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The Aust Corner: Renewing a Face of the College

As part of the Sustainability Fellows Program in the summer of 2013, Emma Koeppel worked on a project titled, "Native species plantings on campus and their relationship to the history of Midwestern landscape architecture."  Her project focused on creating a landscape proposal for the “Aust Corner.” The Aust Corner is the area at the junction of Bushnell St. and Pleasant St. on the southwest corner of the Beloit College campus. The curved Beloit College sign is located on the corner and the area is one of the first things visitors and students see when entering campus.

The Aust Corner was an open oak savanna before European settlement. It was landscaped by Franz Aust in 1946. His exact design plan cannot be found, but it is known that he installed the stone bench (currently located behind the curved sign) and several plantings. The corner was maintained as an open environment until at least the 1970’s. This aerial photo from 1961 shows the open hillside.

Today the hillside has become a dense, woody environment filled with invasive shrubs such as buckthorn. The shrubs don’t allow light to get to the ground layer, so there is very little grass or ground cover.  Many of the old, widely spaced oak trees still remain on the hillside but are covered by the shrubs.

The current plants and trees on the hillside were partially surveyed and mapped as part of the project. It is possible that some of Aust’s plantings still remain on the hillside.  These plantings might consist of hawthorn, juniper, hackberry, and sedge.

Several proposals regarding the landscape of the corner have developed out of this project. The main proposal is that it be restored to a native oak savanna environment. This would be beneficial because it would create a low-maintenance, well-adapted, sustainable environment. It would also improve biodiversity in the area and provide a learning tool for students. The openness of an oak savanna would provide a much more welcoming entrance to the campus.

More benefits and historical facts can be found on the poster in the Science Center atrium.