Far West Campus, the First Photo Tour

31 07 2008

The house of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. As previously covered, the house was this dreadful brutalist monstrosity constructed in 1964 when the fraternity moved from 312 Thurston Avenue [1]. The house was extensively renovated in the second half of the 1990s, gaining a more postmodern appearance that has earned it the nickname “The Gables”. Prior to 312 Thurston (now demolished), Phi Kappa Psi lived in the Watermargin house. It was among the first fraternities chaptered at Cornell, established in 1868.

This house belongs to Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, currently the only sorority on West Campus. The house was built by Sigma Chi in the 19th century, who left it for Greystone Manor in 1923, and Theta Chi fraternity moved in. Bay the 1980s, Theta Chi had moved out of the house for a mansion on Ridgewood Road, and “Theta” moved in. Theta was dispelled from its national in 1965, but returned to campus in 1980 [1], and moved into this house during the 1980s.

Speaking of fraternities founded early in Cornell’s history, Chi Phi and north campus fraternity Zeta Psi were both founded on opening day 10/7/1868. The two flipped a coin to see who would be declared the first fraternity at Cornell. Well, Chi Phi still uses its early start in rush promos, but Zeta Psi is officially the first fraternity (Zeta Psi and Chi Phi have a rivalry to this day). Craigielea, their tudor-esque house, is well over a century old (1890, partiall rebuilt after a 1903 fire), and has continuously been in their posession. The house was designed by W. H. Miller of Uris Libe fame [2].

And this is what’s left of their (pledge?) project, bleachers that they built last April. Shame, really. I wonder if they did it or someone who hates Chi Phi did it.

Delta Kappa Epsilon (DEKE) fraternity house is a Romaneqaue Revival House built in 1893 by W.H. Miller [3]. The house is known as Gray Stone Castle, and sits on the National Register of Historic Places [4]. As amazing as the house is, the chapter hasn’t been doing all too recently; rumor mill says numbers were so low in recent years that actives had two rooms each.

112 Edgemoor Lane, a small campus dorm designed for about 20-25 occupants. As I explained in a previous entry, this house has a lot of significance to me personally. So, the house, built in the Colonial Revival style, was built in 1881. The house was home to Sigma Phi Epsilon up into the 1960s, when Sig Ep moved out and Triangle fraternity moved in. Previously, Triangle called a house at the junction of Campus Road and Stewart Avenue home, but the ca. 1839 farm house was torn down to make room for DTD’s new house [5]. After Triangle was deactivated by its national in 1985, the house was made into part of Cornell’s campus dorms.

Lambda Chi Alpha’s house also sits on Edgemoor Lane. Originally known as ISWZA [5], Lambda Chi was chaptered in 1913, and the house was purchased around 1918 (it was built in 1899). Lambda Chi is known for having a feud with its neighbor Chi Phi. The house also maintains a gazebo on the edge of the gorge, which was built in recent years.

The house of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. The house was occupied by Beta Theta Pi, who occupied the house until they moved in 1906. About a decade later when Pi Kappa Alpha colonized on campus, the chapter moved into this house. My slight personal issue was that they had a steep driveway in the back, and some jackass in a Jetta would try to do 0-60 every time he went down the hill. The whining engine gets quite annoying after a while.

The Jewish Living Center. The house dates from the 1890s[6], with the kosher dining center to its south (not pictured) dating from the late 1980s. The center was known as Young Israel until the late 1990s. Judging from their website, the independent organization has had a contentious past with its relations to the University. The old fraternity house for Seal & Serpent (pre-1926) used to be next door, but it was demolished to make room for their parking lot.








News Tidbits- The Disappearing Suspension Bridge, and its Conflicting History

30 07 2008
It was during a snowstorm...in MARCH...

It was taken during a snowstorm...in MARCH...

Glancing at the Sun today, I was pleasantly surprised to see an article about the master plan written by columnist Munier Salem. The article diescusses a discrepency in the presence of the suspension bridge north of the Johnson Museum, that spans the Fall Creek Gorge from the base of the wooden staircase off University Avenue to Fall Creek Drive. In some massing renderings, the bridge doesn’t exist [1]. One of the focuses of Salem’s article was whether or not this was intentional.

My personal thought is that it was not intentional. A rough guess of foot traffic during the academic year is probably among a few thousand unique trips across the span per day, plus there’s a strong sense of establishment associated with that bridge- although the current one was built in 1960, there has been a bridge at the present site since 1913 [2].

The bridge is marked with its share of legends and lore. Most have heard the one where if someone refusing a kiss while crossing the bridge at midnight, that it will collapse into the gorge. Another, somewhat less popular legend, is that the 1913 bridge was designed by an engineering student as part of a final project in his senior year. However, when he turned it in and the professor reviewed it, the professor said that the design wasn’t structurally feasible, and failed the student. Dejected, the student jumped into the gorge for where the south end of the bridge connects to campus. His grieving family, being of considerable wealth, decided to take his design and make it a reality. Thus it was built to the young man’s decision, and it was stable. Thus, the student was vindicated.

