A Tribute to Morrill Hall

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Michigan State University’s Morrill Hall stood for more than 100 years before it was commissioned to be demolished in June 2010 and was razed in June 2013. After the hall’s demolition, the site was transformed into the Morrill Plaza in honor of the historic building. Bricks and stone from the original building were used to construct something new, and to pay homage to the faculty members of MSU, a kiosk was constructed in the plaza detailing the many accomplishments of the people who have shaped the university.

Morrill Hall, originally called The Women’s Building, was built in 1900 to accommodate female students. “It was the first dormitory for women,” said Deb Kinney, a landscape architect with MSU’s Engineering and Architectural Services. It was later renamed for Justin Smith Morrill, a Vermont senator who passed the Morrill Act, which established land-grant universities like the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan — an Act that President Abraham Lincoln signed in 1862.

Due to deterioration in the wood, Morrill Hall was closed to faculty and students and the public in 2010. The deterioration of the hall was found to be so great that restoring the building was not possible or economically sound. But the historic building will not be forgotten; the Morrill Plaza stands in its place, and Agriculture Hall has been renamed the Morrill Hall of Agriculture.

In the fall of 2011, MSU landscape architecture students conceptualized the redesign of the site for a competitive design charrette and studio project.

“The winning team’s design was the basis for the plaza,” Kinney said. “The students suggested a grand walkway in the exact spot of the former building’s hallway and planned to salvage the stone from Morrill Hall for reuse.”

The stone was from Jacobsville Quarry in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula. Kinney refined the design of the plaza to include “symbolic paving, seating, commemorative historic plaques, lighting and eventually the kiosk at the southeast terminus.” The winning student concept included a plaza lined with new trees, and enabled the existing mature trees to be saved. Additionally, many trees and shrubs were rescued prior to demolition and transplanted throughout campus.

An interactive touch-screen computer details more than 100 faculty members ranging from MSU’s earliest years to present day. The kiosk — and other stone components — were designed and built by MSU masons. The goal of the kiosk is to honor the many MSU faculty members who strived for excellence and whose legacies continue to change the world.

Morrill Hall will be missed, but it will not be forgotten.

 

Ian Terry is a professional writing major. He is the Head Writer for the Telecaster show, TURN and a first-degree black belt in karate. He has a self-published a novel, Monster Seeker 2: Rise of the Phoenix King, and a short story, Bad Liar Society.

 

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