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Construction from the ground up

Let’s go back in time.

Let’s go back to the University campus of old, where cows served as school supplies, the Union was a log cabin and elementary students came to the student teachers, and not the other way around.

Let’s go back to yesteryear, when the University was just beginning to grow, spreading its roots to form a foundation that would eventually support 100 years of higher education.

Imagine Bowling Green in 1914. Construction was not yet completed on campus, and the first University students were attending classes in the Ohio National Guard Armory on East Wooster Street. They had to cross the street to visit the library, which was housed in the Methodist Church’s basement.

The next year, the first buildings on campus were opened, displaying the start of a layout design that would be followed (at least loosely) as the years progressed, said Steve Krakoff, associate vice president for capital planning and design at the University.

‘Everything was in grids, everything was along axes, everything was rectangular, which was very much in vogue at that time,’ Krakoff said. ‘There appears to have been a fairly conscious effort ‘hellip; to follow the grid pattern of the city.’

Williams and University halls were the first buildings constructed in the University’s grid pattern.

‘Williams was actually the first one to be completed,’ said Gary Hess, a history instructor. ‘The first students moved ‘hellip; into this building in the fall of that year, but also at that time University Hall, which was called the Administration Building, was also completed.’

University Hall initially housed the library, classrooms, auditorium, and ‘special quarters for home economics, industrial arts, and music,’ according to the BGSU Historic Campus Tour online.

Moseley and Hanna Halls, which opened in 1916 and 1921 respectively, also contained special quarters, but they weren’t solely for University students.

‘Moseley Hall was, of course, the science area,’ said Stephen Charter, head University archivist in the Center for Archival Collections. ‘They had cows in the basement.’

Charter said the cows were part of a class called ‘Milk and Dairy Products,’ in which students learned about the management and sanitary production of milk. He said a course in farm animals was also offered, for which horses, cows, sheep and swine were available.

Hanna Hall wasn’t a home for four-legged creatures, but it was the stomping ground for lots of school-aged feet.

‘Hanna Hall was the teacher training school,’ Charter said. ‘The students from the city of Bowling Green … came to the University rather than the student teachers going out to the community, which was kind of unique.’

Also special to campus history is the story of the first student union, a log cabin named the Falcon’s Nest, which eventually ended up in Portage.

Constructed in the same location as today’s Union, the Falcon’s Nest was built in 1942, according to the online tour. It was sold to the Portage American Legion and moved to Portage in 1955 when the student body outgrew its capacity.

The building is still being used as Portage’s VFW post on Main Street, Charter said.

Hess said a second student union was completed at the same location in 1958, but by the 1990s it too had outlived its usefulness. The building was renovated and reopened in 2002 as the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, according to the online tour.

After World War II, the look of campus again changed when an increase in the number of students created a need for more housing, Hess said.

‘There were a lot of temporary buildings put up after World War II to house students who were coming in during that period,’ he said. ‘A lot of them were veterans and a lot of them were married.’

Temporary buildings purchased included barracks, metal huts and trailers, Charter said.

The area of steel buildings set up behind the old football stadium was called Tin Pan Alley, and a cluster of trailers in the Overman Hall area was known as Falcon Heights, according to the online tour. Some married students and families were housed in metal buildings along North College Drive as well.

Though there have been many changes to the look of the University over the years, Hess said he thinks a serious effort has been made to preserve the original buildings on campus. And even though he said some could use renovation, he is glad there has been a commitment to their traditions.

‘I think it’s nice to preserve buildings that we can link to Bowling Green’s origins, and we can do that with these buildings that are part of the older campus,’ Hess said.’

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