However, these are only just legends; the original 1913 suspension bridge is mostly an embellishment of the real story (there was a low-slung one in the 1880s behind Risley, so take the concept of “original bridge” with a grain of salt). Edward Wyckoff 1889, a student at Cornell, is said to have designed the bridge as part of a project, but the professor failed him and Wyckoff withdrew from Cornell. Twenty-plus years later, he financed the construction of the bridge [4]; the bridge was built by a private company for the Cornell Heights Improvement Company, of which Wyckoff was a major financier of the company, so this seems plausible.

The 1960 bridge was designed by two professors. S.C. Hollister and William McGuire (yes, the same Hollister for whom Hollister Hall is named [3]). However, to conflict with this, article [4] suggests it was built in 1977. I’m pretty firm in that it was 1960, as an earlier DUE, from 1987, contradicts it and gives the 1960 date [5]. The current bridge sits about 138 ft. above the water level [2].

Anyways, Salem also noted the propsed bridge behind Eddy Gate; while I think it’s awesome (I lived in Casca for a year), I’ll save discussion for when I cover that in another Master Plan entry.






[4]http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?timestamp=1087880400 from June 2004

[5]http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?timestamp=545716800 from April 1987

Cornell’s Morbid History

29 07 2008

This is not a very fun topic to talk about, and I completely understand if someone is uncomfortable reading it. I am by no means offended if anyone chooses not to read this entry.


So today, I was at work when one of my supervisors opened up discussion about some of the students she has had as employees over the past twenty years. She originally worked with the hotel before transferring to store operations a couple of years ago. two particularly tragic moments sttod out in her mind; one was the death of a student after they were hit by a TCAT bus, and the other was a case where two students who had been using drugs at a party jumped from the Statler right around Hotel Ezra Cornell.

So, I decided to do a little side research into Cornell’s darker, morbid history. The first incident my supervisor recalled was the death of junior Michelle Evans after she was struck and killed by a TCAT on Dragon Day in March 2000 [1]. The driver of the bus was D.U.I. and strayed from the street. The Evans family would later sue TCAT and Cornell and was awarded a settlement of $3 million, which has been used to set up a memorial scholarship in her name.

The other incident I have yet to find any inforamation on. She said it was unlikely I’d find much anyway, since the whole thing was kept as quiet as possible (how you do that with two students jumping to their death must be quite a feat).

Cornell is no stranger to death in the student population. One of the more famous cases is the death of lacrosse player Mario St. George Boiardi, a senior who was struck in the chest with a ball while playing defesneman during a game versus Binghamton. He collapsed on the field, and although attempts were made to revive him, Boiardi was prononuced dead at Cayuga Medical Center at 6:44 P.M. on March 17, 2004 [2]. My supervisor was still at the hotel when the family arrived in Ithaca, and she described Mrs. Boiardi as “blotto”, as she had to carried by two people, since she was moaning in grief and wandering aimlessly through the lobby when they came for their son. She further described that Mrs. Boiardi seemed “all cried out, like she ran out of tears.”

Other times, an individual feels that should take their own life. Cornell is one of the few institutions that keeps a relatively accurate track of suicide, probably because of our infamous, and rather unfair, reputation; records indicate that it averages 4.3 per 100,000 student years, or about .82 deaths a year (assuming 19,000 students at Cornell; this does not distinguish between grad and undergrad) [3]. This is below the national average, which stands at about 7.5 per 100,000 student years. But as contradictory as things like to be, this DUE letter says it is 1.56 per 100,000 [12].

As for jumping from the gorge, a popular jab at our institution:

1- Takehiro Hara, a law student from Tokyo, accidentally fell into the gorge around December 3, 1999. His body was recovered two days later. His death was ruled accidental, with the cause being asphyxiation by drowning. [1]

2- Dan Pirfo, a freshman from Washington D.C, disappeared during the night of April 24, 2005. His body was located on May 10 at the base of Ithaca Falls. [4]

3- Junior Keith O’Donnell died on September 13, 2007, after suffering head injuries sustained in a fall after falling 30 feet into Cascadilla Gorge near the Glen Walk on the 8th of the month. [5] Curiously, a later sun article reports this as a drowning death [6].

4- The drowning death of graduate student Aravind Lakshamanan on August 14, 2006, the third that month. A 28 year old visitor, Navin Parthasarathy of California, and a local man in his 60s also lost their lives in the gorge that same month, although the latter has been disputed as to whether or not it was a suicide. [6, 7]

5- Most recently, the death of Douglas Lowe ’11, who drowned June 12, 2008 after being caught in the strong current of the Fall Creek Gorge. [6]

Most of the recent gorge deaths don’t appear to be suicides, but tragic accidental deaths.

Another cause of death are fire-related injuries/ailments, such as the death of fifth-year art student Ian Alberta on May, 13 2006. Alberta was killed when his apartment caught fire as the result of smoking materials not being put out properly, according to news reports [13]. I walk past that house every day on my way to work; it cost $50,000 to reapir damages, but someone fixed it up. With the exception of the awkward shingle patches on the roof, you’d never know anything had happened here.

