The Massachusetts Agricultural College stock facilities were originally located at a farm complex that stood in the south central area of the core campus, in the vicinity of the current location of Herter Hall and the Whitmore administration building.
In 1890, an outbreak of tuberculosis in the college cattle herd prompted the college to build a new stock facility just to the south and west of the small ravine of Tan Brook, where it runs west after leaving the campus pond (just south and west of the present-day Campus Center Parking Garage, Thompson Hall, and Grinnell Arena.) Prior to being destroyed by fire, the original farm complex on the ridge had already been abandoned due to fears of tuberculosis contamination in the soil and building. The original south barn was used for storage until it was destroyed by fire in 1894, the first of three major barn fires at MAC between 1894 and 1908.
Henry Hill Goodell.
The barns constructed under the original 1893 contract were made of wood and designed in the Queen Anne style. This agricultural complex (here called Barn Complex 1) consisted of a new horse barn (still extant in 2012), a very large storage barn, and a dormitory complex for farm workers, also attached to two large stables for cattle. The facility was dedicated by President Goodell at the annual Alumni Dinner in 1894, which was held on the main floor of the new storage barn. At the time, the facility was hailed as a significant advancement in agricultural architecture, and “the most complete and convenient, in many ways, of any in the country.”
The Farm Superintendent's house (1869) from the original MAC farm complex was moved to the site beside the Tan Brook ravine, just up the hill and east of the stock facility, where it continued to serve as the home and office of the Farm Superintendent. Now known as Blaisdell House, the building is now home for the Institute of Environment, formerly known as the Institute for Man and Environment. Blaisdell House and the adjacent Queen Anne-style horse barn are the oldest and most significant extant structures representing the agricultural history of UMass Amherst, and the barn was considered a major advancement in agricultural architecture.
On Nov. 18, 1905, a fire completely destroyed the storage barn, cow stable, and dormitory complex, though the horse barn and Superintendent's house were not effected.
The granite foundations of the first barn complex were not substantially damaged by the November 1905 fire, allowing for the reconstruction of the storage and dairy barn complex in 1906, along with two new large stables for cattle, a dairy wing with a new large storage barn, and a separate free-standing dormitory for farm hands. The east stable and the dairy wing still exist in the original locations, known as the Farm Machinery Shop complex. Special effort was made during the construction of the new complex to provide a fire wall between the storage barn and the cow stable complex, and a unit masonry semi-freestanding silage building was also constructed at the time using terracotta black and stucco exterior and interior surface treatment. The storage barn was also used for the adjacent storage of silage and hay and was therefore a fire risk. This planning paid dividends when the new storage barn burned in a fire on August 15, 1908, destroying only the wooden storage barn. The surviving buildings from the second barn complex include the farm hands dormitory (now know as the Milkers' Bungalow), the East Cow Stable and Dairy Complex, and the stucco silage Storage Barn.
In 1909, one year after the second fire, a significantly smaller storage barn was constructed to replace its ill-fated predecessor. This new building design adopted the fire-proof terracotta unit masonry and stucco construction used in the existing silage structure and cow stables. The combination of the reduction in size, fire-proof construction technique, and the decentralization of hay and silage storage appears to have been successful, breaking the string of storage barn fires.
In 1911, the Grinnell Stock Judging Arena was added, followed by an abattoir slaughter house wing in 1929. The Milkers' Bungalow was added in 1914, replacing the farm hands' dormitory lost in the 1905 fire.
The Brooks Barn Complex remained the center of livestock husbandry through the remaining years of Massachusetts Agricultural College, through the Massachusetts State College years (1931-1947), and into the University of Massachusetts era until 1960, when the University shifted away from its agricultural focus toward a broader academic profile. The university administration made the decision to relocate the agricultural facilities from central campus to property acquired along the Connecticut River in East Deerfield, Mass. With the construction of Commonwealth Avenue along the west side of campus, the first of the Brooks Complex buildings were removed, followed by more when the Mullins Center was built, and still more when the Recreation Center was erected in 2010. Only the Queen Anne Horse Barn and Blaisdell House remain. These two buildings are currently scheduled to be moved to Wysocki Field as part of the Agricultural Learning Center.