The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
The Campus and Lands

The first land to belong to the University after its establishment in Ann Arbor by the Act of 1837 was the tract of 40.3 acres constituting the original campus. One of the factors which influenced the legislature in locating the University at Ann Arbor was the promise of the Ann Arbor Land Company to donate a site for the new institution. The six persons who were first associated in this company are named in a circular, entitled "Articles of Agreement and Association of the Ann Arbor Land Company, Instituted September 15, 1836"; they were Captain Charles Thayer, William S. Maynard, Elijah W. Morgan, Dr. Samuel Denton, Augustus Garrett, and Daniel B. Brown. With the exception of Garrett, all were early and prominent citizens of Ann Arbor. William Maynard at one time served as mayor, and Samuel Denton, as Regent and Professor, played an important part in the establishment of the University.

The actual selection of the campus property took place at the first meeting of the Board of Regents, which met in Ann Arbor on June 5, the day appointed by Governor Mason, and continued throughout the sixth and the seventh. On June 5 a committee consisting of Lieutenant-Governor Edward Mundy, of Ann Arbor, General Isaac E. Crary, and John F. Porter was appointed, and to it was referred the Act to provide for the organization of the University and also the Act to provide for its location "in or near the village of Ann Arbor." On June 6 this committee reported as follows:

That they have, in company with the other Regents, examined several points, with the view of selecting a site for the University Buildings, and recommend that that forty acres contemplated by said act to be selected by the Regents as a site for said buildings, be located upon the farm called the Nowland Page  1604farm, commencing near the fence upon the brow of the hill near the river, bounded westerly by State Street, extending easterly about seventy rods to the center of the ravine, and extending southerly about ninety-one rods for quantity.


(R.P., 1837-64, p. 5.)

The report was laid on the table, and the next day, June 7, Denton submitted, as an amendment, the following resolution:

That the University be located on lands bounded and described as follows, — On the north by the road leading to Judge Fletcher's, the width of the Rumsey farm (so-called), west by State Street, east by lands of Judge Fletcher, on the old east line of said Rumsey farm, and south for quantity.


(R.P., 1837-64, p. 8.)
This resolution was carried by the small margin of one vote. Regents Denton, Wilkins, Mundy, Crary, Lyon, and Adam voted for it, and Messrs. Porter, Whittemore, Farnsworth, Mason, and Pitcher against it. It will be noted that the two Ann Arbor members, Denton and Mundy, were in favor of the site which was finally decided upon.

The area described in the resolution adopted, however, did not contain the campus as finally laid out, although it overlapped a good part of it. If this plot had been retained the original campus would have reached to Washington Street on the north, through which at that time ran the road to Ypsilanti. The road at this point angled toward the southeast so that the north border of the campus would not have been square. On July 18, 1838, the Regents appointed Chief Justice Fletcher and Dr. Denton, both of Ann Arbor, a committee, to effect an exchange of lands with the trustees of the Ann Arbor Land Company so that the site of the University would be a right-angled parallelogram. This was done by cutting off some of the north part of the plot and adding to the south part; the result was the present campus. Judge Fletcher and Dr. Denton at the same time were directed to cause a street 100 feet in width to be laid out "on the line" on each side of the University site and to see that these streets were properly recorded. We know them as North, East, and South University avenues, and State Street.

As the campus had originally been a farm, many traces were left of its original use. Ten Brook said:

The remains of a peach orchard were upon it, and years afterward some professors' families were supplied with fruit from these trees; while the whole ground around the buildings, as late as 1845 and 1846, waved with golden harvests of wheat, which the janitor had been allowed to grow, for the … purpose of putting the ground in a proper condition to be left as a campus.


(Ten Brook, p. 145.)

