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An IPF employee is operating a forklift to carry red sandstone on the worksite during a bright, sunny day.

Morrill Plaza - Recalling the past and honoring the future


March 13, 2014

Michigan State University’s Morrill Plaza, officially dedicated on Feb. 11, “recalls the past, yet honors the future,” said Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Landscape Architect III Deb Kinney.

Kinney has been involved with the plaza’s design from the beginning. The concept came from an MSU landscape-architecture student design group, and the plaza’s main axis represents Morrill Hall’s former main corridor.

The plaza stands on the spot that until recently hosted Morrill Hall. The building was demolished due to the irreparable deterioration of its infrastructure.  Several IPF crews made use of materials from the Morrill Hall site both in the plaza and around campus:

  • Rosettes, or decorative carved blocks, from the original building are in the plaza’s interactive and accessible kiosk, designed to constantly evolve to honor faculty and tell stories about MSU. The kiosk, which has heaters inside to protect it from inclement weather, is the first of its kind on campus. Kinney said collaboration across MSU units was key to making it work.
  • IPF’s Masonry crew used some of the building’s ornate stone and bricks to make the plaza’s columns and seat walls, and IPF’s Metal Services crew fabricated custom copper doors for the kiosk seat wall. Morrill Hall’s memorable red sandstone was also repurposed to create seat walls, benches, columns and the kiosk. Mason II Erik Roberts explained the sandstone is a unique feature of the site. It originally came from a Jacobsville quarry in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Morrill Hall was the only building on MSU’s campus to have that stone.
  • IPF Landscape Services relocated trees and shrubs from the site for use around campus and preserved the site’s larger, more mature trees for the plaza.

IPF’s connection is not only due to the work involved in the project: Pipefitter II Doug Morrill is a descendent of Justin Morrill, after whom the building and plaza were named. Justin Morrill served in the United States House of Representatives and Senate, and proposed the 1862 and 1890 Land-Grant Acts. The acts allocated funds from the sale of federal lands to provide funding to colleges that taught agriculture, business, home economics, engineering and mechanics.

Agriculture Hall was renamed to Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture and a rededication ceremony was held Aug. 29, 2013. Morrill family members, including Doug Morrill and his family, were specially invited to the event. Each family member was given a brick to commemorate the occasion. Doug Morrill said that the ceremony is something he and his family will never forget.

“It’s exciting when I think of the Morrill Act, its purpose and the time it was written. To have the vision that Justin Morrill had and to get it made into law, it’s quite remarkable,” said Doug Morrill.

When speaking of the connection his family feels with campus, Morrill said of the younger family members, “I know there are more Spartans on their way to pursue their goals in life as Spartans.”

Kinney said the collaboration with the landscape-architecture students and IPF’s staff made this project a great experience. “I have heard many affirming comments on how the plaza’s integration with its surrounding makes it feel as if it has always been there,” she said. “I think this goes to show the success of this project and all who were involved.”

MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities builds and maintains the physical environment for Michigan State University’s education, research and outreach missions, and directs the university’s sustainability initiatives and long-term infrastructure planning goals. The unit’s experienced team of professionals keeps MSU running 24/7/365, delivering an immense menu of services and providing expert analysis for university objectives. Call (517) 353-1760 for emergency service.