EAST LANSING — Chittenden Hall has been vacant for 14 years but not entirely unused. The chalkboards, at least, have filled up with graffiti, a surprising amount of it dated. Alongside more obscene sentiments is the scribbled entreaty to “Save this building,” which Michigan State University has finally decided to do.
Built in 1901, Chittenden is one of the oldest buildings on campus, part of the “Laboratory Row” that sits along the eastern edge of West Circle Drive.
It was the Dairy Laboratory once, as a broad side door attests, home to the Department of Forestry for 53 years and given over largely to graduate assistant offices by the time the university mothballed it in 1999. The plan is to turn it into a home for the university’s Graduate School, a single location for services now spread across three buildings, “a visible symbol of the importance of graduate education at Michigan State,” as Stefan Fletcher put it.
Fletcher is the president of the university’s Council of Graduate Students, which has run a years-long campaign to convince MSU’s leaders to pursue a renovation. They called it “Get Chitt Done.”
“We’ve had everything from 5k runs starting at the facility through tailgates in the fall outside of the building to try and say, ‘If we can’t go inside right now, we’ll still stake out our territory outside,’ “ Fletcher told the Lansing State Journal.
The university’s Board of Trustees have given the administration authorization to plan the project. The estimated cost is $6 million.
The notion of making Chittenden into a home for the Graduate School didn’t begin with student leaders. The building was going offline just as the Graduate School was being born in its present form. The possible connection seems to have been there from the start.
“It’s just taken a while to come up with the money to be able to actually get it done,” said Karen Klomparens, dean of the Graduate School.