"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

The Campus on Mount Oread

Drawing of campus on the hill

     WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE lush, sophisticated, well-groomed University of Kansas campus today, it is difficult to realize that back in 1866, it was completely barren. In fact, there were no buildings or trees or shrubs on either North College Hill, or what is now our present campus. It was just a hilly pasture with a few scattered, wooden fences bordering small plots of pasture land, and no trees.

     Today, the campus offers many inviting spots to entice students, faculty, alumni, and visitors. To name a few: the Green east of Fraser, the Stadium area, Marvin Grove, Potter Lake and the picnic grounds on the west hill, Fowler Grove and the wide sloping spread of green below the Campanile, which used to be part of the old Oread Golf course.

     As the University grew, more land was acquired, and that made these beautiful spots possible. For many years, the Green to the east of Fraser was used for rallies and accompanying bonfires, May Day fights, and May pole dances, senior class dances around the totem pole, class breakfasts and smoking of the peace pipes. K.U.'s first Christmas tree program took place around a big pine tree just north of Blake Hall. The tree was electrically lighted and carols were sung. Money had been raised for Christmas relief in 1920, and the following year for relief of European students.

     After Chancellor Marvin had been chancellor three years he decided it was time to beautify the campus. When he came to the University, the grounds were still bare. He had a friend and admirer in Joseph Savage, a farmer living south of the Hill. His daughter was attending K. U. Mr. Savage got tired looking up toward the University and seeing such barrenness. He offered Chancellor Marvin some trees and shrubs if he would see that they were properly planted and taken care of.

     And so, on Arbor Day, 1878, Mr. Savage brought lilac cions from his own yard that he had cut and rooted, and a wagon load of small trees dug up from along the Wakarusa River. Some of

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these were redbud, and Mr. Marvin personally planted one to the south of Dyche Museum. Volunteer students helped prepare the ground. It was an all-day affair and girls furnished a picnic lunch for the workers. The result: the beautiful lilac hedge along Lilac Lane, and the beginning of Marvin Grove.

     Sometime later, the Douglas County Horticultural Society set out more trees, and a stone retaining wall was placed along the south side of 14th Street. A gate was placed there and this kept stray cattle off of the grounds.

     Marvin Grove winds down back of Strong and Bailey Halls. Originally a narrow, rocky path ran to the east, and a little brook bordered it. The path was called the Grove was used for the May Day Fetes.

     At one time a nine-hole golf course skirted Marvin Grove. In the summer of 1899, several professors attempted to stimulate interest in a golf course. It took all summer to get things started, but they finally achieved a membership of fifty, including towns people. There is no record of any student getting hit by a stray golf ball, but the course was not kept up well and finally was abandoned not long after the Lawrence Country Club was organized.

     McCook Field was to the north and west of Marvin Grove. In the beginning, athletic events such as football and baseball, took place on a privately owned field at the corner of 14th Street and Massachusetts, where the present Junior High School stands. Whenever games were played, the owner of the field collected a percentage of the receipts. The location was too far away from the campus for practices and the Athletic Association decided it was time to purchase land for a field closer to the University.

     School authorities were interested in a pasture and farm land north and west of Marvin Grove. Part of that land was owned by ex-Governor Charles Robinson. He gave half of the pasture to the University and Dr. John J. McCook, who had a degree of L.L.D. from KU in 1890, gave $1,500 toward the purchase of more land, and later doubled the amount.

     The field was laid out to run east and west. A grandstand was built in the northeast corner. Benches were set out and later bleacher seats were built on the north and south side of the field. At first, many of the fans from town, came with horse and buggy, and the buggies were lined up on one side of the field, but the people stood in front to watch the games. The horses were unharnessed and tied near the Grove. Automobiles soon took the place of buggies, and they were lined up in front of the bleachers and the occupants often sat on the back seats of their cars.

