A Different Diag

Artist Adeline B. Mead created this northeast view of the University of Michigan, circa 1854. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

In the late 1830s, two lawyers and a politician were given the job of recommending where to build the new University of Michigan campus. They had two 40-acre sites to look at. One was at the north end of State Street. It spread across the promontory that offers a view to the northeast across the Huron River valley. The other was a flat farm field half a mile from the river. The far side offered a good view of a swampy, snake-ridden ravine. Naturally, the men recommended the pretty spot overlooking the river. But the Board of Regents chose the other site. Wilfred B. Shaw, director of the university’s Alumni Association and a historian, wrote in 1920, “We can only imagine now how much more beautiful and impressive the buildings of the university might have been, lining the brows of the hills overlooking the Huron Valley.”

—  From “A Different Diag” by James Tobin, presented at the U-M Heritage Project website, celebrating U-M’s 2017 bicentennial.


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