And sometimes, and this is what would really, really suck, is that you just up and die. That’s pretty much what happened to a 25 year old grad student in his lab in April 2003. He just collapsed at 10 P.M. on April 1, and died the following morning in the hospital[8]. Or the death of Scott Paavola, a sophomore in engineering, who died Oct. 15, 2002, of a medical condition associated with an enlarged heart. Yet, he was perfectly healthy otherwise, a swimmer for Cornell and a brother at Phi Kappa Psi [11].

I’m not even making a decent attempt to chronicle earlier deaths. The gorge death of Danny Sastrowardoyo ’87, who died May 30, 1986 [7]. The beating death of junior Todd M. Crane on October 5, 1989 [9]. The curious death of Terrence Quinn ’93, who was found dead and upside-down in Psi Upsilon’s chimney on Janurary 15, 1993 [10]. He wasn’t even a member of that house, and no one knows exactly how he got there; but he died of “positional asphyxia”, meaning the way his neck was bent slowly cut off his air supply, suffocating him.

Even after this entry was initially written, I have  come back to include the deaths of Matthew Lanzing ’09 [14] and Nicolas Kau ’12 [15] (it would appear that Kau died over vacation, falling from a ninth story window [16]). The swine flu scare resulted in hundreds being sick, and at least one student who died from complications related to the H1N1 virus, Warren J. Schor ’11, an AEM student who was a member of ZBT.

In a school of 19,000+ students, bad things are going to happen as a matter of probability and reality. We accept these risks as we live life at Cornell day-to-day. It’s tragic, and it’s still a (sad) part of our history as an institution.


Holy crap, if it bleeds, it leads…a lot:

















The Cornell Master Plan, Part 3 of 5

27 07 2008

So, picking up where we left off, we’ll be covering some of the more eye-opening parts of the Core Campus master plan.

So, this is one of the brand new ideas being churned out by the brains designing the master plan. Precinct 7 is known as the Alumni Quad (my brown-nosing sensors are going off). As most may be aware, the alumni quad is currently the site of the atheltic fields (Robison). A new road (Rice Drive) is built where the western edge of the track currently sits, and so Friedman Wrestling Center ends up sitting at an intersection. The proposed mid-campus walk runs through the alumni quad, and renovation of Schoellkopf’s facilities are suggested to accomodate some of the athletic uses lost due to the elimination of the track. Additional facilities would be built at Kite Hill (which even I have barely heard of).

Apparently, the master plan thought it would be pretty cool to put Schoellkopf’s parking lot underground and build athletic facilities (not to mention their would be a huge parking lot below the alumni quad). I wish them the best of luck, because with all of their planned subterranean parking, I’m sure hell will be raised at some point (ex. safety concerns).

Like with the building planned for Day Hall’s site, they gave one of the two new buildings defining the quad an odd footprint to minimize its usage of space. their goal in the design of this quad was to break up the density between the ILR-Biology Quad area and the proposed East Campus. Also, it would appaear that whatever that is planned next to Wilson Lab is currently in currently underway at some level, and another building, the 16,000 sq. ft addition to the heating plant, is also shown to be underway at the edge of the slide. The other building appears to be an addition to Friedman, which is quite curious considering Friedman is less than six years old [1]. Neither building would be more than a couple of floors, with a sq. footage between 37,000 and 93,000 sq. ft. total.

here’s my one minor critique; the backside of Bartels, which would be facing this quad, is neither interesting nor visually appealing. unless some renovation of the backside is planned, I’m not sure I would want that fronting the new campus green space. You might just as well but up a stone fence on the entire southern edge.

I look at precinct 8 and I don’t even know where to start. The proposed east center is a very large, massive set of new facilities that by any guess would run into the billions.

Footprint-wise, the area East Campus would cover is the area from the track field to Judd Falls Road, which is the next intersection just beyond the Dairy Bar. That’s a fairly large chunk of real estate. Withthe exception of the historical front portions of Stocking Hall and Wing Hall, all other current structures in that area would be demolished to make way for the new complex.

Most of the ten buildings in the complex have large footprints, and four of them feature tall, slender towers of slightly varying heights. Even before checking the parcel listings, you can look at the elevations and determine that they are slightly taller than Bradfield. With four to five story buildings on its perimeter, the place would be built up like a fortress, yet they try to maintain spaces between the buildings “to maintain porosity”.

Now, I remember hearing on one occasion that after the monstrosity of Bradfield Hall, Tompkins County would never allow any more tall buildings to be built on Cornell Campus. But, I’ve yet to see anything distinctly say as much, and I doubt that Tompkins County could reasonably exclude tall structures as long as they are not in the way of takeoff or landing patterns over at the airport. If you never noticed, look up at Bradfield during the night, and you’ll see the red warning lights on the roof to warn planes of its presence.

This isn’t the first time a building taller than Bradfield has been proposed either.  Fomr Blake Gumprecht’s Fraternity Row and Collegetown study (he studied Cornell for his research):

“Collegetown has undergone profound changes over the last quarter century.City officials began to press for the redevelopment of the neighborhood in 1968. The following year, a city-sponsored urban renewal plan called for theheart of Collegetown to be demolished and replaced with a massive, multipurpose development. It recommended construction of a large building on College Avenue that would include 375 apartments, 600 parking spaces, retail on the first and second floors, two movie theaters, a restaurant, and nine floorsof office space. It also called for the construction of six to eight high-rise apartment towers, the tallest eighteen to twenty-one stories. The plan went nowhere [2].”

