The College Park Campus began on this hilltop. In 1856, Charles Benedict Calvert of Riversdale gave 420 acres for the founding of Maryland Agricultural College. The original College building was the Barracks, a beautiful six-story gothic structure completed in 1859 and located very near this site. Over the next fifty years it served as classroom and residence hall for the approximately 100 student military cadets. The cadets relaxed in what they called the Grove - these woods which fronted the Barracks - and planted experimental crops and practiced military maneuvers in the meadow which rolled down to the Rossborough on Route One. By 1909, the Barracks had been joined in a rectangular cluster by seven other buildings and a large water tower. Among them, in 1898, was a new science edifice, later called Morrill Hall, noted when it was built for the view available from the cupola to the Washington Monument. Eleven years later the main section of what is now Taliaferro Hall was completed for use in the study of engineering.
However, many of the Grove's buildings burned in 1912, including the Barracks. All the dormitory rooms, half of the classrooms and offices, and most of the College records were incinerated. Ironically, the great fire of 1912 sparked the creation of a quite different institution. With wide public support, the campus was rebuilt. The military atmosphere gave way to a spirit of academic freedom, coeducation, extracurricular activity, athletics and fraternities. The "Aggies" had become the Maryland State College by 1916 and, after combining with schools in Baltimore, became the University of Maryland in 1920. Academic standards and enrollment rose sharply. By 1930, when Shoemaker Hall was completed for initial use as a library and for campus administration, the institution began to venture beyond the Grove. Skinner Hall had emerged in 1918 as the main engineering building and in 1928 the University completed a separate dining hall, later expanded into the present LaFrak Hall. Finally, in 1962, the University razed the wooden shed originally built in 1893 as a gym and replaced it with the present Millard E. Tydings Hall.
The oldest trees were seedlings here about the time this institution was founded. Listen in the shade for the student voices of more than a century ago.