From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

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University Gardens plants roots for students’ education

Students walking west of Thompson Library today are likely unaware of just how drastically different the campus landscape appeared in the past.  Starting in the 1920s and 1930s, the University Horticultural Gardens blanketed the campus west of Neil Avenue, presenting an array of plants, flowers, hedges, a lily pond and a number of exotic plants.

As a University largely based in agriculture, it’s no surprise that the school began to set aside a portion of the campus, as early as 1884, to be slated for garden space.  Much of the campus grounds were already covered in farmland when the school officially opened to students in 1873.  However, plans for a formal University Horticultural Garden did not surface until the 1910s, when a number of University Departments began laying out a scheme for the gardens.

At its peak, the University Gardens covered nearly 15 acres. The gardens were situated south of the McCracken Power Plant, west nearly to the Stadium, east of Thompson Library and south to the site of Jennings Hall.

At its peak, the University Gardens covered nearly 15 acres. The gardens were situated south of the McCracken Power Plant, west nearly to the Stadium, east of Thompson Library and south to the site of Jennings Hall.



The gardens presented a nearly perfect learning opportunity for students across a variety of colleges, as it served as an extension of their class work.  Landscape Architecture students were involved in the creation and formation of the gardens; Horticultural students grew experimental types of plants and recorded their results; and Botany and Zoology students were often devoted to plant-breeding experiments and the study of pest control.

The purpose of the gardens was two-fold: it not only provided hands-on experience for students, it also served to beautify the campus.  In fact, many gardening clubs and members of the public visited the gardens to learn about flowers and take a peek at unusual plants.  Some of the plants that were being tended were quite rare, reported the Lantern in 1922.  One species of gladioli had been imported from the Pacific Coast, and the bulbs cost $10 each.  Other plant species were brought from Holland, Asia and a number of other countries.



Students must have also enjoyed strolling through the gardens, especially at summer’s peak when the flowers were in full bloom. A July 15th 1927 Lantern editorial author writes: “One follows with amazement the intricate and perfectly executed designs in which the beds are planted and sighs as he recalls the bedraggled and wandering little rows which he has accomplished in the old garden at home – and asks himself if a course in horticulture wouldn’t be a valuable part of one’s education, after all.”

However, as the years wore on and campus construction progressed, the gardens were downsized.  “As size diminished, interest in the garden waned as well”, according to a 1968 Lantern article.  By the 1970s, the gardens were almost entirely gone.

Please see our Flickr page for more images of the University Horticultural Gardens.


For Archives, it’s pretty fabulous to be 50

anniversary_emblem_fullsizeEveryone always complains about getting old, but here at the Archives, we found that turning 50, at least, can be one heck of a good time.

We had more than 300 people help us celebrate this important milestone during our Anniversary Open House event on May 14. Our guests were treated to a wide array of artifacts, a viewing of historical campus film footage, and fine food and drink.

If you attended the event, you may have noticed guests who took the opportunity to sit on OSU Football Coach Woody Hayes’ Couch (as seen in the upper-right-hand corner of this blog) and share their favorite memories of attending or working at OSU. Check it out!

To see how really spectacular the event was, please see the Archives’ Flickr Gallery.

You can also revisit the 50 artifacts that were on display during the event in a new interactive story map, designed by Josh Sadvari of the Research Commons.

University Archives' 50th Anniversary Story Map

University Archives’ 50th Anniversary Story Map

We truly appreciate all of our supporters who attended our Anniversary event.  If you were not able to make it, we hope this post has given you an opportunity to see what was missed.  And, if you are interested in donating to the Archives, you can do so through our Paul E. and Sandy Watkins Endowment for University Archives.

See why your support is so important to our mission in a message written by University Archivist Tamar Chute.

And finally, if you just want to take a look at cool old photos of OSU, check out our Flickr page!

OSU’s first presidential inauguration filled with pomp and circumstance

Inauguration dinner program, 1940

Inauguration dinner program, 1940

Though OSU’s line of presidents started long ago, when the University first opened in 1873, there wasn’t a formal introduction of a new leader to the campus community until 1940 when Howard Landis Bevis became OSU’s seventh president. That year, on October 25, the University held its first presidential inauguration, and it was quite an event.

The affair began the night before the inauguration, where a formal dinner was held at the Neil House, then Columbus’ pre-eminent hotel and gathering spot. Engraved invitations had been distributed to the OSU community, leaders of other universities, and of course, prominent and distinguished citizens of the city, who received complimentary tickets to dinner and lunch. Among the 897 present at the dinner, 270 were prominent alumni. There were a total of seven speakers at the dinner and the event ended around midnight.

Inaugural procession, 1940

Inaugural procession, 1940


Early the next morning, Bevis, inaugural speakers, members of the Board of Trustees, and delegates assembled on the second floor of the Administration Building (now called Bricker Hall), while faculty members met in Derby Hall. At about 9:30a.m., the procession began from the Administration Building to the Men’s Gymnasium as the University Symphonic Band played a processional march. The general theme of Bevis’ inaugural speech was “Social Responsibilities of the University.” The inauguration was followed by a buffet luncheon at the Faculty Club at 1p.m. for roughly 500 delegates and invited guests.

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