North Campus, Cornell

25 06 2008

So, I’m writing this entry after taking a short trek to Bear Necessities (Bear Nasties) located in Robert Purcell Center on the North Campus of Cornell. Since this is the closest food establishment to me, it serves very nicely as a convenience store for my sudden needs, even if they rip my face off when it comes to their prices. Seriously, like 75% more than the price of the same good at Tops.

So, let me segue into a little history. RPU was built in 1971, but not dedicated until 1982 (named for Robert Purcell- you can also find his name on the wall of donors for the construction of Olin Libe in the late 1950s). The building is known for Marketplace Eatery, Nasties, and the annoying self-operating toilets that never work when you want to, but rather wait until you reach for the t.p. Anyways, the whole place was remodeled in 2001.

The other community center on campus is Appel Commons, completed in 2002. Appel was the centerpiece of the $65 million dollar North Campus Residential Initiative, and was named for Robert ’53 and Helen Appel ’55 (yeah, the price tag to name that was $15 million, in case you were wondering). Appel is home to a small fitness area, an open lobby, and North Star eatery. In terms of preference, people tend to switch between Appel and RPU because theyre both fairly popular, but specialize in different foods.

As for the dorms, they were built in spurts. Technically, the first building north of the gorges was Risley Hall, built in 1911. Risley was named for Prudence Risley, the mother of Henry Russell Sage, of Sage Hall/Chapel fame. Note that it was dedicated by her daughter-in-law, for sage was dead by this time. Formerly an all-women’s dorm, unless you’re a thespian or seek to hide away in the only dorm really close to the arts quad, Risley isn’t a popular option. Although, it has the smallest single and largest double on campus, its own dining hall, and it quite opulent on the inside. And as rumor would have it, a healthy drug trade.

The next dorm built was Balch Hall. Balch was dedicated in 1930, a gift of Allan Balch 1889 and Janet Balch M.S. 1888 (Janet Balch’s alma mater, Scripps College, also received a donation that lead to the construction of Janet Jacks Balch Hall at that school in 1929 [1]). Balch Hall is the women’s dorm. The ladies there can be described three ways: 1) Their parents wanted them there 2) They were placed there out of sheer [bad] luck or 3) They genuinely wanted the quiet atmosphere without the distraction of boys. Yeah, I can say I’ve only met a few of the 3’s. Balch had a dining hall until 2000, when it was converted into the Carol Tatkon Center. *Guys, I recommend trying to streak through the Balch, as long as the RAs aren’t on the track team, and you know how to get out or where to hide. * Some RAs will m ake an issue about unescorted boys in the dorm, as will a few of the residents. Personally, I was only ever booted out once, and I was there all hours of the night. What I remember most was the very high ceilings in my friend L.B.’s room.

The next dorm constructed was Clara Dickson, named for A.D. White’s mother (what is up with naming buildings after one’s mother anyway?). Built in 1946, it is still the largest dorm in terms of number of residents in the Ivy League. The building from what I remember often seperated itself by wings and floors- I was an upper 2-5 resident, meaning my boundaries were for the most part the lobby and the side entrance; lower 2-5 was below that, and I never went there much except for a sociology project for my writing seminar. All in all, I associated with the twenty-one residents of my area, and maybe another half dozen scattered throughout the building. That was about it. The higher up you go floor-wise, the more luxurious the furnishings tend to be, and the smaller the rooms tend to be (why, you ask? because the largest spaces are on the “ground” floors, since they can’t be divided up too well due to the entrances).

The next dorm to be built was Mary Donlon Hall, constructed in 1961. This building is shaped like a thong. It’s also regarded as the most social of the dorms. I was in it maybe five times all of freshmen year, and from what I picked up, it really sounded like hit-or-miss when it came to social experiences in that hall. Don’t buy into everything that you hear. It was renovated recently though, so at least the furnishings are nice. Donlon was a women’s dorm for the first ten years of its existence as well.

***An aside, but the gym, Helen Newman (gift of Floyd Newman ’12, the same one as the Newman Annex across the gorge from the gym), was built in 1963. A little run-down and rusty, the building is set for a $15 million renovation in the next few years, including the addition of a second pool and more fitness facilties [3]. The bowling alley is in the basement.***

Starting in 1970, Cornell planned the high-rise/low-rise system. Some of the buildings are themed; HILC is building 8, JAM is building 9, and Ujamaa is building 10. 6 and 7 are unthemed (and 7 was home to a double murder in December 1983 [2]). The low-rises were completed around 1975. The high-rises would be completed by 1982; Jameson Hall (High-Rise 1) and High-Rise 5. Low-rises 2-4 were never completed due to a lack of funding.

Although a plan was launched to designed additional dorms under the guidence of architect Richard Meier, the plan fell through. It would not be until 2000-2001 that the Mews Hall and Court Hall buildings would be constructed. These are generally regarded well, although I have had friends complains that the suite-style setup was not exactly conducive to getting to know people outside your suite. Perosnally, I was in there maybe four times, so I can’t comment.

The townhouses, a throwback to the 1970s, are rather old-looking with decaying wood trim, and rather isolated from the social scenes of the other freshmen. At least they have a lot more living space. If you’re really unlucky as a freshman, Cornell will run out of space and stuff you into Hasbrouck, the neighboring apartment complex that is home to mostly grad students (and now with the demolition of the transfer center, transfer students may call Hasbrouck home as well). Cornell’s master plan calls for both of these to be demolished in the next ten to twenty years, and replaced with new dorms (the CC parking lot next to Sigma Alpha Mu will be torn out and dorms would be placed there as well).

With the exception of a couple of one offs like the Latino Living Center at Anna Comstock Hall (1932, reprogrammed 1994), that about sums up North Campus facilties. As a freshman, it’s convenient to all be in one place; you get to really bond with your class. As an upperclassman, it’s a pain in the arse to stay in contact with friends who are RAs or in a program house, because the place is just like an enclave and they hardly ever leave except for forays to Central Campus. I hardly visited North Campus during sophomore year because I lived on the exact opposite side of campus. Being closer now, I’m not sure if this makes me more likely to visit, but with the exception of more convenience store trips to RPU, my guess is “no”.

[1] http://www.scrippscollege.edu/about/campus-guide/balch-hall.php

[2] http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20A15FA3F5C0C738EDDAB0994DB484D81

[3]http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/initiatives/res/images/helen_newman.gif


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