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After the Fire

having a hand in ecology, take two

 
Looking towards Mary Lyons grave from the College Street side in 1907. Courtesy of MHC Archives.
 
The Grove which surrounded Mary Lyons Grave as it was in 1910. Courtesy of MHC Archives.
 
 
 

After the fire in the seminary, the college was rebuilt and completely landscaped again following much of the suggestions that were given before.  Fredrick Law Olmsted and his son as well as Shurcliff played major roles in making the campus what it is today.  Click here to read more about the planning of the campus buildings and grounds by these men.  The intense planning of the campus continued and still continues today which as we have seen ecologically creates a very unstable ecosystem. The grove, which was planted around Mary Lyons grave was one of the things that bridged the two sections of Mount Holyoke history. It is still present today although many of the trees are gone and there are no longer hammocks present for students to lounge in.

Yerning for Expansion: Shurcliff, Merril and Footit, landscapes architects, proposed on February 26, 1974 that Mount Holyoke College should prevent cars on main campus.  They discussed how not only would this make the campus more aesthetically pleasing but it would also be safer for the students and faculty. (7)  Mount Holyoke College also tried to convince South Hadley to let them discontinue Park Street so that main campus could be expanded and also for aesthetic and safety reasons. (11)  Obviously neither for these projects ever happened but it is very telling of how much emphasis was put on a “natural landscape” in the shaping of the Mount Holyoke Campus.  As Ellen Shukis, the Mount Holyoke College horticulturist, states, “Keeping spaces is one of the things that makes Mount Holyoke really work aesthetically.” (12) 

In 1991, the Mount Holyoke College campus was named a botanical garden.  To learn more about the gardens of Mount Holyoke click here.  This project was set up and executed by horticulturist Ellen Shukis.  She described a botanical garden as a “place where advanced knowledge of plants is encouraged.”  The mission as stated in the project plans was “to maintain a diverse, well documented and accurately labeled living plant collection that enhances teaching and research for the faculty and students of Mount Holyoke College.”   What Shukis basically created was a “living museum.”  (13) 

Ecological Implications: The project of creating a botanical garden was important not only to the research and learning of the students and faculty but it also allowed the college to create a complete list of all the plant species that were living on the campus at that time.  This creates a baseline set of data which can be used to mark changes over the years.  Being able to detect changes in species composition early is valuable because it allows you to monitor the ecosystem.  It also gives you a warning of any major issues that are arising ecologically because the plant species tend to react more quickly than we might notice environmental changes.  Monitoring the species composition of an area is a useful way to keep an eye on environmental degradation and the effects its having on the species that are present in a certain habitat. 

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This page was created by Molly Edson 2007 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 - mtedson@mtholyoke.edu