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The little ag school grows up
During the Gilded Age, M.A.C. went through explosive growth. Between 1870 and 1920, at least 81 buildings were erected, not including the rebuilding of burned buildings (6,7,8). On average, 1.62 buildings were constructed every year during this period. The map above shows the non-farm buildings on campus during the Gilded Age. The need for so many new buildings is obvious when looking at the increase in enrollment. In 1880, M.A.C. admitted 83 freshmen. 30 years later, M.A.C. admitted 412 freshmen (4,6).
Most colleges were viewed by the rest of the country as an idealistic place where youths could build character and gain practical knowledge away from the corruption of the city. M.A.C. strove to achieve this idealism in some ways. It was geographically isolated, being surrounded by woods and farmland and having only the small city of Lansing a few miles away. It also maintained open green space to exhibit a park-like feel since it was believed at that time that being in nature was helpful for mental stimulation. In the mid 1880s, M.A.C. President Abbot described the campus as having "no straight rows of buildings or of trees, but its more than 30 buildings...are separated by undulating lawns, shallow revines, and groups of trees" which is exactly what he had envisioned for the school (4). Abbot would hire a professional landcaper who designed siginificant portions of Flint and Jackson to perfect the serene park-like feel of the campus.
At the same time, the M.A.C. campus was very much a melding of nature and modernity. Buildings erected during the Gilded Age were more elaborate, more functional, and more technologically-advanced than the earlier buildings as can be seen in the images above. M.A.C. strove to be known as the new, practical school which is reflected in the building styles.
Between the buildings and the landscape, M.A.C. was very intentional in achieving its goal of being an ideal space for learning and character-building.