The master plan states that the buildings would consist of classrooms and academic space on lower floors and residential/dorm space in the residential towers. Although I applaud the concept of “mixed-use”, I’m not exactly sure how well the idea would go over with the potential residents. However, it would seem the residential towers are meant for grad students, post-docs and professors. I’m not sure if this sounds more like an educational area or a self-enclosed research facility (I would sit back and watch as the city starts demanding taxes on it because they come to the same conclusion). The ground floors of the  building would have restaurants and cafes, and lounge spaces; the intention is for this area to be a vibrant 24-hour space. I would hope that all of the eating areas wouldn’t all be run my Cornell dining- the same set of baked goods and drinks gets real old, real fast.

There would be 85 to 120 units per resident building. Take that through eight to ten floors, and you have ten to fifteen units per floor. A major question that would have to be answered in the deisgn phases would be how much residentil space will be provided per unit; I can imagine that grads, post-docs and professors would want more living space than the 200 sq. ft rooms in some of the dorms. The max height of a single building entity would be about 210 feet, the same as a typical 20-story apartment tower, or a fifteen-story office building, to put it into perspective. The final square footage would be 1.5-2.2 million sqaure feet, at least six times the amount of space in Weill Hall (which is 262,000 sq. ft.).

At least 850 parking spaces will be located underneath the East Campus. The primary purpose for them is to provide parking fore the residents of the complex, but the plan also suggests that when they empty out in the evenings, they can be used by others in the Cornell community to maintain the vibrancy of the area. I just can’t get through the impression I’m getting that this isn’t so much academic as it is research, and while we are a research institution, I wonder if how much we’re trying to blur the line between Cornell the school and Cornell the research organization.

To be continued…part 4 will cover the last of the Core Campus.



Yet Another North Campus Photo Tour

27 07 2008

The house of Zeta Beta Tau. This fraternity wins my commendation for having the most difficult house to find.   Like seriously, it’s tucked away at the end of Edgecliff Road, which is hard enough to find at the end of Thurston near the Stewart Ave. bridge. The letters Z.B.T. hail from a ritual phrase of the fraternity (that was publicly revealed  on its one-hundreth anniversary): “Zion Bemishpat Tipadeh” [1], which translates means “Zion shall be redeemed with justice”. In case it hasn’t clicked in yet, the house was founded as a Jewish fraternity, and still has a strong Jewish presence in its membership. The house itself dates from the 1900s. (fun fact: ZBT absorbed four other fraternities over time: Phi Alpha, Kappa Nu, Phi Epsilon Pi, and Phi Sigma Delta. At some point (prior to 1959), all had houses at Cornell. Phi Alpha’s old house is now a rental house next door to my apartment).

Carl Sagan’s House, prior to his death in 1996. The property sits at 900 Stewart Avenue- the first photo is the entrance area from the street, and the second is from the other side of the gorge. Originally, one of Cornell’s two major secret societies, Sphinx Head, built a windowless meeting chamber on the site in 1926 [2]. Well, upkeep proved to be a hassle by the 1960s, so they sold it to their neighbor Professor Robert Wilson in 1969, who in turn sold the tomb to Professor Steven Mensch in 1979. Mensch built a house on the site in the style of the tomb, which he sold to Carl Sagan. Currently, the house is considered to be the property of the Sagan estate and its heirs.

The house of Sigma Chi Delta, a local co-ed fraternity founded in 1981 [3]. It has no letters on the outside, so this is how I confirmed it as their house:

Yes, the composite is purposely blurred so I don’t receive nasty e-mails. I’m sure I’ll be in enough heat for taking photos through their street-facing windows.

The two 7-unit houses that represent the retirement facility “Bridges at Cornell Heights” [4]. My jaw drops when I look at how lovely these houses are. I believe they were renovated in the late 1990s. In case anyone’s wondering, the price is about $7500/month. That’s actually more than I make in a year…

Similar in concept to Zeta Beta Tau is Alpha Epsilon Phi, a sorority with a strong Jewish background. The Cornell chapter was established in 1920. It amazes me how little information I can find about the chapter itself, apart from token facts like house color and flower. I’m not looking for that, I’m looking for the history. It is perfectly possible that the house, which dates from the 1900s, has always been their house. Looking through a copy of 1943 Cornellian suggests they have been in the house at least 65 years, so there’s some support to the idea. If an AEPhi could confirm that, it would be appreciated.

Formerly the house of merged fraternity Phi Sigma Epsilon, today this is the house of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega. This is not to be confused with Chi Omega, which closed in 2003 and once lived at 10 Sisson Place. Alpha Chi Omega reestablished itself at Cornell in 1984 (Chi Omega did the same thing in 1987, but it appeared only one has managed to survive up to today). In 1985, another sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, tried to establish itself, but closed after 1990. They also lived at 722 University Avenue (what is that, the token Greek house?) [5]

The Africana Library. built in 2005. The original library was part of the Africana Center that was burned in 1970 (in response, enraged students stormed the new Cornell Store, ransacking and heavily damaging the facility. They burned many of the stolen items in a large bonfire a week later). The center (in the background, you can make it out on the left) was then relocated to 310 Triphammer Road, just off North Campus. The building was dedicated to John Henrik Clarke in 1985, the same year that the Africana Libe became a part of the university library system. The building was previously renovated in 1990 [6].







