A junkyard to call our own

At the corner of 61st and Blackstone, the campus steam plant looms. The huge brick edifice powers the air-conditioning and heating systems of dozens of campus buildings. Even over the summer, when the plant works at a lower capacity—AC requires less steam than heating the buildings in subzero temperatures—the adjacent block buzzes with activity. Students in a Blackstone Bicycle Works workshop ride up and down the street, customers frequent the Backstory Café, and green thumbs work in the community garden.

But behind the steam plant, in a small field overgrown with wildflowers and weeds, the buzz of the street is replaced with calm. The field is empty of people, but full of a strange assortment of materials they once used—fences, pedestals, crates. Once a coal yard for the steam plant, the field now serves as a storage space for leftovers campus treasures. Two Bucky Schwartz sculptures previously installed in front of Woodward Court sit there, says campus planner Richard Bumstead, as well as “remnants from campus buildings that have been demolished,” or pieces of still-standing buildings removed for “various reasons.”

Some of the works eventually make it back to campus. According to Bumstead, the marble fountain that now decorates Hutchinson Courtyard “was crated and stored for years in the yard until the Class of 1990 selected the renovation of the fountain as their class gift.” Other materials behind the steam plant will not be so lucky.

Rose Schapiro, '09

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Photos (left to right): The steam plant stands next to the garden on Blackstone; the former Woodlawn Court sculptures; building materials from campus; a fence is grown over with weeds.

September 5, 2008