Trees were an early problem and remained one for years, for much of the early planting seems to have been unsuccessful. In April, 1840, the Regents appropriated $200 to be expended under the direction of Douglass Houghton in planting trees on the University grounds, and in the 1840's it is recorded that fruit trees and shrubbery were furnished for the gardens of the Professors' Houses. Hinsdale mentions that in the same year the Board of Visitors urged that trees be planted, "but its exhortations were not then heeded." He also speaks of the planting of trees in 1854 by Dr. Edmund Andrews, who was then Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds as well as Demonstrator of Anatomy in the Medical College. Dr. Andrews laid out the grounds according to a new plan; with the assistance of citizens, professors, and students, he caused the campus to be surrounded by two parallel rows of trees. The citizens set out a row of trees entirely around the campus on that side of the street opposite to it; the professors and students provided a similar row on Page  1605the side of the street next to the campus. One thousand trees were planted within the college grounds. Five hundred were already set out when the plan was made, and the Regents were asked to purchase the remaining five hundred (Farrand, p. 137).

Most of these trees died, but in 1858 a more successful attempt at landscaping was made. With the coming of the young Andrew D. White, who was appointed Professor of History and English Literature in 1857, the first effective effort for the improvement of the campus began. In his Autobiography White describes the campus when he arrived as "unkempt and wretched." He says:

Throughout its whole space there were not more than a score of trees outside the building sites allotted to the professors; unsightly plank walks connected the buildings, and in every direction were meandering paths, which in dry weather were dusty and in wet weather muddy.

..... Without permission from anyone, I began planting trees within the University enclosure; established, on my own account, several avenues; and set out elms to overshadow them. Choosing my trees with care, carefully protecting and watering them during the first two years, and gradually adding to them a considerable number of evergreens, I preached practically the doctrine of adorning the campus. Gradually some of my students joined me; one class after another aided in securing trees and in planting them, others became interested, until, finally, the University authorities made me "superintendent of the grounds," and appropriated to my work the munificent sum of seventy-five dollars a year. So began the splendid growth which now surrounds those buildings.


(I: 282-83.)

His example apparently was infectious, for the citizens of Ann Arbor resumed their tree-planting efforts around the outside of the campus in the spring of 1858, while a group of sixty trees received as a gift from Messrs. Ellwanger and Barry, of Rochester, New York, was set out inside. The seniors of 1858 left a memorial of concentric rings of maples about a native oak in the center of the campus, which has since become known as the Tappan oak. The juniors set out another group to the east, and Professor Fasquelle planted a number of evergreens east of the north wing to balance a similar group of Professor White's at the south. The maples outside the walk on State Street were also the gift of Professor White and were balanced by a similar row of elms on the inside, given by the faculty of the Literary Department. In 1864 the steward reported that there were 1,370 trees, in all, on the campus.

Water was an even more pressing problem, since the earliest buildings were residences for professors, and the first academic building, Mason Hall, was used as a dormitory for students. This was before the days of city water mains, and the Regents at once had several wells dug. The Building Committee's reports for January and November, 1839, mention two, the second of which was near the Professors' Houses on the south side of the campus. Two others were dug in 1840 and 1845, respectively. In 1847 the faculty recommended that a well be dug near Mason Hall for the use of the students. The Report of the Faculty for August, 1847, states:

A well for the use of the students near the University Building is much needed. It is highly inconvenient for the students to bring the water from so great a distance and doubly inconvenient for the Officer to have gates continually opened and gardens trodden by a constant train of applicants at the well.


(R.P., 1837-64, p. 381.)
Apparently the students had been using one of the wells dug for the convenience of the professors.

Page  1606The Building Committee, consisting of Lieutenant-Governor Mundy, Judge Fletcher, and Chancellor Farnsworth (the latter was replaced by John J. Adam), appointed on March 3, 1838, was "to fix upon and recommend … a plan for the University buildings" (R.P., 1837-64, p.39). Their story in itself is a most interesting one, involving an agreement with two architects at once, the acceptance of the plan of Alexander J. Davis to erect a main building, and the reconsideration of this action barely three months later, accompanied by the decision, in January, 1839, to build four Professors' Houses.

An interesting old map of Ann Arbor, published by D. A. Pettibone in 1854, shows the central avenue with the Professors' Houses in place, a row of seven buildings along State Street, and the Medical Building at the center of the east side of the campus where later it was actually built. A few walks appear. The State Street front before the row of college buildings is labeled "Open Lawn," and the eastern third of the campus, with the Medical Building in the center, is marked "Botanic Garden." The so-called Professors' Monument is shown directly back of the Medical Building. The map also shows an elevation of the "West Front Michigan University," with the three central buildings of the row. The one to the left is Mason Hall, completed in 1841, and the one to the right the South College Building. The central building, from its churchlike spire, was apparently intended to be a chapel, but was never built in this form.