The Cornell Master Plan: Part 2 of 5

24 07 2008

So, picking up where I left, part 1 was meant to only cover the arts quad and provide an introduction. In part two, we’ll reach a little deeper into the details of the plan.

The next section focuses on the Ho Plaza area. The primary components of the plan for this area include the reconstruction of Gannett and Day Hall and the demolition of the Cornell Store. I’m going to say that because I’m an employee of the store, there’s a certain sense of attachment one develops after a couple years, so I wasn’t very pleased to see this. Also, Olin Hall and Willard Straight are set to gain additions. The massive new development to replace Hollister and Carpenter Halls will be discussed later.

Here’s a surprise; all the proposals on this page are currently in development already, with the exception of the Straight addition and Day Hall’s demolition. There’s the law school additions, which first appear on page 21; the courtyard-plan makes me raise an eyebrow, because you never know what Cornell is exactly planning. The Law School has seen major construction in four decades (Myron Taylor, 1930s, Anabel Taylor, 1950s, Hughes Hall, 1960s, and the Foster addition to Myron Taylor, 1980s). They have remained relatively cohesive in appearance and massing, and I would hope that any further plans keep it that way.

Then there’s Gannett. Gannett was built in 1958 with an addition in 1979 that sticks out like some cancerous growth from the main building (off topic a little, but when designing new buildings, I hope Cornell never hires Frank Gehry. Look at what he did at MIT as a warning[1]). The discussion for the replacement structure suggests it work with the neighboring intersection to engage activity, which seems to me like it would probably have a plaza in front of it. The replacement structure would be 4-5 floors.

The addition to Olin isn’t a surprise, and will probably blend in with the structure as the east addition did in 1987. I’m not up in arms over that one. I admit that I’m none too cheery about the store’s demolition, but that’s because the main reason seems to be sight-lines. What the hell, demolishing a 53,000 sq. ft facility because it obstructs views. The store was built in 1968-69, and was originally supposed to be 10 feet deeper, but they didn’t expect to hit shallow bedrock. So they compromised. I’ve talked about this with customers, and the concern seems to be where else can they put the store where it is still easily accessible. Moving it out east won’t work unless there’s a lot more out there by that time. But, at work they’re already talking of looking at locations to move to within the next couple years; Collegetown is coming up a lot.

The Day Hall proposing is laughable. Curving the base to match with Wee Stinky Glen is probably not going to be as harmonious as suggested. The idea of student activity at the base of Day sounds nice, but I doubt Day Hall’s staff will appreciate it. Day Hall is administrative, so trying to mix the functions of the student union with the administration in one footprint is not going to go over well. My thought anyway.

Precinct 3 is the Engineering Quad and Hoy Field, referred to in the plan as the “Hoy Quad”. Compared to the previous two precincts, the changes here are numerous. Hollister, Carpenter, and part of Thurston are gone (so is Ward Center, but I’ve met engineers who didn’t even know that was there). A massive building replaced the former two, and the latter is incorporated as part of a new set of building, a large addition next to Grumman Hall and a small slender building directly behind Thurston (a design massing of Gates?). Hoy field is gone, replaced by four medium-sized-footprint structures making up a partial quad.

The plan suggests Rhodes is too tall for its location, so the new development next to Grumman builds up to it. At the end of its useful life, the demolition of Rhodes is suggested. Wow, not even twenty years old and Rhodes Hall is already having its demolition suggested. Garden Avenue would be extended between the parking garage and the new quad. The space created in the new quad would be between 249,000 and 378,000 sq. ft of space- about the same if you combined the new Physical Sciences. I’m kinda fond of Hollister Hall,  (I know, it’s a box, but it’s a decent international style box), so I’m a little disappointed to here it’s slated for demolition, but in general I’m more concerned with who Cornell hires to design the new building (I vote for Robert Stern).

Precinct 4 is the Bailey Plaza precinct. Here, Malott Hall has been demolished. I’m not too fond of that; I find the north wing to be a great example of 1960s architecture (to hell with the south wing). Again, it’s because of sight-lines; they want Bailey Hall and Plaza to be the focal point of this area. The plan goes even further to suggest the demolition of Roberts Hall once it goes beyond its useful life to enhance sight-lines even further.

Much to the disappointment (or delight, in some cases) of nutri sci majors, Savage and Kinzelberg would be demolished for a new structure, around 150,000 sq. ft in size and 3-4 floors. Newman Lab would also see the axe. The new building could be either research labs or a performing arts center to complement Bailey. But at the research institution that is Cornell, I have an idea which one would be preferred.

