The Women’s Dorm and the Insane Asylum

21 06 2008

When I lived on campus, I lived in two dorms- Clara Dickson Hall, on Cornell’s north campus, and Cascadilla Hall, located in the Collegetown area directly south of campus.

Dickson was built in 1946. Originally an all-women’s dorm, it was designed to compliment Balch Hall’s courtyard setup, as part of the north campus master plan of the time. However, with the sudden increase of students attending the college in the 1950s, the plan was abandoned. Apparently, it used to have a dining facility. It houses mostly singles, but I shared a triple with two guys, D.S. from MA and J.W. from KS. They were good guys, and Dickson was a good place to be freshman year. I lived in a very social wing and floor, and it made freshman life enjoyable.

Sophomore year, I made the agreement with my family that I would stay on campus. Cascadilla is a six-story stone dorm on the edge of the highrises of Collegetown. Casca was built in 1866 as a water cure sanitarium, and old Ezra Cornell was one of the investors. When it failed, the building was bought out by Cornell and used for university dining, housing and office space. It was extensively renovated in 1981 [1]. Hence, because of the history, the building is rumored to have been an insane asylum when it was first built. In all reality, it was a “mental health spa”.

Wait, let’s think about the meaning of that…

Cornell is a place of never-ending construction. The north campus last saw construction in 2001, with the addition of Court and Mews Halls. Note that these are “temporary” names; with time and donations, they will be renamed. In 2005, the middle portion of the L that was Court was renamed Bauer Hall, to honor a $10 million dollar donation from Robert’40 and Virginia Bauer’42. Similarly, in 2007 the top of the L wad reanmed Kay Hall, to honor a $10 million donation from Bill Kay ’51 [2]. One half of Mews can be renamed for $15 million, in case anyone’s interested [3].







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