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   Buildings and grounds collection, 1755-2012 [Bulk Dates: 1880-2000].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Name of Collection; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


This collection includes floor plans, maps, correspondence, reports and press clippings pertaining to Columbia University campuses and buildings. The bulk of the collection is divided by building name; general maps, reports and correspondence relating to the Morningside Heights campus are filed separately.

At a Glance

Call No.:UA#125
Bib ID:7201471 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Columbia University. Archives.
Title:Buildings and grounds collection, 1755-2012 [Bulk Dates: 1880-2000].
Physical description:15.85 linear ft. (38 document boxes).
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection has no restrictions. This collection is located on-site.  More information »



This collection is arranged in four series

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Scope and Content

This collection contains materials relating to Columbia University's buildings and grounds on its three main campuses (Park Place, 49th Street & Madison Avenue and Morningside Heights) as well as other real estate used by the University, such as the Medical Center at 168th Street, Lamont-Doherty, and Baker Field in upper Manhattan. It contains floor plans and correspondence relating to the construction and maintenance of buildings. It also contains information about Columbia University's grounds: gates, walkways, outdoor sculpture, and landscaping. The collection includes maps, press clippings, photographs, and administrative reports. The bulk of the materials consist of specific files of information for buildings on the Morningside Heights campus.

Series I: Park Place Campus

The series includes press clippings, maps, floor plans, pamphlets, correspondence, press releases and drawings/sketches relating to Columbia’s first campus location in downtown New York City at Park Place. The Park Place campus is sometimes referred to as the Lower Estate or The Queen’s Farm.

Series II: Madison Avenue Campus

Columbia’s second campus, located at 49th Street and Madison Avenue, is documented by press clippings, maps and publications.

Series III: Morningside Heights Campus

This series contains information concerning Columbia’s third (and current) campus located in Morningside Heights and is divided into four sub-series.

Subseries 1: Buildings

is comprised of maps, floor plans, press clippings, press releases, correspondence, reports, pamphlets, memoranda, notes, proposals, and brochures relating primarily to the buildings (past, present and proposed but never built) located on the Morningside Heights campus. This series also has files of information concerning campus planning and development, as well as files detailing specific features found on the Morningside Heights campus – such as artwork, sculpture, gates, landscaping, and walkways.

Subseries 2: Correspondence

is primarily photocopies of correspondence to and from university president Seth Low discussing the planning and development of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. Correspondence is mainly with the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, who designed this campus, but also includes some letters between President Low, Columbia administrators and architecture professors. There is also one file of correspondence, again primarily photocopied, from President Low’s successors discussing aspects of continued campus development.

Subseries 3: Maps and Floorplans

consists of photocopied maps of Columbia University’s various campuses and real estate holdings (e.g. Reid Hall in Paris, France and Camp Columbia in Connecticut) as collected by the Facilities Department. Also include maps detailing the surrounding neighborhood in Morningside Heights. Floor plans are original and arranged by building name for a particular year. Both maps and floor plans were removed from the binders in which they were originally kept.

Subseries 4: Reports

was created by assorted university officials regarding buildings and campus planning, as well as reports created by Daniel Feuchtwanger for his Facilities project. Many of these reports contain specific information about various buildings owned by Columbia and there is a very useful report detailing the names and inscriptions found throughout campus buildings.

Series IV: Other Real Estate

Series V contains press clippings, pamphlets, brochures, press releases, maps, correspondence, and floor plans relating to properties (past and present) held by Columbia University but not located at the Park Place, Madison Avenue or Morningside Heights campuses. Properties included in this series include the Medical School complex in Washington Heights, Baker Field, Arden House, Nevis Laboratories, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Campus, and Rockefeller Center. This series also includes files regarding general facilities topics such as rent, energy, recycling, and facilities management.

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Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Name of Collection; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid in repository; folder level control.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed by Darragh Martin (GSAS 2011) in July 2007.

Addition to the papers processed by Shelley Hayreh (BC 2008) in July 2008.

Finding aid written by Darragh Martin in July 2007.

Additions to the finding aid written by Jocelyn Wilk in July 2008.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion October 29, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-10-06 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Clippings (information artifacts).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Press releases.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Building Sites--Planning.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
College buildings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Architecture.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Buildings--Designs and plans.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Buildings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Dormitories.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--History.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Student Housing.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.--Dept. of Buildings and Grounds.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.--Division of Facilities Management.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.--East Campus.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.--Observatory.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
King's College (New York, NY)--BuildingsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Library architecture.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Library buildings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Low Memorial Library.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Low,Seth 1850-1916.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McKim, Mead and White.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Rockefeller Center.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
School buildings.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
School lands.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
School sites.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Historican Note

Classes were first held at King's College (now Columbia University) in 1754 inside the vestry room of the Trinity Church schoolhouse on lower Broadway. This room housed classes until 1760 when the school moved to a building on Park Place in downtown Manhattan, near the present site of City Hall. Founded by royal charter of King George II of England, King's College was the only institution of collegiate rank in New York at the time. Classes were suspended during the American Revolution in 1776 and the building was used as a barrack and hospital for both British and American troops. When instruction resumed eight years later, King's College changed its name to Columbia, in keeping with the contemporary political climate.

Classes continued in the Park Place campus until 1857, when, to accommodate its continuing expansion, the campus moved to 49th Street and Madison Avenue, occupying a tract of land previously owned by The New York Deaf and Dumb Institution. Surrounded by vacant lots and underdeveloped land, this campus was virtually rural. This location was favored to the alternative: relocating to the remote Botanic Gardens, three miles outside of New York. The forty years at this Madison Avenue campus saw the foundation of the School of Mines and School of Political Science and the inclusion of the College of Physicians and Surgeons as part of Columbia. In 1897, Columbia left the Madison Avenue campus; the following year the Berkeley School bought the land and destroyed most of the buildings.

The University made a third move in 1897, occupying four blocks in the area now known as Morningside Heights, between 116th and 120th Streets and Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway (then known as The Boulevard). This land belonged to the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, which was owned by the New York City Hospital. Under the leadership of President Seth Low, the architecture firm of McKim, Mead & White was commissioned to design an urban academic village on this site and the asylum's land was forever transformed with the domed Low Memorial Library overlooking a stately collection of Renaissance influenced buildings. The initial phase of construction between 1895 and 1897 saw the erection of Low Library, Schermerhorn Hall, Fayerweather Hall, and University Hall (later demolished).

The expansion of the Morningside Heights campus continued steadily throughout the twentieth century with St. Paul's Chapel, the School of Mines (now Lewisohn Hall) and Hamilton Hall, all constructed between 1903 and 1907. Kent Hall, Philosophy Hall and Avery Hall were constructed between 1909 and 1911; the early 1920s saw the completion of Dodge Hall, John Jay Hall and Pupin Hall. Expansion continued throughout the ensuing decades, with the School of International Affairs completed in 1970 and a large East Campus Housing project developed between 1977 and 1981. The most recent major addition to Morningside Heights' campus is Alfred Lerner Hall, a modern glass structure that replaced Ferris Booth Hall as the student center in 2000.

The University began expansion plans in 2004 in the Manhattanville area, also named "West Harlem," bordered by 129th to 133rd Streets and between Broadway and 12th Avenue. The proposed construction is expected to provide a total of 6.8 million square feet of space above- and below-grade for teaching, academic research, and civic and commercial activity, as well as below-grade parking and facilities support. This is a multi-phased project with completion expected in 2030.

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