“#731”: This Post Went Without A Title for Four Years

4 02 2009

I guess if Cornell is going to put off all non-current construction until at least June 30 (see Skorton e-mail), I’d better go back to campus touring.


The Biotechnology building. So bland we didn’t even bother to give it a real name (or Cornell just hasn’t seen the right dollar amount—one of the two).  The 150,000 sq. ft building was completed in 1986 (which might just as well be the height of modern-design blandness) by the firm Davis and Brody [1].  I guess when comparing this to Comstock Hall, which was also built in the mid-1980s, this is a mild improvement. The building, as the name suggests, focuses on biotechnology research, such as genetics and molecular biology. The building’s use is strictly research, housing 36 faculty, 50 post-docs, and about 100 graduate students [2]. Along with its primary use, the building houses a small dining facility and the Keller reading room.


When it was first completed in 1931 [1], the Plant Science building was the largest single dedicated to plant research in the world (its about 170,000 gross sq ft [4]. The building was designed by Sullivan Jones in the Beaux-Arts style, but I’d venture a guess that it’s a stripped Beaux-Arts style, because the ornamentation is quite restrained, and since it was finished at the start of the depression (the building did stay true to the initial design). Plant science serves as the home to the plant science and horticulture departments [3]. The building itself isn’t particularly attractive, but the Minns Garden on the south side is the showpiece of the grounds. The garden is named for former professor Lua Minns, who used it in the 1920s as a practice ground for her students to do hands-on gardening work [5]. However, the original plot of land was where Bailey Plaza and Malott Hall stand today.

Courtesy of the Cornell Chronicle

In case you’re wondering, the building between the garden and Bailey Hall is Liberty Hyde Bailey’s model rural schoolhouse, which was built in 1907 and probably lasted until demolition for Malott around 1960 [6].


Stimson Hall was completed in 1902 and designed by locally-renowned architect William Henry Miller [7]. While funded by Dean Sage (son of trustee Henry Sage for whom the Hall and Chapel are named), the building is named for Lewis Stimson, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Cornell Medical School. From 1902 to 1908, the medical school resided in Stimson Hall, but afterward it was relocated to New York City, where it still continues to exist today as Weill Cornell Medical Center. It should also be noted that part of the building was a morgue at this time.

Stimson was designed with the intention of a second identical building facing south to be built were Day Hall currently stands; but for whatever reason it was never built, so the south side looks a little incomplete, with a terrace that faces out into a parking lot today (the area between the two buildings was to function as a courtyard).

Today, Stimson Hall serves as the home of the Biological Sciences department, and the university Ombudsman (a person appointed by Day Hall to handle and address citizen complaints, according to Wikipedia [8]). When Kroch was built, Stimson was planned to be renovated into a library, but due to budget constraints, that was never undertaken. The tunnel between Kroch and Stimson was built to serve that purpose, but now it is only open for public use one day of the year—Slope Day [11].


Speaking of Day Hall, we might as well briefly discuss it. To no one’s surprise, Day Hall houses most of the upper administration offices; for example, Skorton’s office is on the 3rd floor. The building was designed by Frederick Ackerman in a stripped classical style and completed in 1947 [9] (offhand, I believe Ackerman also designed the Psi Upsilon and Sigma Phi fraternity houses fifteen years earlier). The building was dedicated shortly after completion to Edmund Ezra Day, Cornell’s fifth president (1937-1949). Before renovation, the building provided sleeping and bathing facilities on the third, fourth and fifth floors for faculty.

For another fun tidbit of history, Day Hall was taken over in a non-violent protest for three days in November 1993 [10].  The takeover stemmed from protests from Latino students over a combination of incidents and complaints with the university, including the vandalizing of a large art installation by a Latino artist, and lack of minority representation within Cornell faculty.

And for the last time, there is no tunnel that leads from Day Hall to the Cornell Store.











[11]http://ezra.cornell.edu/searched.php -3/16/2004



8 responses

5 02 2009

but you’re forgetting the tree-huggers (obviously equally as important as the entirety of the Latino ethnic group) who so desperately opposed cutting down a thicket of invasive species… on second thought, since i’m staring at X-lot right now out my window (what became of Redbud), I suppose I wouldn’t have minded terribly if they had won.

cool tidbit about stimson… i’ve always wondered why its so strangely oriented (away from east ave & tower road, facing north towards G-S)… maybe it made more sense before olin libe. shouldn’t the terrace on the back be unchanged, however… i.e. didn’t tower road always cut through the stimson and day hall plots?

6 02 2009
B. C.

You’re right, I forgot the Redbud folks.

In terms of massing, Stimson was designed to complement Boardman. The setback above the second floor lined up with the roofline of Boardman Hall.

Back in the 1920s, Stimson faced President’s Avenue on the North (a road the ran from East Ave past Stimson and Boardman, terminating at the Libe), Tower Road to the south (which intersected with Sage Avenue before terminating on Central), East Avenue to the east and Boardman Hall to the south. Before Day Hall was built, the lot was home to the house of one Professor Babcock, and then the house became the office of the Dean of Women, and then towards the end of the depression it was torn down for a parking lot, which sat there until Day was built several years later. Prior to Tower Road, there was a dirt path. I’m not sure I’ve fully answered your question, but I hope this information helps!

6 02 2009

definitely an excellent answer… my understanding is that central ave originally went from where it ends at campus rd. all the way through to university ave near the present-day johnson museum… is that the case? it would have had to wind around uris libe a bit, but if this president’s road was originally in place along the south side of the arts quad, the zigs and zags might not be quite as awkward.

when i’m sitting at the endless light at central and campus (over a minute and a half if you hit the cycle wrong!) i often dream about driving through central campus on a grand boulevard :-p

7 02 2009
B. C.

That is correct! Central used to go between Olin and Uris (this road was intact through the 1990s before Ho Plaza was built). Where it curved was actually the intersection of President’s Avenue and Central. Central then went past the west side of the Old Stone Row and terminated into a street that encircled Tjaden and Morse (in the older days—it probably just went staight through after the Johnson was built).

18 02 2009

I was delighted with your answer until I happened to be in a freshman dorm the other day and saw this map up on the wall… all looks well until you notice that Central Ave and Tower Rd are still in tact… expect that this map shows Central snaking around the west and south sides of Uris Libe (on-top the fish bowl?). Was this perhaps the way the routes were set up when they built Olin Libe? Renovated Uris? The mystery continues….

18 02 2009

oh… and the link :-p

18 02 2009
19 02 2009
B. C.

Hi Andrew,

So, for this response, I’m embedding the urls of two images I upload (comments don’t allow actual image to be used, but uploading to a 3rd website is works almost as well). The first image is the Uris Libe vicinity in 1928, the second from 1954.

On these two maps, it retains the President’s Avenue configuration. I next followed up by checking out an Ithaca topographical map dating from 1978.

It would seem by this point, the road went around the library and went into Central avenue before even the Tower Road intersection (it curved into a T-intersection at a point just next to Sage Chapel). This would in fact match the maps that you have posted.

Here’s a likely secnario- Olin was built in the late 1950s, and Uris was renovated ( and received the name Uris) in the early 1960s. It’s possible that the road was rerouted at that time. The road retained this configuration through the early 1980s Uris renovation, and the intersection was maintained until Ho Plaza was constructed in the 1990s.

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