The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Mechanical Engineering Laboratory (First Engineering Building)

The early records of the University give little information regarding the Page  1681location of the rooms used for the different subjects taught in the 1850's and 1860's. Professor Charles S. Denison who taught engineering students from 1872 to 1913 says in one of his published articles: "For many years the engineering classes occupied three or four rooms … in old South Wing of University Hall, built in 1848-1849, rooms formerly used for student dormitories in the early days." It may be assumed that these same rooms were used by Professor Alexander Winchell, 1853-54, Professor William Guy Peck, 1855-57, and Professor DeVolson Wood 1857-72. It is certain that the engineering classes were held in South Wing in the 1870's and 1880's.

On July 1, 1880, the Regents tabled "for the present" a request from Assistant Professor J. B. Davis of the Department of Civil Engineering for "the sum of twenty-five hundred and fifty … dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary … for the purpose of erecting a suitable building, and preparing to give practical tests and instruction in … the various materials used in the constructive arts" (R.P., 1876-81, p. 548). In January, 1881, the Legislative Committee of the Board of Regents asked the legislature for an appropriation of $2,500 for a mechanical laboratory (R.P., 1881-86, p. 10).

In July Regent Shearer reported for the Committee on Buildings and Grounds, recommending that the building formerly used for a joiner's shop be turned over to the Department of Civil Engineering for use as a mechanical laboratory. The following September the joiner's shop was rejected as unsuitable, and the matter of locating and erecting a brick building for the mechanical laboratory was referred to the Committee on Buildings and Grounds and the Department of Civil Engineering "with power to contract for the same, by said committee, at a cost not to exceed $1,500, chargeable to said appropriation" (R.P., 1881-86, p. 137). In October, 1881, Acting President Frieze advised Professor Cooley that the appropriation of $2,500 for an engineering laboratory would revert to the state if not used before December 31 of that year. In November the Regents authorized the Committee on Buildings and Grounds "to expend one thousand dollars, from the special appropriation for the department, in apparatus and fittings for the new Mechanical Laboratory" (R.P., 1881-86, p. 164).

Professor J. B. Davis acted as architect for the building, which was begun in December, 1881, and completed in time for the second semester. This first engineering building situated on the southeast corner of the campus, facing north, was a mechanical laboratory or shop of frame construction, sheathed inside and out with brick. It was 24 by 36 feet and housed a foundry, forge, shop, and engine-room on the ground floor, and the pattern and machine shop on the second floor. Much of the work inside the building, such as doors, work benches, and coalbins was done by University workmen and by students taking the course in mechanical laboratory (R.P., 1881-86, pp. 241-42).

The first item of equipment to be bought for the shop was a four-horsepower vertical fire-box boiler and steam engine. Wrought-iron shafting was furnished at less than cost, and an old lathe, which had previously been scrapped, was removed from the basement of University Hall to the shop. To complete the Laboratory, the forge was built, an anvil and tools were purchased, and a twenty-four inch cupola was installed.

The building was heated by an old stove on the second floor next to the chimney. A pail of water, which froze overnight, was kept on the stove, and as the ice melted and the water evaporated, it formed a combination vapor system. Page  1682The foundry was at the east end of the first floor, with the cupola adjacent to the central brick chimney. The forge occupied the west end of the first floor. Woodworking and machine tool laboratories were on the second floor.

The first little Engineering Shop was at once overcrowded, and in 1883 a small wooden building, which originally stood where the old Physics Building now stands and which had been used by the contractor for the Library as a carpenter shop, was given to the Department of Mechanical Engineering. This was moved to the west side of the original engineering shop building and used for wood-working and pattern-making. The moving and fitting up of the shop was done at a cost of $600.

These buildings continued in use until 1887, when the little "Scientific Blacksmith Shop" was sold and removed from the campus to make room for an addition to the Engineering Laboratory which was begun in 1885.