One Letter Stands Out in Platteville

By: Brock Bergey Email
By: Brock Bergey Email

POSTED: Monday, May 12, 2008 -- 8:40pm

Up close, it looks like a pile of white rock.

"I had heard from a couple of students beforehand, about it what it meant," says UW-Platteville junior Michael Shesta.

Back up a bit and that white pile of rock takes on a much larger meaning.

Shesta says, "I just looked at it and said, wow!"

"This is the largest "M" in the world, as we're known for," says Platteville freshman Nick Zompa.

241-feet high and 214-feet wide. The massive "M" is on a mound just outside Platteville.

"Yeah, there is a lot of question," says Shesta. "Why is there a giant "M" and what's it for?"

"It kind of commemorates the history of engineering," adds Zompa.

The marker started to take shape in 1936. Its founders were students at the, then, Wisconsin Mining School. M-for mining.

"This is a great reminder of the mining that started this school," Shesta says.

Engineering students at UW-Platteville are now the caretakers of the community symbol and tourist attraction.

"We come out a couple times a semester," says Shesta, from Cleveland, Wisconsin. "We often see a lot of people walking up the stairs."

Making it to the top of the "M" takes a little bit of time and a lot of energy. 266- steps, you will have to climb, but the view is well worth it.

"It's just amazing get out here and look at the farm land and such," Shesta says.

You can see three states (Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois) from this vantage point. And, due to its brightness, the "M" is hard to miss.

"To keep it white like that, we do a lot of whitewashing," says Zompa, from Brookfield. "(It) does take a lot of people to do."

From mining to engineering, Platteville's "M" tells a story rich in history. One that has stood the test of time.

The Theta Tau engineering fraternity receives about $2,000 each year to maintain the "M".

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Wisconsin Mining School.

(NOTE: NBC 15's Brock Bergey is a graduate of UW-Platteville.)

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