Friday, September 21, 2007
Student’s research focuses on OU’s fire hydrants
|Amanda Miela, an OU student, researched the old fire hydrants located around campus. (Photo courtesy of Miela)|
Prior to becoming a higher education institution in 1957, Oakland University was home to the Dodge Wilson family. Many of the landmarks on campus represent this history but may be overlooked. Associate Professor Richard Stamps’ special topics anthropology class spent the winter 2006 semester finding these historic landmarks and researching them. Amanda Miela chose the fire hydrants that serviced the estate. They are no longer used and their current appearance does not reflect their historical significance.
Oakland University co-founder Matilda Dodge Wilson worked as a secretary for the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company, where she met her first husband, John Dodge. The couple had three children, Francis, Daniel and Anna Margaret. The family lived in Grosse Pointe but owned Meadow Brook Farm in Rochester, a working farm. While at the farm, they lived in what is now known as John Dodge House.
When Anna Margaret was just a few months old, John Dodge died of influenza. At the age of five, Anna Margaret died of an infection following the measles.
Shortly after the death of her daughter, Matilda married Alfred Wilson, a lumber baron. The couple decided to expand Meadow Brook Farm and build Meadow Brook Hall rather than complete a mansion in Grosse Pointe started by John Dodge. Based on the design of castles and manor houses in England, Detroit architectural firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls designed and built the 110-room, Tudor-revival style home that is Meadow Brook Hall. The house was completed in 1929 and the Wilsons, along with their two adopted children Richard and Barbara, lived in the house for 38 years.
Four fire hydrants located on the estate are still standing, though they are no longer used. Miela found there was very little known about these hydrants, but she chose to research them anyway.
“I was interested in doing a project that related to water systems, which was what my first research paper for the course was about,” said Miela, a senior.
There is a hydrant located behind John Dodge House, in front of John Dodge House, in front of the ice house and along the white fence near the road.
Based on her research, Miela believes the hydrants were used for fire safety and possibly to water the property. She found the hydrants were in bad shape from years of lack of use and many won’t last much longer if they are neglected.
“These hydrants are unique and something you really wouldn’t expect to find anywhere else. So, since they are one-of-a-kind, they should be taken care of and remembered, even if we don’t know much about them,” Miela said.
Miela, an art history major with a minor in philosophy and concentration in archaeology, wants to be a Greek archaeologist. She was part of Stamps’ AN 383 Field Methods in Archaeology class, excavating what is believed to be the Austin Farm on campus this summer. Miela said the classes helped her learn more about campus and also refine her researching skills.
Since there was no prior research available to her, Miela spent much of the winter 2007 semester researching the hydrants and visiting them to make observations.
“This was the first time I was given an assignment where I was on my own for so much of it. Since no one else had reported anything on these structures, I had nothing to cite or rely on - it was all my own thoughts and observations,” Miela said. “It gave me confidence in writing papers and taught me how to rely on my own abilities instead of those of others, as so many college students do.”