Precinct 5, the Garden Avenue area, has nothing new planned, nor nothing planned for demolition. Here’s an idea; use some of the steel and aluminum from Duffield’s facade and put it on Uris. But, I’m being unfair. Uris, built in 1972, was named for Percy and Harold Uris ’25; the libe was also dedicated to them in 1962, the first time it was renovated. Well, story goes that when Cornell gave them carte blanche on design preferences, they were in Pittsburgh, and noticed how amazing the (then new) U.S. Steel tower’s facade looked (which uses cor-ten steel). They wanted to see that on the new building [2]. So that’s why it was chosen. Cor-ten steel turns gold-yellow when it reacts with common air pollutants; well if Ithaca can claim anything, the air is pretty clean. So, no gold hues anytime soon (the last I heard, maybe 100 years).

Fully Weathered COR-TEN steel

Fully Weathered COR-TEN steel

The last precinct I’ll cover tonight is the Ag Quad. The Ag Quad is important to me because this is where I spend a good chunk of my life (that and the bowels of the engineering school, where engineers remind me every day why I study meteorology and not engineering). In particular, I live at the top of Bradfield. We think it’s the best view because of the height and the fact we don’t have to look at it. It’s like a pug, so ugly you can’t help but love it (it grew on me over months…okay, years). The additions to the ag quad are a new building over the gravel lot currently between Kennedy and Plant Sci, and the front of south side of Plant Sci. Really, we wouldn’t even need a new building on the parking lot if they hadn’t demolished East Roberts Hall in the late 1980s.

L to R: Roberts, Stone, East Roberts Halls

As for the Plant Sci addition, I was never fond of the front anyway. It was built in the depression, and it looks that way too. But no glass box, please. This precinct also includes the new MVR north, being built right now (there was an old MVR north; just search this blog for the story). It looks life Caldwell and Warren get back additions on their parking lots, and Bruckner Lab sees the wrecking ball to make room for a building that dwarfs neighboring Rice and Fernow Halls. They say Cornell builds in a style is fashionable at the time. If that’s the case right now, then stay off the Ag Quad. My trust with Cornell’s building proposal designs is quite low.

Thankfully, none of the plans are currently underway. I admit, if William Henry Miller were alive today, I’d be begging for the university to hire him. I’m not big on progressive architecture, but maybe that’s because I just don’t understand it. I like the traditional styles just fine.To be continued…[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stata_Center

[2]http://ezra.cornell.edu/searched.php – see 12/27/2005

Another Random Cornell Heights Tour

23 07 2008

The house of Acacia fraternity. It was built in 1907 for a prominent professor, and designed by architect Arthur Gibb in the Prairie House style.  Gibb was also responsible for the design of Baker Lab on campus (which was technically designed around 1910, even if it wasn’t completed until 1921) [1]. The house, called “Northcote”, was first occupied by Acacia in 1934, with an additional dorm wing constructed around 1958. Today, in terms of distance from campus, Northcote is probably one of the farthest.

Greystone Manor, the house of Sigma Chi fraternity. It is been my observation that Sigma Chi is probably one of the most low-key fraternities of Cornell. There’s only a flag to announce their existence at their house, they have no house web site, etc. However, this doesn’t mean that the house doesn’t have a history worth sharing. The house was the home of silent-film star Irene Castle around 1919, when the silent-film industry was still thriving in the Ithaca area. It was bought by Sigma Chi in 1923, and has been in their possession ever since.

EDIT: So, a kind reader was generous to share this extra bit of information about the history of the house:

“The Greystone house was built by Alice G. McCloskey (of the Nature Studies department and editor of the Rural School Leaflet) and another woman. By the time Alice died 19 Oct 1915 she was the owner of the house. She left the house to her assistant, Edward Mowbray Tuttle (my husband’s maternal grandfather). Edward married in October 1919 and sold the Greystone to the silent film start in 1919. So there is more history than you think.”

On that note, Irene Castle was married to one of Treman family, but left Ithaca (and him) in 1923.

Not a frat house, but this is an amazing looking house regardless. Zillow.com indicates it was built in 1910. It’s across the street from Sigma Chi.

The house of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity on Ridgewood Road. The house dates from the 19th century, but Phi Delta Theta has made it home for the vast majority of its life. Phi Delta Theta is a dry fraternity, meaning that in its house, there is no alcohol consumption; for that, they can go to their annex at 210 Thurston. The house went dry in 2000, and all 40 current brothers at the time resigned in protest. If any of you are familiar with author Scott Conroe’s It Takes Just Pride, then you’ll recognize that this is one of the fraternities covered in the book. I also want to say that this is one of the two houses where someone chased me off the property for taking photos. Someone was in a foul mood, I guess.

The house of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. AOPi moved in in fall 2006. Prior to that, this house served as the home of Theta Chi for about 25 years. Theta Chi was expelled from campus in 1999, and then the house was briefly occupied by AEPi and former Theta Chi pledges, and finally AEPi moved back to their Thurston house in fall 2001. Theta Chi attempted a reorganization in 2003 but it did not last, and the house sat vacant until AOPi bought the facility. AOPi first came back to Cornell in 1989 after a 25-year hiatus; they lived briefly in AXiD’s house and 210 Thurston before moving into 14 South Avenue on West Campus in 1991 [2]. Prior to Theta Chi, this house was the home of a fraternity by the name Tau Delta Phi. While the house has been home to a number of GLOs, it was originally built in 1925-26 for Professor Ernest T. Paine[3].

