The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
West Engineering Building

"The Engineering Department, which is receiving this year a third more students than it had last year, must have more room at once," according to President Angell's report in October, 1901. On November 26, the Regents authorized a new engineering building to cost $100,000. In March, 1902, the Regents accepted plans and specifications prepared by Mason and Kahn, of Detroit, and authorized a contract not to exceed $120,000, which was awarded in June, 1902, to Charles Hoertz and Son, of Grand Rapids. The figure was $140,000, including provision for a tile roof.

Apparently, there was difficulty with the contract. In December the Regents voted "to put steel beams, ten feet apart, over ship tank in the new Engineering Building to carry the cement floors." In March, 1903, bids for the heating and plumbing were referred to the Building Committee with power to act, and in May it was decided to fireproof the entire roof at an additional cost of $2,127. In July, 1903, the building was still far from completed, and the Regents served notice on the contractor that "unless they proceed[ed] with the prompt completion of their contract, the Board of Regents [would] take into its own hands the completion of the building and charge the contractors with the expenses thereof."

The building was finally completed in September, 1904, at a total cost of $275,000, in addition to equipment estimated at $26,700. It was known from 1904 to 1923 as the New Engineering Building. It is of fireproof steel and reinforced concrete construction, with outer walls of brick and stone, with a gross floor area of 94,318 square feet.

The central pavilion, 57 feet wide at the front, faces the corner, its archway spanning the main diagonal walk at the southeast corner of the campus. In 1914, a bronze tablet, in memory of Professor Charles Simeon Denison, was placed inside this arch, known as the Denison Arch. Suggestion of the arch "had its origin in the fact that when the New Engineering Building was under construction, it was a serious problem how to dispose of the building without interfering with the diagonal walk … Professor Denison prepared a sketch showing the diagonal walk passing through the building. This was turned over to the architect and the idea was incorporated in the plans." The wing facing South University Avenue extends westerly 134 feet and is 64 feet wide. The east wing, facing East University Avenue, originally extended 224 feet and is 61 feet wide. The central pavilion and these two wings constitute the main part of the building and are four stories high. In addition, there was a 61-foot square extension to the west at the north end of the east wing, and a one-story extension 25 feet wide and 100 feet long to the north to provide adequate length for the Naval Tank on the first floor of the east side of this wing. The tank was later extended to 360 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 9 ½ feet deep.

In 1904 the ground floor of the entire south wing was devoted to laboratory work in electrical engineering, mainly direct current and alternating current machinery, with a separate laboratory for experimental work in telegraph and telephone. Directly above on the second and third floors of the south wing, provision was made for work in civil engineering.

Page  1752The east side of the east wing contains the Naval Tank, the first to be constructed in a university in this country. Steel rails at the sides of the tank form a track for an electrically driven traveler which may be run at different speeds towing ship models of various lengths and forms. A dynamometer mounted on the traveler measures the resistance developed by the model. On the west side of the east wing, on the ground floor, are the physical and cement testing laboratories. The west extension of the east wing houses the steam and hydraulics laboratories; a boiler room at the north was used for student work with high pressure steam.

A staircase at either side of the entrance from the archway leads to the upper floors. Directly over the arch, on the second floor, is West Engineering Library, 30 by 53 feet, with paneled ceiling and walls and arched alcoves. The library is equipped with two large fireplaces which add to the attractiveness of the room. The offices of the dean and secretary, adjacent to the library, also have fireplaces. The second floor was mainly classrooms and offices, except for the Mechanical Laboratory directly over the steam and hydraulic laboratory.

Mechanical design rooms and Engineering Mechanics occupied the third floor of the east wing. The work in naval architecture was also on the third floor, and a mold loft was provided for the naval architects above the Mechanical Laboratory on the third floor of the center wing. Engineering Drawing and Architecture occupied the fourth floor.

This new structure became seriously overcrowded almost immediately and plans for an addition were approved in July, 1908.

The addition constructed in 1909-10 extended the east wing along East University Avenue, providing a four-story structure the entire length of the Naval Tank, now 360 feet in length, with a four-story north wing extending westward at the north end. The architect was Albert Kahn and the contract was awarded to Koch Brothers of Ann Arbor for $73,063.

Occupied in 1910, this addition added approximately 63,000 square feet to the total structure, which was designated the West Engineering Building in 1923, when the East Engineering Building was under construction.

To meet the critical need for space at this time, the one-story wooden buildings erected for hospital wards on the north side of the campus, and later used by the Dental College, were moved near the north end of the New Engineering Building, for use, in part, by the Surveying Department. In 1919 this group of old buildings was removed, and the Department of Surveying was housed in various other buildings, including the Library, until 1928, when the department was moved into the rooms formerly occupied by the College of Architecture in the south wing of the West Engineering Building and the Engineering Laboratory of 1885, known as the Annex. The new north wing housed on the first floor the electrical laboratories which were moved from the south wing. The offices of the dean and secretary were moved from over the arch, adjacent to the library, to the northern end of the addition on the second floor. The third floor included a lecture room, seating approximately 350 students. The fourth floor was devoted to the Architectural Department and class and drawing rooms.

Upon completion of the East Engineering Building in 1923, Highway Engineering was transferred to the East Engineering Building, and automotive engineering occupied space vacated by the Shops on the first floor of the West Engineering Annex constructed in 1885. The upper floors of the Annex, connected to the West Engineering Building by an Page  1753enclosed bridge at the second-floor level, were taken over as drafting rooms for architecture until the College of Architecture moved into its own new building in 1927. At that time the Department of Geodesy and Surveying moved into the south wing of the West Engineering Building, and Engineering Drawing took over the space vacated by Architecture.

When the addition to the East Engineering Building was completed in 1947, Electrical Engineering was transferred to that building, and the space vacated at the north end of the east wing of the West Engineering Building provided for Sanitary Engineering and Hydraulic Laboratories and an extension of the Naval Tank. Offices for the staff in Mathematics were provided on the second floor, and Civil Engineering expanded into the area formerly occupied by Mathematics on the third floor. In 1953 Engineering Mechanics offices moved from the fourth floor to the second floor of the south wing, and Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering were provided with offices and a large drawing room on the fourth floor in the room originally occupied by the College of Architecture; the old mold loft on the third floor was converted into a storage room for the Engineering Library. In 1955 an elevator was installed at the north side of the Mechanical Laboratory, and an appropriation was made to modernize the electric power supply to the standard 110-volt system.