From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: Oval (page 1 of 2)

Autumn is here!

Autumn has officially arrived at Ohio State.  To reflect on past falls here at the university, we made a collection of pictures of colorful scenery from around campus.  Do you have any favorite fall memories from Ohio State?  Share them with us!


An aerial view of campus featuring
Orton Hall and Mendenhall Laboratory


Changing leaves on trees outside of
Mendenhall Laboratory


Some detailed and decorative jack o’lanterns


Outside of Pomerene Hall, Mirror Lake is
flooded with leaves


Morning fog on the Oval


Some students relaxing on an Ohio State University plaque


A student reading on a ground covered
in leaves outside of University Hall, 1981


Another student reading on a bench
under beautifully colored trees, 1982


A view of Orton Hall, 1983


Walkers on the Oval, 1983


The statue of William Oxley Thompson,
fifth President of the university, outside of Thompson Library, 1983

The Oval’s Long Walk has paved way for students for a century

University Hall, 1897

University Hall, 1897

It’s hard to imagine OSU without an Oval or a Long Walk, but it turns out that both of these were purely accidental when it came to the early shaping of the University’s design.

The layout of early campus actually followed that of an English Manor, with the manor house, (the original University Hall), on high ground and set back from the road. Access to High Street was by a path that ran diagonally across what is now the Oval to the site of Page Hall.

Early campus planning of the University did not include an Oval in the middle of campus, and certainly no “Long Walk.” But, in the early 1890s, as some of the first campus buildings were built in certain spots, it created a central green area. In 1893, a new master plan was proposed that created a layout for a “central open space around which buildings could be arranged, and which would not be crossed by any roads.” By 1901, this space had closely evolved into the shape of today’s Oval.

Oval, 1905

Oval, 1905

As buildings continued to go up, students began creating their own walking paths, trekking across the grass to their destinations. Their walking paths partly led to the current design of sidewalks, including the Long Walk.

Joseph N. Bradford, who became University Architect in 1911, was the next piece of the puzzle in the Long Walk’s creation. Bradford was committed to a formal arrangement of campus. In fact, the campus plan he created in early 1914 showed a very formal, geometric pattern of walks within the Oval. By the fall of 1914, the Long Walk was constructed.

Proposed map by Joseph Bradford

Proposed map by Joseph Bradford

However, the construction of the Long Walk did not seem to elicit the fanfare one might expect today from the media. A Lantern article dated September 15, 1914, includes a paragraph about the new walk in a story about two new buildings on campus:

Oval and the Long Walk, 1927

Oval and the Long Walk, 1927

“A broad walkway, of dark red cement has been built from the main entrance to the Library across the oval to the Fifteenth avenue entrance. Walks to the Chemistry building and to Orton Hall extend from it…..”

Not everyone on campus benefited from the Long Walk. In the 1920s and 1930s, freshmen were forbidden to use the Long Walk. The penalty for being caught on the path – which was enforced by the upper-classmen honorary Bucket and Dipper – was to be thrown in Mirror Lake.

In 1931, freshmen of the class of 1935 were in hot water after Bucket and Dipper members found the class emblem of 1935 painted all over the Long Walk. All of the freshmen suspected in the painting were told to report to the Oval every day at 12:30 p.m. for an hour’s worth of cleanup, until all of the painted numerals were gone.

Freshmen cleaning the Long Walk, 1931

Freshmen cleaning the Long Walk, 1931

One suspected freshman, who had been assigned the task of bringing buckets of water from Mirror Lake to the Long Walk for the cleanup, said “I’d rather carry the water from the lake than be tossed into it.”

Students, on their way to classes during the Long Walk cleanup, apparently gathered around to watch the freshmen at work. It was reported that up to 60 spectators were observing the action, while other freshman on the way to classes steered clear and avoided the scene altogether.

The Oval and the Long Walk have been home to many other student activities over the years. Check out our Oval gallery on Flickr to see how the campus spot has changed over the years.

Famed OSU botanist left behind captivating photos and career

The Archives recently received a small donation of material that belonged to a former OSU professor who was regarded as “one of the greatest botanists of his day.”

John Henry Schaffner came to the University in 1897 as an assistant in Botany, and served as head of the Department of Botany from 1908 to 1918. Later in his career, he went on to make a radical discovery in in the field of Botany that brought admiration from scientists worldwide. But more about that in a bit.

Early on in Schaffner’s tenure at OSU, he took the following photographs, which depict a very different view of campus.

Oval from Armory, 1899

This first photograph was taken from the top of the Armory in 1899. (The Armory was situated at the site where the Wexner Center sits today.) What we now think of the Oval did not quite exist yet, and as you can see, a house sat at the east end. In 1902, the house was moved to the north edge of today’s Mershon Auditorium and became the home to OSU athletics. It was aptly named the “Athletic House.”

To the left of the house is Biological Hall, which was built in 1898 for the departments of Anatomy and Physiology, and Botany and Zoology. The Biology Building was torn down in 1923 to make way for the current Hagerty Hall building.

To the right is Orton Hall, and the old Botanical Hall, which is where Schaffner spent much of his time in teaching and research.


John H. Schaffner, 1900

John H. Schaffner, 1900

This panorama photo shows a view of campus from the southeast end, looking northwest. You can see the back side of Orton Hall towards the right, as well as McMillin Observatory, which was situated on the southwest side of Mirror Lake.  The observatory, which opened in 1896, was torn down in 1976.

But, what are even more interesting than Schaffner’s photographs, are his background and research interests. Schaffner was widely known among scientists for his botanical discoveries, and as a prolific writer of books and scientific papers. He was also renowned for his help in overthrowing the thought that the sex of plants was hereditary.

Yes, you heard right.

An Alumni Monthly article from October 1928 noted that Schaffner’s most important discovery is that the sex of the plant may be changed:

“Professor Schaffner found that by controlling the conditions in which a plant developed he could change the entire sex of the plant. The further development of this discovery will lead to many radical changes in the treatment of plant life.”

Schaffner read his paper describing this discovery in 1926 at a convention of botanists in Ithaca, New York, and it was widely acclaimed by scientists in many countries.

Schaffner died on January 27, 1939.

(Special thanks to Bob Cody, Schaffner’s grandson, who donated the campus photographs to the University Archives.)

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