Published: July 11, 2017

Digging deep: MSU Campus Archaeology uncovers history

Contact(s): Rachel Mantel CABS intern

Choosing roommates or housemates as a student is part of the typical collegiate experience. The excitement of a new, temporary home —  whether it is a dorm room, apartment complex or rental house — contributes to students’ enthusiasm as they embark on a new year. Questions like who will bring the microwave or a couch are par for the course. Considering the history of these dwellings is rarely at the forefront of students’ minds.

However, some local rental properties prove to have a rich history worth exploring. On the corner of Ann and Durand streets in East Lansing is a rental property that dates back to the 1890s. In not only houses its current tenants, but a piece of MSU history known as Station Terrace.

MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program spent most of the month of June digging in to the history of Station Terrace as part of the summer field school. At the entrance of Abbot Road, across from MSU’s Union building, anthropology students searched the orginal site of the building for historical ruins.

Station Terrace first served as housing for MSU Extension faculty when they returned to campus. The building was later used to house bachelor instructors, then a post office, then a trolley car waiting room and, finally, the Flower Pot Tea Room – a female-run student business that allowed the women to apply what they learned in home economics.

In 1925, Station Terrace escaped complete demolition and, instead, was relocated to its current location in East Lansing. The original lot on campus was cleared out to build the formal boulevard that exists today, making it easier for cars to pass through.

Last year, when trees were removed from the Abbot location, part of the foundation of the original building was discovered by the Campus Archaeology Program. This discovery prompted the group to further explore the area. In addition to the original brick foundation, loose artifacts such as coins, ink jars and a pair of men’s shoes were recovered.

The summer field school allows students to participate in hands-on archaeological research through excavation, lab analysis and archival research. The program is led by Lynne Goldstein, professor of anthropology. “We choose to dig in places that are based on research questions that will help continue to reveal our history, and will help us in the future,” said Goldstein.

The goal of the Campus Archaeology field school, according to Goldstein, is “to demonstrate that MSU has important cultural resources that help us better understand the institution.” The students’ training in archaeological analysis allows them to educate the campus and general public about archaeology and MSU’s past, highlighting the importance of context and finding things in its original place.

To follow their latest dig, follow Campus Archaeology on Twitter at @capmsu.