     Track and Relays followed. May 6, 1911, the 8th Annual Interscholastic Track and Field Meet was held at McCook Field. Some of the officials were: Dr. Joseph A. Reilley, referee; Dr. James Naismith, starter; Prof. C. B. Root, scorer; Ralph Sports

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(a Lawrence student) was the announcer. It took a booming voice in those days -- no loud speakers, only a megaphone.

     When World War I came along, the land bordering McCook to the east, just off of Mississippi Street, took on a military air. In 1918, barracks were erected for the Student Army Training Corps of some 2500 men. It was a familiar sound to all residents of west Lawrence to hear the bugle calls for reveille, drill and taps.

     Following the war, many changes occurred on the campus. A drive was launched to construct a memorial for those who had died during the War. Funds were raised to construct a stadium and a student union building as a memorial. It was decided to build the stadium on McCook Field. The old stands were demolished by students and faculty on Stadium Day, May 10, 1921.

     To the east of McCook, Commencement exercises were held under a huge tent in 1923. This did not work out so well, it was too hot and that idea for future commencements was abolished.

     Fowler Grove seems pretty small to be called a "grove", but next to McCook Field, it probably was used by more people than any other spot on the campus. It lies in front of the Journalism building, formerly the Fowler Shops, and just east of Robinson Gymnasium. For many years, alumni, seniors and faculty, gathered there for the march to Robinson Gymnasium, and later at the temporary wooden Union, for commencement day dinners.

     When the summer recreation program was started in the 1930's, Fowler Grove became and still is, the center for the outdoor play equipment and games in the evenings. It was started by Dr. Forrest Allen in connection with the Physical Education Community Recreation classes in Summer School, and was supervised by them. After World War II, it was used as a means of giving the Elementary School Physical Education classes practical experience. They planned and supervised the program while Summer School was in session, and in turn staff members supervised them. Open to the public, it probably was the only recreation center in the country situated in the heart of a big university campus.

     Potter Lake was "built" primarily to provide extra water for the University in case of fire. There was a natural hollow already there, so it seemed to be the logical place for a lake. Excavation was completed by March, 1911. T. M. Potter, a former member of the Board of Regents, and then a state senator, was given the honor of having the lake named after him. At one time, boating, regattas, and swimming all took place there. A sand beach, diving board, and dressing tents were installed. Several unfortunate drownings, brought the authorities to the decision to ban all water activities there.

     Ice skating in winter continues to be popular. Small boys can often be seen fishing and frog catching all the year round. The familiar sight at anyh of these inviting spots, in years past, was to

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see couples strolling along the paths or studying under the trees, or picnicking. Now, another element has been added -- small tots (future Jayhawkers), are seen playing, or sleeping on a blanket, while the parents are studying, or just plain resting.

     The picnic grounds given by the Class of 1943, and completed in 1946, are situated on the western slope from Potter Lake, and afford a beautiful, restful view. They serve many people and in the seasons for picnics and it is not uncommon to see dancing on the cement floor.

     Chancellor Marvin started the drive to beautify the campus. Chancellor Lindley saw that trees were planted on both sides of Jayhawk Boulevard, but it took Chancellor Malott, with an efficient Buildings and Grounds organization, to go all out to beautify the entire campus. Mrs. Deane Malott and Mrs. John Nelson advised on the placing of the flowering trees and shrubs.

     Several graduating classes made their class gift to the University as a gift of landscaping certain spots with plants and trees. There are markers dotting the campus showing where plantings were made in memory of friends and former students of the University. The streets throughout the campus were given permanent names. Chancellor Franklin Murphy followed by encouraging gifts for the campus.

     The Chi Omega fountain was installed. Several loyal, generous alumni made it possible to have the grounds at the Museum of Art landscaped and statuary placed there. Chancellor Wescoe continued to display the same interest, and as a result, the University of Kansas campus is one of the most beautiful and talked about campuses in the world.

Printed in Journal-World -- Annual Univ. of Kansas Edition -- Fall of 1965.

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