Remains of the day
Walking among the sparkling new buildings on campus one may stumble upon crumbling columns, stones, and shards of days gone by. These curiosities are everywhere to be found — sometimes set into the facades of newer buildings, sometimes within a building’s hallway. Like the ruins of an ancient civilization, some are even set inside vine-covered gardens, adding a sense of romance and nostalgia to the campus. The photographs and text here are by Michael Luongo. Visit U-M’s Public Art website for more details and information.
Haven Elm Marker
It looks like the cornerstone to an old building long gone. Instead, it marks an elm tree and a boulder long gone. According to the Public Art site, the Haven Elm Marker was a 1907 gift from the class of 1867 to tell the story of a boulder found on a geological trip the class made. The marker was placed with the boulder, near an elm. The three items were together near old University Hall, which is where Angell Hall now stands.
Hatcher Library Murals
Detroit artist Gari Melchers produced these paintings to symbolize both war and peace. They originally appeared in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Sharp eyes will notice patches where the murals seem more brilliant, like the ankle of one of the men depicted in the Peace Mural. Senior Associate Librarian Dr. Sigrid Cordell says these are the remnants of tests for a planned cleaning. Similar murals by Melchers can be found in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.
From Rackham to Tappan
Inside the Tappan Hall lobby, encased in plastic, is a crumbling plaster bas relief. It looks quite ancient, and yet also familiar. Those who know the campus well will realize it is a model for one of the balconies of the Rackham Building. During a 2002 renovation of Rackham, the bas relief model was found and moved to Tappan Hall, home of the Department of Art History, so students and others would be able to better understand the work that went into the building. Corrado Parducci created the bas relief; he also worked on some of Detroit’s most famous structures, including the Guardian Building, the Buhl Building, the Fisher Building, the Masonic Temple, and many others.
One may wonder how this little bit of the Spanish-American War found its way to Ann Arbor. The mortar was cast in 1724 in Seville, Spain, and was used in Cuba on Morro Castle in Havana Harbor. The cannon was purchased in 1899 to serve as a memorial to the Michigan soldiers who fought in the war. It was originally set next to the Central Campus Flagpole.
Dream of the Young Girl and Dream of the Young Man
Now seemingly hidden on a wall on the back of the Bentley Historical Library, these 1948 bronze friezes by Michigan sculptor Marshall Fredericks were once part of the original ornamentation of the Literature, Science and the Arts building. U-M’s Public Arts site notes they represent youth and education and “possess a universality and humor that is timeless.” They serve as a monument to the students and their abilities of conceiving and accomplishing great things.” Fredericks also sculpted the American Eagle at Michigan Stadium and the ornamentation on the Rackham Educational Memorial in Detroit next to the Detroit Institute of Arts where the U-M Detroit Center will be relocating.
Detroit First National Bank, Lorch Hall Grounds
One of the most striking ruins on Central Campus is the portico of the Detroit First National Bank. Its position however, against a wall near Lorch Hall belies its significance. According to Emil Lorch’s 1956 writings, it came to the University when the Detroit First National Bank, an 1836 Greek Revival structure, was demolished. Lorch indicated that a possible plan was to use it as part of an extension of the old architecture school, which seems not to have been constructed.
The Lorch Column
The Lorch Column at the Art Architecture Building is named for the first dean of the then-College of Architecture, Emil Lorch. It originally was designed for the home office building of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co. of Newark, NJ, but its capital and its base were never installed there. Colonel William Starrett, an 1897 graduate who is most famous for constructing the Woolworth Building and the Empire State Building, gifted the column to the University. Lorch’s grandson Peter Osler, associate professor of architecture & head of landscape architecture at Lawrence Technological University, did the design work on resetting the capital and base within a new structure to mimic what would have been the column’s original height.
One of the most visually striking and sprawling ruins to be found on Central Campus is part of the North Quadrangle Residential and Academic Complex which opened in 2010. It was built over the site of several older structures, including Ann Arbor High School and the Ann Arbor Carnegie Library, both of which became known in later years as the Frieze Building. The original façade of the library, a Beaux Arts neoclassical structure dating from around 1907, was incorporated into the new building at the intersection of State and Huron.
The Professors’ Monument
Tucked in a small garden space between the Hatcher Graduate Library and the Shapiro Library and near an underground ventilation duct is the second oldest structure on campus (after the President’s House). The early Victorian-era Professors’ Monument was erected in 1846 as a cenotaph (from the Ancient Greek for “empty grave”) to memorialize Joseph Whiting, who was a professor of Latin and Greek. Three additional plaques for Professors Douglass Houghton (geology), Charles Fox (agriculture), and Samuel Denton (medicine) also surround the monument, thus explaining its name.
Garden of ruins
The Art Architecture building on North Campus is home to a unique ruins garden, a mix of stone, bronze, cement, and terra cotta architectural ornaments. A 1930 letter written by Emil Lorch, first dean of the then-College of Architecture, catalogs many of his acquisitions for the faculty to use as teaching tools. Lorch’s Collections of the College of Architecture 1906-36, includes stories behind many of the objects now found throughout the U-M campus.