Posted by: Brian | September 22, 2009

Hamline’s St.Paul Beginning

Bits of Hamline's Beginning

Bits of Hamline's Beginning

My Excavating Hamline History class started our fieldwork today, digging shovel tests around Hamline’s Old Main building. Old Main, as the name implies, is our school’s oldest remaining structure, but it isn’t the first built on our St. Paul campus. That honor belongs to University Hall – where construction began in 1873 and finished in 1880, just a few short years before fire destroyed this impressive structure. Old Main was rebuilt on the same spot, possibly the same foundation. Our goal with our shovel tests around Old Main was to see if there remains any evidence of the original University Hall – or any evidence of a fire. We found plenty of bricks, slate shingle, window glass, and nails. The bricks were mostly yellow or creme colored. Many of the nails were cut nails. Both the yellow bricks and the cut nails are consistent with a building from the 1870s. I’m intrigued by the possibility that we’ve found pieces of Hamline’s St. Paul beginnings, but we need to expand our investigation here to see if we can’t better identify the context of these finds. We’ll return on Thursday and start excavating a larger area with the hope of finding the 1880 ground surface.

I’ve posted a couple of photographs of today’s fieldwork below. There are also a bunch more photos from all three years of my class on my Flickr page. Check them out if you want to see what we’re doing.

A Happy Shovel Test Crew

A Happy Shovel Test Crew

Screening Old Main Dirt

Screening Old Main Dirt

University Hall

The original University Hall (image from Hamline Archives)


  1. Very cool…We just found the foundation for our first building at Michigan State University. Not nearly as glamorous as yours, however:

  2. although, the architecture is much more similar to the buildings built in the 1870s at MSU, which, of course, also burned to the ground:

  3. Thanks Terry for the links to your fieldwork and campus history. What a fascinating coincidence that you found your first building the same time we’re digging for ours. We have not yet located anything intact, but hopefully we’ll have more to report after we dig some 1x1s.

  4. Awww..I miss excavating Hamline’s History! Dig up a lot of cool stuff y’all…and don’t forget to throw worms at each other as often as you can.

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