COLUMBIA — A cornerstone at MU has experienced a full life. The 700-pound rock has endured a building fire, lived in a dark basement and is now lodged at the bottom of an outside pillar — but not for long.
It is about to celebrate its *170th birthday with a change of scenery: Moving from its spot on Elm Street into Jesse Hall, it will eventually receive a display case.
The stone became part of Academic Hall on July 4, 1840. It is much older than the famous columns that once supported a section of the same building.
On Jan. 9, 1892, Academic Hall was destroyed by fire. The stone survived. It was moved to the basement of Jesse Hall, where it stayed for 17 years.
Currently, the Academic Hall cornerstone is part of the University gates located north of Francis Quadrangle on Elm Street. It is on the bottom of the gate structure and has been exposed to road construction and weather for the last 25 years. At one point, a vehicle took out a chunk of a nearby stone.
Tom Schultz, external relations who is leading the cornerstone project, believes the university is lucky the stone survived at the location for that long.
Schultz proposed the idea of moving the cornerstone to a more prominent location. It will be moved to the north side of Jesse Hall.
“It is important to have a sense of history for future and past students," said Chris Koukola, an assistant to the chancellor. “The location now is in a somewhat precarious position because of the traffic through that area.”
Schultz, his wife and their six children all attended the MU. He graduated from the School of Journalism in 1956.
The project is funded by benefactors and is estimated to cost at least $30,000. Schultz has found 25 donors who have promised to give $1,000; their names will be engraved on a plaque sitting next to the stone.
Schultz did not want companies to fund the project and has only accepted contributions from individuals.
Students in the College of Environmental Science's architectural studies program will have the opportunity to participate in a contest starting next semester and ending late February. They can design the display case where the stone will be placed. The winner will receive $500.
“I know it is worth saving and now it will be in the most prominent spot in the university,” Schultz said.