opening into the chapel will remain as they are, so that at Commencement a larger audience can be accommodated than heretofore"[2]

"Freshman heaven in College hall is now a thing of the past. During the last vacation this was al torn out, the stairways were removed to north side and now run straight up to second floor. This leaves a spacious entrance hall between chapel and stairways extending the full width of hte building from east to west doors, and is a decided improvement"[3]

"The old physical laboratory in the corridor of old COllege Hall has been removed, so that by opening the slide doors the whole corridor can be used with the chapel, thereby adding to the later an increased capacity of one-third for public exercises, and largely facilitating the daily college work."[4]

"About 1885, the writer changed the rostrum of the chapel from the north side to the south. About 1886 President Willits had the middle of the hall, first floor where the stairways are, partitioned off with slide doors opening on the corridor to be used with the chapel; thereby increasing the capacity about one-third in case of necessity"[5] [6]

1918

Report of the President
"It has been the hope of all the older alumni and students of earlier years that College Hall, the first building erected on the American continent to be devoted entirely to agricultural instruction and in which building the first bachelor degree in agriculture was conferred, might be restored and maintained as a permanent monument to an early educational ideal. A committee of the Alumni Association headed by Judge William L. Carpenter, presented the matter of the restoration and repair of this building before the Board of Agriculture who granted their request unanimously.
A preliminary survey of the building by competent architects indicated that it could be restored by reinforcement of concrete and steel in the interior of the apparently solid brick walls. This work was entered upon early this spring and had not proceeded very far before it was discovered that the building was very faultily constructed so far as foundation was concerned. The wall, instead of being solid brick as was anticipated, were really hollow and the brick which was used in their construction was only 25 per cent of the resistance to crushing usually found in ordinary brick. As a consequence, as the work proceeded and the weight of the cement and steel introduced into the wall began to tell upon the structure, it was soon decided that the restoration of the building would be impracticable. Work was therefore abandoned and shortly after this quite a large portion of the west and south wall collapsed, fortunately without injury to any individual. The building was then razed and we were obliged to abandon the project."[7]
Frank S. Kedzie, President
East Lansing, Mich, June 30, 1918

  1. ^ Kuhn, Madison. The First Hundred Years, Michigan State University Press, 1955. p 13
  2. ^ The College Speculum, April 1887, pg. 12. Courtesy of the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
  3. ^ The College Speculum, June 1887, page 12. MSU Archives and Historical Collection.
  4. ^ Willits, Edwin (president)
    Michigan Board of Agriculture Report, 1887, Department Reports, page 25.
  5. ^ Beal, William
    History of Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing: Agricultural College, pg. 265
  6. ^ Photo in Beal pg. 265
  7. ^ Kedzie, Frank (president). Michigan Board of Agriculture Report, 1918, Report of the President, p. 59