Tent Colony Remnants

Tent Colony garden remnants. Photo by William Cronon.

Wandering the Lakeshore Path through these thick woods at the western end of the Preserve, you might never imagine that this was once the site of one of the UW’s most unusual student housing experiments.

Every summer between 1912 and 1962, a group of students erected wall tents on this slope and spent the summer living here with their families while taking courses and doing research. Only with the opening of the Eagle Heights Apartments in 1962 did this half-century long experiment in outdoor campus living finally come to an end.

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There are remnants from the old tent colony scattered through these “Tent Colony Woods,” and not all of them are concrete foundations or fragments of old building materials. Near the eastern margin of Tent Colony Woods, as you approach traveling west from Frautschi Point, you’ll see a large patch of day lilies on the left side of the trail.

Like a couple of similar horticultural remnants on Frautschi Point, these are all that survive of the gardens that were once lovingly tended by the summer residents of this place. These garden species aren’t native vegetation, of course, but they’re not destructively invasive like garlic mustard or buckthorn, and they represent an important moment in the history of these woods.

See if you can find these living monuments to the tent colony’s gardeners as you enjoy your walk.