One Stormy Day on Campus, Part II

19 12 2008

I’m snowed in in little Ithaca right now, so I might just as well kill some time.100_2080

The story of Barnes Hsll is a rather interesting one.  The architect, William Henry Miller (of Uris Libe Fame) produced two designs- a gothic design, and a Romanesque Revival design [1]. Although the Gothic design fits in better with Sage Hall and Chapel, the Romaneque design was considered more up-to-date, and was completed in 1888. The building is named for Alfred Smith Barnes, a publisher and (at the time) a Cornell trustee [2]

One goal of the building’s construction was to do away with Cornell’s image as a heathen school, being the first building in the nation specifically built for a college Christian association (in this case, the CUCA, Cornell U. Christian Association). The building also functioned as the first student union on campus, and he Cornell Store, then a co-op, was based out of its basement.

When it was first constructed, many believed that Barnes Hall was cursed. This was due to a series of unfortunate coincidences. Alfred Barnes passed in 1888, as the building was nearing completion. So did his daughter…and the superintending architect (not Miller)…and the contractor…the gas contractor…and the gentleman who did the stone carving died of consumption before it was completed (Bishop, “History of Cornell”, pg. 269). The “evil omens” ceased as the building was completed.


McGraw Hall, the most prominent of the Old Stone Row. McGraw relatively utilitarian design comes from the tastes of old Ezra Cornell himself; he believed in function over form, so he wasn’t one to worry about ornamentation. The building was designed by Archimedes N. Russell, a prominent architect out of Syracuse (Russell designed one of Syracuse University’s most prominent buildings, Crouse College, which I happen to have a picture of).


McGraw Hall faces the wrong direction due to Cornell’s ever changing master plans. Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park), designed the first master plan, with the general theme to be a “grand terrace” ovelooking Cayuga Lake. As plans changed over the years, the grand terrace was dropped, but the nod to Olmsted’s master plan is obvious with McGraw Hall [3]. 

McGraw Hall was the first new building to completed, with construction completed in 1872 [4]. The tower at the top originally housed the chimes until they were moved to the clock tower in 1891. The building is named for John McGraw, a wealthy lumber merchant and original trustee.

To quote the university’s website, “It is said that John McGraw and Henry Sage were so appalled at the exhausted look of A.D. White and Ezra Cornell at the opening ceremonies that they committed themselves to the University’s cause on the spot. [4]” The stone used in the original stone row was quarried from the base of Libe Slope.

Today, the building is home to the Anthropology, Archaeology and History Department, as well as the Knight writing institute. It was in this building that I had my “History of Cornell” class.


Carpenter Library is the primary library for the Engineering school. The building was named for William Carpenter 1910, who made a $1 million donation towards its construction (which cost $946,662, meaning Cornell had money left over in some sense) [5]. Carpenter Library was completed in 1957, partially renovated in 2002, and is slated to be demolished under the current Cornell master plan.

Personally, if I donated money for two buildings on campus, and both of them were set to be demolished, my spirit would be pretty pissed.


Anabel Taylor Hall is the second half of the Taylor complex. Completed in 1953 (shortly after the death of Anabel Stuart Taylor herself), the building was the long intended partner to the main structure, hence its relatively dated Collegiate Gothic design for the time. The tower on the right side is a memorial to those Cornellians who lost their lived fighting in World War II. Today, the building serves as the primary religious facility for campus (CURW the successor of CUCA, is besed out of Anabel Taylor Hall).


Snee Hall is home to the geological sciences department. The building was completed in 1984 and is named for William Snee ’24, an entrepeneur in the oil and gas industry [7]. At a glance, the lare atrium and overly 80s design reminds me of  chain hotels in northern New Jersey, but the building does have some nice assets. A seismic vault for recorded earthquake data is stored below ground level.  Also, if you ever happen to find yourself in Snee, be sure to check out the very large hydrologic sedimentation and erosion display (essentially, a stream-and-silt machine). The building also houses the Heasley Mineralogy Museum [8].












2 responses

21 12 2008

i’ve never heard of this ‘history of cornell’ class you mention… what is it and who teaches it?

21 12 2008

“History of Cornell”, HIST 126, was a freshman writing seminar offered by Prof. Carol Kammen. It was discontinued (not positive, but very likely) when she retired at the end of the Spring 2007 semester.

The class wasn’t as in-depth as this blog, but it did a good job covering the university from a historical and sociological perspective. Instead of a final, students were required to keep a scrapbook of their collegiate lives through the semester, which was to be turned in at the end of the last class. (there were a few basic requirements, but apart from that it was free reign on the scrapbook).

My class, the fall 2006, might stand out in her memory for bring the class that put all the books in the wrong car. She told us to take them to a blue Volvo wagon behind McGraw, and we did…the wrong one (kinda wondered why there was a baby carrier in the seat). If they don’t offer the course anymore, it’d be a real shame for the university.

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