WMU Campus History

Circa 1921-22 Campus Land Survey
for Western State Normal School

Campus Maps Main Page

bullet Although the Western campus was only 20 years old in 1923 it had begun to stretch at the seams and was looking at expansion possibilities.   The 20-acre hilltop location, although distinctive and scenic, nonetheless provided limited building opportunities.

bullet President Waldo started to expand the campus in 1913 with a land purchase.   By 1923 he had negotiated for all the land bounded by Oakland Drive, the Michigan Central Railroad, and the State Psychiatric Hospital (located to the south on Oakland Drive), plus some additional land just south of the original buildings.

bullet This land survey for the Western State Normal Campus is not dated but can be attributed to 1921-22.  (Note that the surveyors included the cable car housing and tracks which were installed in 1908 to help students manage the steep hill.)

bullet The new properties were not hassle-free from a building perspective, however.  The land was still quite hilly, and there were serious drainage issues in the valleys (see the quote below).  Drainage problems persist today, as the WMU campus sits on two major county watersheds - the Goldsworth Valley and the Arcadia Creek valley.

bullet President Sangren, Waldo's successor, continued to investigate expansion options.  One option was to acquire additional properties to the south along Oakland Drive.  This would involve purchasing residential properties, possibly entire blocks, in established neighborhoods.   Another option was to acquire land to the west of the New York Central Railroad tracks and south of West Michigan Ave.  Largely former farmland, these properties included golf courses and private residences.

Pass pointer over map to view comments. Click to view enlarged survey.
1921 land survey Michigan Central Railroad Michigan Avenue Oakland Drive Oliver Street Davis Street Cable Car Tracks Cable Car House Manual Arts Building Barracks Theatre Heating Plant Science Building Training School Administration Building

From Dr. Knauss' 1953 book "The First Fifty Years"; pg 30:

"... At last in July 1913, after negotiations extending over a period of almost two years, Waldo succeeded in purchasing for $12,000 fourteen acres of swampy land to the west of the school grounds along the Michigan Central Railroad.

... This new tract was bought with the intention of converting it into an athletic field, but a large amount of preliminary work had to be done.  A spring pond of three acres had to be drained, and a new bed had to be made for Arcadia Creek, which ran through the middle of the tract.  ..."

 

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