Continuing up Ridgewood is Pi Kappa Phi. The house is affectionately known as “Greentrees”, a name that hails from its days as the house of Phi Kappa Sigma before they folded in 1991. The name comes from the seven forested acres the house sits on. The property also at one point maintained an in-ground pool, a rarity for Ithaca. The house was originally home to George Morse of Morse Chain Company (now Emerson Power Transmission, a major private-sector employer in Ithaca). Phi Kappa Sigma, the Skulls, lived in the house from 1935 to 1991. In the meanwhile, Phi Kappa Phi lived at 722 University Avenue from 1949 to 1986, when the chapter closed; it was reorganized in 1990, and moved into this house the following year [4].

Across the street is Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Now, I must say that this house is spectacular from the outside; but I was appalled the few times I’ve been in there (a couple of my friends are brothers at Beta). Anyways, Beta (originally Alpha Sigma Chi), lived in Pi Kappa Alpha’s house until about 1906, when “Castle on the Rock” was constructed [5].

Venison Anyone?

Wrapping up Ridgewood is Sigma Delta Tau sorority. The Alpha chapter was founded in 1917 as Sigma Delta Phi, but changed when it was founded the letters conflicted with another organization (that seems to happen quite a bit) [6]. The house has a stunningly unattractive addition that probably dates from the 1960s, and I tried my best to not photograph it. The rest of the house looks very classy, dating from 1900-1910.







The Cornell Master Plan: Part 1 of 5

22 07 2008

So, now that I’m done with the fraternity rush booklet, I’m going to do a new multi-part feature, this one focusing on the Cornell master plan. Look at it this way; I love reviewing the additions to Cornell’s physical plant, so this is the equivalent of giving a hit to a crack addict (okay, maybe not as detrimental to my health. But anyways…)

So, a little background. The plan was first initiated in late 2005 and took about two years to complete the final product [1], which was the culmination of the third and final phase of development. Up to that point, some open sessions were held at Willard Straight and at the Hilton Garden downtown (in Sept. 2007) for members of the community to comment on the findings, needs and projected developments of the university. The work was done by a Toronto-based planning firm, Urban Strategies Inc.

The plan tries to encompass the needs and concerns of the university and its physical plant. Among the primary issues, transportation and parking were major concerns, as well as maintaining a cohesive campus community and spatially harmonious design concepts in the planning of space throughout the campus. Also important was the development of additional facility to maintain Cornell’s capacity to be a top research institution.

So, the plan is set on the time scale of the next 10 to 25 years. The plan considers some of the following parameters; an increase of faculty from 1,600 to 1,700-1,800; an increase in graduate student population from 6,000 to 6,500-7,000; an increase of 700 staff from 8,400 to 9,100; and undergraduate to hold steady arond 13,500. The plan accomodates for 1-2 million more square feet of space, to be constructed in and around the Ithaca campus.

So, my goal is to pick this plan apart, piece by piece, and analyze the crap out of it. But if you want to see and read through the process that led them to create the parameters and design guidelines for the comprehensive master plan, here’s the link: http://www.masterplan.cornell.edu/ (click on part I).

Clicking on part II’s “Core Campus” link, and sitting through the time that it takes for 76.99 MB to download, it opens up to a picture of Olin Libe and McGraw Tower. How pretty. Anyways, it talks about the importance of Central Campus as the hub of university activity. Here, they first mention the new 24-hour hub on the east side; that’ll be discussed more thoroughly in a later entry. One last thing- unless otherwise noted, no building is a concrete plan; they are merely suggestions as to a good way to develop the site. If master plans were always carried out to a tee, we’d have completely gothic west campus [3].

Yay for Prnt Scrn buttons! I’m not doing this with every page, just ones i’m going to focus on. Seriously, I suggest you go to the masterplan website, click on “part II”, “core campus”, and take a look. Or go to the listed source [2].

So, this is the overall plan. It worries me just a teeny bit when they mispell Bailey as “Baily”, since it is a whole area of discussion for them; but I can’t comment, my blog entries are filled with typos.

The page for demolished buildings and removed parking lots. the general goal of the master plan seems to be to hide the parking as much as possible, since it isn’t good for aesthetics, and isn’t pedestrian friendly. However, we still need it, so they shove it underground where possible. Milstein Hall would be a good example of that.

Development focus areas! Notice the massive changes on the east side of campus. Like I said, I’ll discuss those later, but they really stand out here.

The 3-D image of the improved Arts Quad. Mistein sticks out like an ugly chick in a beauty contest, but there’s hope for the Goldwin Smith extension, for  which planning is currently underway. I’m holding out for something modern yet respectful to the older architecture, like the addition to Lincoln Hall in 1998. 

