EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — While working to install a hammock, workers at Michigan State University inadvertently discovered the remains of a building from more than a century ago.
Workers with MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities were out installing hammock posts this summer and came across a hard, impenetrable surface deep in the ground.
The IPF rang up MSU’s Campus Archaeology program, and campus archaeologists were able to confirm it was the first observatory on MSU’s campus, constructed in 1881, by cross-checking old maps.
“It gives us a sense of what early campus looked like in the late 19th century,” Ben Akey, MSU campus archaeologist and anthropology doctoral student, told MSU Today. “The original campus observatory was built and used at a time when Michigan Agricultural College — what would become MSU — was a radically different institution with only a handful of professors and a relatively small student body.”
The observatory was located behind what is now Wills House on MSU’s campus. It was built by Professor Rolla Carpenter, a graduate from MSU’s Agriculture College in 1873.
“In the early days of MSU’s astronomy program, Carpenter would take students to the roof of College Hall and have them observe from there, but he didn’t find it a sufficient solution for getting students experience in astronomical observation,” Akey said. “When MSU acquired a telescope, Carpenter successfully argued for funding for a place to mount it: the first campus observatory.”
The MSU observatory is now located on the intersection of Forest Road and College Road. It has a 24-inch telescope and is used for undergraduate and graduate research. It also hosts free public observation nights.
Head over to MSU Today for more information about the discovery.