Thursday, October 6, 2016

Forgotten Eastern Michigan

As I was perusing twitter yesterday, someone made a post stating that Eastern Michigan University started on October 5th, 1853.  He also posted a picture of one of the first buildings on campus and sadly that building is no more.  As I did a little digging about the subject, I found out about the building.
 In 1849, the State of Michigan founded the Michigan State Normal School.  It would be the first normal school west of the Appalachian Mountains.  A normal school was a school that would train high school graduates to become teachers.  At any rate, the new school opened its doors in 1853 and Adonijah Welch would serve as its first President.  He would later go on to become a US Senator from Florida and the first President of what is now known as Iowa State University.

The first building on Eastern Michigan's campus appeared in 1853 but burned down in 1859 and would be replaced by what was known as the Old Main Building.  Judging by the picture above, it was a pretty cool building and would expand as the college expanded.  This building would see the Michigan State Normal School become Michigan State Normal College.  This building would survive until 1948.
 The Old Main Building stood on the ground that is now occupied by Pierce Hall.  Pierce Hall was built in 1949 and would see Michigan State Normal College become Eastern Michigan College in 1956.  This was mainly due to the expansion of higher education as a result of the G.I. Bill.  Eastern Michigan College was a short lived name as it replaced College with University in 1958.
 The Gymnasium was built in 1896 and would stand until 1960.  This was replaced by Bowen Field House in 1955 (but Bowen does not occupy the same spot).
If my reading of the location is correct, there is currently a parking lot where the Gymnasium used to stand.  To the west of that parking lot is the Water Tower and to the east is a block of shops that used to include Ted's Pills and Things (now a Sweetwater's Cafe).

I'll have to admit, it is kind of cool to learn new things about my Alma Mater.

Just a side note, the black and white pictures are from the Detroit Publishing Company and are now part of the Library of Congress.  The color pictures are my own.

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