H.F. Thut Greenhouse’s namesake

H.F. Thut Greenhouses namesake

Ryan Meyer, Multimedia Reporter

The H.F. Thut Greenhouse has acted as Eastern’s botanical conservatory since its completion in 1964.

The glass-paned, brick and steel 3,400 square-foot building is tucked between the Life Sciences Building and the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

It replaced Eastern’s first greenhouse, which was the second building on campus and was completed in 1903 behind Old Main, according to Booth Library’s archives.

Also near the greenhouse is the Secret Garden, which features almost 500 types of plants.

The person for whom it was named, Hiram F. Thut, was a botany professor at Eastern from 1933 to 1969 and was the chair of the botany department from 1960-1963. He designed the greenhouse, which was named for him in 1969, and supervised the plantings of the University Arboretum, which was established in 1958, according to Eastern’s repository the Keep.

Thut is quoted in an article from June 26, 1963 in the Eastern State News, a precursor to the Daily Eastern News, as saying “Many of us were concerned for years that the old one would fall down during a wind storm.”

In the same article, Thut said the new greenhouse would provide more space.

“We have more plants available to study,” Thut said. “Therefore, we will improve botanical study.”

An Oct. 2, 1964 article in the Eastern News describes some of the vegetation included as sugar cane, lemons and bananas, among others.

Thut also had an interest in photography, detailed in a Jan. 27, 1943 article from the Eastern Teachers News where he’s quoted as saying “Locally, I imagine the most interesting pictures are the ones of the same scenes at different times of the year.”

This notion is embodied in a presentation Thut gave in November of 1973 to the Botany Club called “E.I.U.: Then and Now,” according to the EIU H.F. Thut Greenhouse page. It was his final talk to the club, as he died in 1974.

The beginnings of this presentation can be found in an article from an Aug. 6, 1969 Eastern News article.

“Thut has an individual project that he has been working on. The project includes color and black and white slides of various locations on campus taken throughout the years. He also has color slides of the same location taken within the past year.”

The presentation goes through decades of photos that show the development of Eastern’s campus and its buildings, and a story of a temporary building that was going to be built that would require three trees being cut down.

Thut told the groundskeeper “You go and tell Dr. Buzzard to move the building ten feet. And you say I said so.” The message made its way to Buzzard, university president of 23 years, and the building was moved 10 feet.

“Sometimes you have to be obstinate to get your wish,” Thut said.

Thut also detailed the dilapidation of the old greenhouse that led to the construction of the one that came to be named after him.

“And of course the iron rusted pretty badly so that the last several years the greenhouse was held together by nails and wire and goodness knows what else,” Thut said. “They propped it up for several years and when they pulled it down, they pulled on it and half of it collapsed. So it was pretty well gone.”

Thut now has a scholarship named after him, the H.F. Thut Award, “presented annually to an outstanding sophomore, junior, or senior majoring in Biological Sciences with a Botanical Sciences concentration,” according to Eastern’s Scholarships and Awards page.

In recent years, the greenhouse’s Titan Arum, also referred to as a corpse flower, has bloomed every two years between 2008 and 2018.

The process of the 2018 bloom can be found in detail at EIU Thut Greenhouse’s Twitter, @ThutGreenhouse.

Greenhouse visits can be arranged on the greenhouse website.

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].