Most students, even those enrolled in the College of Agriculture, didn’t notice when they came to campus for 2017 fall semester classes. But, the fence — the one parallel to State Street in front of Smith Hall, Pfendler Hall and the Agricultural Administration Building — is gone. The line of black iron bars and round nobs was removed during the 2017 State Street reconstruction project. Photos of the Agriculture Campus from across State Street have historically included the fence.
Like most fences that defined the landscape of rural Indiana a century ago, it has disappeared.
The fence in its earlier versions was a necessary part of the College of Agriculture academic history. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it contained the livestock used in teaching early classes in animal husbandry.
Behind the boundary, animals grazed safely south of State Street and in the area west of Lilly Hall and beyond, where Discovery Park is now located. That lasted until after World War II, when there were major needs for student housing. Terry Courts and Married Student Housing (Purdue Village) were built and the livestock farms were relocated along Kalberer Road, north of West Lafayette. The new dairy farm was relocated to Cherry Lane in 1949. The Daniel Turf Center is there now.
The fence had its advantages. It likely can be credited with lengthening a few lives and helping improve the graduation rate of Agriculture students. It helped to limit the State Street crossing points. Crossing four lanes of State Road 26 successfully for four years was thought by some to be an unpublished graduation requirement.
So, the fence gave way to a “new” State Street with improved esthetic and safety features just as fences in Indiana and elsewhere have been replaced by other kinds of progress.
But, there is more. A short fence remains along the east edge of the lawn in front of the Agricultural Administration Building next to Marsteller Street. It’s a reminder of our past and the benefits of boundaries.