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Lost and Found

When crews began replacing the old crew house pier on Lake Mendota, to reshape the shoreline and make way for Alumni Park and a new pier, they discovered more than concrete and stone.

June 07, 2013

All that glitters is not gold, said the Bard, and evidently, all that’s buried isn’t treasure.

When crews working for Boldt Construction — the contractor that is re-shaping the Lake Mendota shoreline near the Alumni House and Memorial Union — began replacing the old crew house pier, they removed more than concrete and stone. They also discovered that the previous pier had been filled with a variety of junk.

alumni-pier_2011_uc
When the old concrete pier (left) was removed ...
alumni-pier_lakeshore_sept2012
... workers found it was filled with junk.
alumni-pier_june2013
Its replacement is the new Goodspeed Family Pier.

The project that will create Alumni Park includes a restoration of the Lake Mendota shoreline. Decades ago, the university had installed a pier and created a squared-off cove. According to Steve Miller ’04, MS11, project engineer for Boldt, that old design of the shoreline and pier encouraged what anyone who’s spent time near the lake might remember as unpleasant waters.

“The original square cove created an area where lake water remained more stagnant,” he says, “and it allowed for a mix of plant material and foam to accumulate.”

Until it was removed in the 1960s, the UW’s old boathouse stood on foundations that reached out into the lake. After the boathouse was torn down, those foundations remained and supported a pier, creating a squared-off bay. But the bay blocked water flow and collected pollution.
Until it was removed in the 1960s, the UW’s old boathouse stood on foundations that reached out into the lake. After the boathouse was torn down, those foundations remained and supported a pier, creating a squared-off bay. But the bay blocked water flow and collected pollution.

The new shoreline has been constructed to follow a more natural curve, and a new pier located just off the shore of Alumni Park stands on pilings, allowing water to pass beneath. But as they removed the old concrete pier, Boldt’s workers discovered that when it was constructed decades ago, it had been filled with more than rocks and small boulders.

Miller says the team discovered that the concrete had been poured around old wood, possibly from a previous pier, as well as bricks. They also pulled up an old radiator, a bicycle frame, and the metal spade head from a garden shovel.

“We did not,” he admits, “find anything of historical significance.”

The debris that wasn’t suitable for recycling was sent to a landfill. But Miller says Boldt went with a slightly more modern solution for some of those decades-old original fill items: “The old radiator, bicycle frame, and metal garden spade were recycled for scrap metal.”

Photos at top (left to right): Courtesy Jeff Miller | UW-Madison, University Communications; Wendy Hathaway, WAA (2).
Right: UW-Madison Archives.

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