The ILR School Almost Invaded Hoy Field

10 12 2011

As would be expected for any major university, Not every plan for a new buildng at Cornell came to fruition. Sometimes, it was because the plan didn’t have funds, or the demand for space had ebbed. With the original plans for Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) school, it was all about the location.

The ILR school is quite young, having opened its doors on November 1, 1945. The original facilities were in temporary wooden lodging on Sage Green (the western and southern grounds next to Sage Hall, in the days before the loading dock/drive for the Cornell Store and the parking lot south of Sage Hall).  The school had originally been conceived a decade or so prior, and by 1944 the state gave Cornell its monetary blessing, foregoing counter-offers for a labor college at Syracuse University or Union College in Albany (Bishop, 568). On the other end, the president of Cornell at the time, Edmund Ezra Day, had to contend with unamused industrialists and farmers among its alumni who felt that such a school was unnecessary.

The state was proud of its newest educational creation (in the days prior to the massive proliferation of modernist/brutalist SUNY campuses), and drew up plans for permanent housing for the ILR school. The original plans were produced at a cost of $80,000 at the time, but never came close to construction due to some very angry Cornell alumni and students.

The issue wasn’t about the architecture (being the late 1940s, early modernism or stripped Collegiate Gothic were likely), but the location. The site for the new school was on Campus Road. To give you an idea of how the area looked at the time, here’s a map from a years later in 1954 (click the link for a larger version):

Phillips Hall and Teagle Hall were not yet built (both were completed in the early 1950s), so the area was really only Barton Hall and the athletic facilities. The Buildings and Grounds Committee at Cornell picked a site on Campus Road, where Phillips Hall was built a couple years later, but with a larger footprint that would’ve required the removal of Hoy Field (which is aligned directly south in this map – it was redone to face southwest about five years ago).

A tempest of outcries ensued. It was firmly believed that Hoy Field had been donated by the alumni to be used in perpetuity for athletic purposes. Suddenly, different alumni groups were protesting “The invasion of Hoy Field”, and the Association of Class Secretaries filed complaints and letters of concern with Cornell, along with written protests from 53 undergraduate student groups. President Day and the committee gave up on the plan.

The state was not pleased by the reception, and so the ILR school was kept in the dreary wooden temp buildings until the Vet School’s new Schurman Hall was built in the late 1950s, and ILR could move into what used to be the Vet School buildings at the corner of Tower and Garden Road. The rather pretty if utilitarian ca. 1896 James Law Hall was demolished to make way for Ives Hall. But, In the long run, the administration was rather glad it hadn’t built the ILR school on that plot of land, as it allowed the full build-out of the Engineering Quad.

Now, fast-forward to today, and consider the positioning of the soon-to-be Gates Hall, and the master plan’s removal of Hoy Field. I wonder if such an outcry would arise today, as it seems once again that the end of Hoy Field as we know it is drawing near.


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