Pieces of History

Anthropology professor Mark Hauser and his class preserved a little piece of Northwestern’s history when they excavated a portion of the former Evanston Lifesaving Station on the south end of campus.

Built in 1876, the station housed the Northwestern rescue crew, which saved more than 400 students and sailors over the course of four decades (see "Life's a Beach," summer 2011). The station, which stood just south of the two-deck parking garage and east of Fisk Hall, was closed in 1931 and torn down in 1954.

After researching late-19th century photographs and maps at University Archives for an assignment, the students discovered the site in a cluster of trees that line the beach. With construction of the University’s new visitors center to begin in that area, Hauser and his students got to work.

During the spring quarter reading week, Hauser gave his students “a chance to get their hands dirty” as they excavated the site. They found what was most likely the cement flooring of the boathouse, a straight line of rubble that indicated the area of the lifesaving station and two small pieces of ceramic plates that date back to the 19th century. 

Transferring textbook archaeological knowledge to manual labor and teamwork thrilled rising senior Leah North. “You read about archaeological methods and stories, but it’s a whole different experience when you do it yourself.”

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