A tour of the subtle, strange and sometimes unnoticed elements of campus.
Nestled deep within the Botanical Garden near a bend in the stream … a serpentine palm bridge leads to a jungle peninsula where, among the fronds and foliage, the patient observer will find a wooden birdhouse.
Just up the path, under a small gazebo stands a wise, whittled tiki head. With his origins unknown, students and staff try to make him feel comfortable on campus by styling his locks of Spanish moss.
Leave the pavement and follow the mulch path to the east to discover an abandoned tree fort. All that remains are a few planks and a tattered rope swing. While this type of “free range construction” is discouraged today, Panthers of the ’70s and ’80s often collaborated on “jungle” hangouts.
These are campus curiosities—from little-noticed nuances to long-fabled lore, relics of bygone days and tokens of quirk and character. Take a trip down memory lane or discover something new and unexpected about campus:
Hidden off the beaten path, deep within the garden, this birdhouse hangs among the fronds and foliage. Inside is a treasure, or more precisely, a geocache, one of 10 on campus.
Eye of the Dragon
During the 1970s and 1980s, Florida Tech was a leader in granting graduate fellowships to Chinese students. Taiwanese officials presented the Chao Tsu-Yu Chinese clock, which is covered in intricate embellishments, to the university as a gift in 1981.
Near Tennis Courts
Bilbo Baggins might not have had a problem accessing the racquetball court through this door, but it was taken out of service in 2000 to accommodate non-Shire ballplayers.
East of Crawford Building
Florida Tech’s first research director David Woodbridge won national attention in 1970 when Time Magazine published an article describing his efforts to use radioactive cobalt-60 to purify water. The underground facility he used to conduct experiments lies beneath a small structure near the Crawford Building that resembles an outdoor restroom. We call it the Atomic Toilet.
No, this tree wasn’t struck by lightning or the subject of a covert biology experiment. It’s just the natural growth pattern of the gingerbread palm. This specimen can be found near the parking lot behind the Denius Student Center.
This artwork is one of two ornamental decorations that adorned the old University of Melbourne building. This relief depicts three individuals, representing different races, rising above the world. One holds a dove of peace, the second carries a pair of scales and a scroll, and the third bears a book.
Watcher in the Wood
This happy little face just showed up one day and is now one more part of what makes Florida Tech a fun place to live and learn. Find him outside the library facing the covered bridge.
Old School House
Melbourne’s oldest surviving schoolhouse was built in 1883 by John Goode at his house on the river and was moved to Florida Tech in 1970. Today, it rests in the Botanical Garden as a reminder of days past when students sat on benches, wrote on slates and drank from the well nearby.
Hedgecock Gym Floor
The old gym floor was headed to the trash when athletics director Bill Jurgens said, “Hey, wait a minute!” Now the panther-faced floorboards adorn a prominent wall in the athletics office on the second floor of the Clemente Center.
On floor 3.5 (or the landing between floors 3 and 4 of the Evans Library) sits an unusual instrument, a Schulmerich Coronation Carillon “Auto Bell” Roll player. In the early ’00s, the device was programmed to play the alma mater at Panther Plaza.
50th Anniversary Palm
Jerome P. Keuper’s vision for campus included palm trees … lots of them. He planted a row of royal palms all along Country Club Road but a hard freeze in the early ’60s wiped them out … except for one. The stoic specimen was transplanted and today can be found just east of the Old School House at the Dent Smith trailhead.