IU Mythology 101 vs. the real history of Dunn’s Woods

Regarding Henry Alderfer’s column concerning his perception that Dunn’s Woods needs extra lighting, he should learn that the Woods were provided with high-powered sodium street lights about 15 years ago. Those lights are more than adequate for lighting one’s way through the woods. This is a woods, after all; it’s not North Walnut Street.
Mr. Alderfer’s letter, however, brought a campus myth to the surface when he referred to Dunn’s Woods as “one of the last refuges of the untamed wilderness that covered Indiana merely three centuries ago.” I imagine the writer found this idea on the first page of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ brochure “The Woodland Campus, Indiana University, a Historic Walking Tour,” which reads, “this original portrait of southern Indiana woodland remains intact to this day.” This is IU Mythology 101.
If you look at photographs of the IU campus from the late 1800s and early 1900s, you will see that Dunn’s Woods is basically a barren southern Indiana farmyard woodlot with a few tall, scrawny young trees growing on it; it has nothing of the truly majestic beauty that those few trees have grown into today. Go to a search engine and look for the site called “Chronology of Indiana University History.” Scroll down and you will find a nice photograph of Dunn’s Woods in 1900, looking northeast across the woods from the site of Kirkwood Observatory toward Kirkwood Hall. If that’s a portrait of untamed southern Indiana forest, then we have some new science to write.

Michael McCafferty
IU Faculty
Department of Second Language Studies

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