Early Days of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station
Establishment of the Virginia AES
Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1886, the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station was located on the 283 acre campus of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (VAMC) (later named Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), and today - Virginia Tech).
The station was organized as a federal station on October 16, 1888, in accordance with the act of Congress (Hatch Act of 1887), as a department of VAMC. The first director of the station was Professor William B. Preston. Professor Preston was succeeded in June, 1890 by Professor William D. Saunders. Saunders was succeeded in June 1891, by Dr. J. M. McBryde, who was also president of the college at the time. Through the influence of Board of Visitors Chair, Captain C. E. Vawter, Professor William B. Alwood was elected Vice-Director to run the station. Alwood remained in this capacity until he resigned in 1904. Immediately upon the organization of the station an administration building was erected. In 1899, an industrial and manufacturing plant was erected for the manufacture of cider, jellies, and other by-products of fruit and for canning and preservation by evaporation of all kinds of fruits and vegetables. The primary station building was Horticultural Hall, which was on the site where Burruss Hall is located today. Around this location the station struggled, but grew slowly through the early years. More buildings were added as the station grew. In 1906, Agricultural Hall (later named, Price Hall) was built and it became the primary focus of the agricultural college and the station. Horticultural Hall served various uses until it was razed to build Burruss Hall in 1936. During that early era (up until the 1940s) the experimental plots and facilities of the main station were located on the VPI campus. As VPI grew, these were eventually moved to outlying property around Blacksburg and the campus expanded to thousands of acres. In those early days, station faculty could literally step outside the door of their homes into their experimental plots nearby. These homes were located in an area along the north side of the drillfield called "Faculty Row." Today, Virginia Tech's campus is over 2,000 acres in size and many of the college farms are being pushed further off-campus as the university grows. In 1906, the first satellite station was located at Appomattox to support tobacco research. These stations were referred to as county stations and were eventually located in multiple locations around Virginia. Today, there are 12 agricultural research and continuing education centers across Virginia. The station employs over 320 scientists.