An article on this old map and picture, printed in The Michigan Alumnus of April 19, 1923, suggests that the arrangement and elevations might perhaps come from the first plan for the University buildings, prepared by Alexander J. Davis, of New York, but since that time Mr. Davis' drawings for the University of Michigan have been placed with his other papers in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and some of them have been published. Furthermore, the copy of the floor plan of the main building, which was sent to Governor Mason, was also discovered at Lansing and Regent Beal presented it to the University. From these materials it is easy to see that the elevations on the Pettibone map were not from Davis' original plan, which called for an elaborate building in the Gothic style very different from the plain architecture of Mason Hall or of the chapel which is shown on the map between it and the South Wing.

It is quite possible, however, that the Pettibone map preserves for us a set of plans which were prepared during the winter of 1840-41. On October 7, 1840, the Regents instructed the Building Committee to employ Mr. Harpin Lum "during the coming winter" when he would not be occupied in superintending the construction of the University Building (Mason Hall) to prepare and draw "such plans and profiles, building drafts, etc., as may be necessary … for the full execution of the general plan adopted for the University Buildings." That Mr. Lum did so is shown by an entry in the minutes of the meeting of April 16, 1841, whereby the drafts and plans for the college buildings which Lum had prepared in accordance with the vote of October 7, 1840, were accepted and he was directed to have them framed and deposited in the Library.

The Professors' Monument with the inscriptions on its base commemorating Professors Joseph Whiting, Douglass Houghton, Charles Fox, and Samuel Denton has had an interesting history. In September, 1845, the Regents resolved:

That one hundred and fifty feet square of land midway between a line running north Page  1607and south, across the University Grounds between the Professors' Houses and the east side of the Grounds and midway between the north and south lines of the Grounds be set apart for a cemetery for the University.


(R.P., 1837-64, p. 325.)

If his family consented, Professor Whiting, who had died the previous July, was to be reburied there. An appropriation was made for a monument to him, which was actually erected, for the Regents' Proceedings record that William E. Peters was paid $130.48 for the "tombstone," and, although it was first placed in the center of the space designated as a cemetery and is so shown on the Pettibone map of 1854, the campus cemetery never became a reality. The Professors' Monument has been moved five times during its history. In 1856 it was moved about ten rods due north to get it out of the way of the first Chemical Laboratory. In 1869 it was transported still farther north across the walk from what is now the northwest corner of the West Medical Building. In 1884 it was brought to the intersection of the campus walks in front of the Library, and in 1890 it was placed on the south side of the Library near its southwest corner. Then in 1918 it was brought around to the east side of the Library Building to within a hundred yards of its original site.

Until 1850 the only buildings on the campus were Mason Hall, the South College Building, later called South Wing, and the four Professors' Houses. At this time the old Medical Building was erected, and six years later the first Chemical Laboratory, which stood directly back of it, was built.

The first addition to the original university lands was the site of the Observatory, acquired in 1853. For many years the old campus and the Observatory lot were the total land holdings of the University. Before 1900 the sites of the Convalescent Hospital (1889-90) and of the South Department of the University Hospital (1899) had been added; the old University Hospital was built on the former and the Homeopathic Hospital on the latter. In 1890, also, the first tracts making up the present Ferry Field were acquired.

After 1900 the land holdings of the University grew rapidly so that the original 40.3 acres, by June 30, 1954, had expanded to 18,535 acres, of which 1,007 acres were in or near Ann Arbor.

The growth of the campus and the acquisition of other lands resulted, in general, in the development of four areas: (1) the property surrounding the original campus, (2) the University Hospital complex, (3) the athletic plant, and (4) the North Campus. In addition, a large group of lands, most of which are outside of Ann Arbor, provides botanical gardens, forestry farms, and summer camp sites.