The overhead. As you’ll notice in the pdf, Milstein has these symmetrical roof features at the top; I feel as if that was an attempt to spice up the miracle box. I’m still not impressed, but you can notice an extension that goes behing Sibley and behind Tjaden. I really hope the arrow means you can still walk between them. An extension of Milstein’s design is perhaps nto the most ideal, but maybe Cornell can come up with something good for the back areas of Tjaden and Sibley. You can also just make out the Johnson Museum addition, which area-wise looks small and quaint compared to the rest of the buildings. At a mostly subterranean 16,000 sq. ft, I s’pose it is.

New stuctures with the thick gray border have been given the go-ahead for planning. The footprints in blacks are areas of potential development suggested by the plan. As we see, the area behind Sibley and Tjaden is seen as the only reasonable space left to develop without disrupting the harmony of the ag quad. The next page states that these buildings would have the same height and massing as their older counterparts, but considering they’re home to Arts and Architecture, I would not be surprised if Cornell were to push for cutting-edge designs if they ever developed those plots, being artistcially daring and all. However, it’s amazing how cutting-edge can be so offensive to the eyes sometimes.

Buildings in mauve-purple? They’re historic. As much as I have a personal vendetta against Rockefeller Hall, particularly Room 203, it would be a major hassle to structurally change it. No demo there anytime soon (I think the story goes that the money John Rockefeller gave to the building went mostly to the interior mechanics, and little on the exterior and finishings, hence the spartan design. He hated it so much when he saw it he vowed never to donate money to Cornell again). My personal wonder is how the hell could Uris Hall be architectually significant. Is that like the equivalent of a massacre monument, to mark that something terrible happened on the land and we should all know about it? Uris Hall could be taken as a massacre on the eyes.

Also on this page are the noted sightlines for the Arts Quad; sightlines will play a bigger role in some others buildings on campus, as to whether they remain or not.

to be continued…




Historical Rush Booklet, Part 3 of 3

21 07 2008

Kappa Alpha in 1970. At the time of this book’s publication, they were located at 14 South Avenue, which was designed by Vincent Cerasi and built in 1957 [1]. After they left in 1990, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority moved into the facility in 1991 and lived there for 15 years before moving to North Campus. Presently, the building is operated as a small dormitory by the university.

These are photos I have taken of the house. I took both photos to give an idea of the massing on the site. The building was designed to emulate the architectural style of a Swiss chalet.


A photo of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity house in 1970. Yes, some truly god-awful structures were designed in the 1960s (1964, in this case [2]). Thankfully, the house was renovated substantially in the past several years.

I dare say that looks a bit better. They affectionately call the building “The Gables”.


The house of Phi Kappa Sigma in 1970, which they called “Greentrees”. This has to do with the house sitting on seven heavily forested acres (a nifty youtube video by a former Skull is where I draw that from [3]). The house also apparently had a pool. Today, the house is the property of Pi Kappa Phi, who purchased the 12,000 sq. ft property for $300,000 in 1991 (apparently though, renovations set them back another half million dollars [4]).


The house of Theta Chi Fraternity in 1970. The chapter had been here since 1924 [5]. Sometime afterward (between 1972 and 1993, from what I can find), they moved to their Ridgewood Road location. Kappa Alpha Theta moved into this house sometime after 1980 when they came back to campus. (My personal guess is 1980, but I was the idiot who thought he could just pull out a Cornellian and double-check at Olin Libe this evening. Ironically, Olin doesn’t have them right now).

EDIT: Apparently, I was also dumb enough to think I would find it through the Cornellian. Theta Chi never had a picture taken for the 1970s or early 80s, and Theta’s are all interior photos. It looks like a trip to Kroch’s Rare Manuscripts might be in order. If they weren’t open the same hours I worked…


Triangle Fraternity was developed under an interesting premise. The fraternity was open to architects, “scientists”, and engineers. For example, an atmospheric science major could join, but a hotelie could not. Nor could biology students, for that matter. I’m sure it made for interesting arrangements in deciding if certain individuals were eligible. Regardless of the complexities of their membership, the fraternity resided at 112 Edgemoor until they folded in 1985 under order of their National, because their numbers were so low at Cornell (we’re talking single digits here). Today, 112 Edgemoor is a 21-person dorm owned by the university (and I spent a lot of time there; the ‘wife’ lived on the third floor, and I was in her room more than my own sophomore year. It helped that five people in my major called Edgemoor home during their sophomore year.


Lastly is Zeta Psi.  Zeta Psi was in the process of moving from 660 Stewart to Theta Xi’s old house in 71-72, so this was published just before the move [6].

Here is the same house today. It is currently used as co-op.

[1] http://www.fs.cornell.edu/fs/facinfo/fs_facilInfo.cfm?facil_cd=4724






Random North Campus Photos

20 07 2008

For the prefrosh—

Clara Dickson Hall (left interior corner)

Bauer Hall

Court Hall (left) Kay Hall (right)

Mews Hall

Balch Hall (NE corner)

Risley Hall (with a berry tree in the front, and new brick entry ways)

Akwewon (prononuced Ah-GWAY-go, I think). 

Jameson (High-Rise 5 looks exactly the same).

Hurlbert House (EcoHouse)

The Low-Rises; since they all look the same, one photo is all that is necessary.

Appel Commons (left) and Helen Newman Gym (right).

For more info on these buildings, please see the north campus blog entry.