Laboratory Building - Medical Building

Medical Building

In January, 1847, it was resolved “that a building be erected upon the University Grounds similar in its dimensions and general plan to the principal building now in use, that suitable rooms for a Laboratory, Lectures, Anatomical Dissections, etc., for the use of the Medical Department be prepared in one section of said building.” … (Regent's Proceedings, 1837-64, p. 365).

Construction of the Laboratory Building was under the supervision of Professor Silas H. Douglas, a member of the first medical faculty, who at that time also served as Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. This building was the center of medical instruction for more than fifty years. While there is no record of an architect, it is probable that the plans were prepared under the direction of Douglass, in cooperation with Jonathan Kearsley, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents.

Silas H. Douglas

The building was completed in 1850. During the period of its construction, it was known as the Laboratory Building, apparently in order to secure a better insurance rate and also to distinguish it from the South College, which was under construction at about the same time. The Laboratory Building was 92 feet in length, 42 feet in width, and three stories high. It contained laboratories and lecture rooms. A large lecture room on the second floor had a small dome above to admit light. A striking feature of the building was the portico on the east side with four tall Greek columns of brick and stucco construction, the capitals of which were designed and cast in Detroit.


Medical Building (left) Chemical Laboratory (right)
The University Main Building
Medical Building

“In 1848, a bright-eyed, uneducated German arrived in Ann Arbor. He was employed as a hod carrier in the construction of the original Medical Building. He continued in the service of the University as janitor of the building. In 1850 he rang the bell to summon the first medical class to their lectures and continued to ring through half a century. Many years spent in the dissecting room made Nagele a most proficient anatomist. Students would call upon him to demonstrate the finer details of anatomy, his knowlege being much more complete than some of the instructors. Probably no student became more proficient in practical anatomy then the old janitor of the Medical Building.” Victor C. Vaughan ’78 (Michigan Alumnus, 10/1900, p. 15)
“Doc” Nagele