Columbia University Archives: Buildings & Grounds

University Archives

Butler Library postcardColumbia University Archives
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Butler Library, 6th Floor
535 West 114th Street
New York, NY 10027

Phone: (212) 854-3786
Fax: (212) 854-1365
E-mail: uarchives@columbia.edu

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Related Collections

Barnard College
The Barnard Archives and Special Collections serves as the final repository for the historical records of Barnard College, from its founding in 1889 to the present day. For more information, please contact archives@barnard.edu.

Health Sciences Library
The Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University can help you find information about the schools of the Medical Center: College of Physicians & Surgeons, School of Nursing, College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery), Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. For more information, please contact hslarchives@columbia.edu.

Buildings & Grounds

How to find information about the Columbia campus sites, buildings and features

In 1754, classes at King's College were first held inside the vestry room of the Trinity Church schoolhouse on lower Broadway. From the schoolhouse, the College moved to its own building in 1760. The three Columbia sites are:

  • Park Place campus (1760-1857)
  • Madison Avenue campus (1857-1897)
  • Morningside Heights campus (1897-present)

The most frequently consulted resources for questions about campus sites, buildings and features:

  • Buildings and Grounds Collection
    Compiled over the years by University Archives staff, the Building and Grounds Collection contains materials relating to Columbia University’s buildings and grounds on the three sites that have served as the University's main campus as well as other real estate used by the University. It contains floor plans and correspondence related to the construction and maintenance of buildings, as well as information about Columbia University’s grounds: gates, walkways, outdoor sculpture, and landscaping. The collection includes maps, press clippings, images, and administrative reports - all of which are useful if you are trying to trace the history of a particular building or campus feature.

  • Historical Photograph Collection, Series VII: Buildings and Grounds
    Among the largest series in this extensive photograph collection, images include interior and exterior images of buildings and campus features for Columbia’s various homes over the years as well as places associated with Columbia but not located at one of the main campus sites (e.g., Baker Field).

These collections are only available in person at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) reading room.Visitors are required to register their own Special Collections Research Account before their visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request the materials directly from the finding aids: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form. For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website.

For the Park Place campus building:

  • Thomas, Milton Halsey. King's College building with some notes on its later tenants. New York 1955.
    A history of the first building for the College of the Province of New-York or King's College, which was in use from 1759 to 1857. The booklet also includes drawings, diagrams, area maps and a photograph of the site after demolition had commenced in 1857.

For the Madison Avenue campus:

  • Views of Columbia College: Madison and Park Avenues, 49th and 50th Streets. New York: Library Bureau, 1886.
    This booklet contains photographs of the Columbia College buildings on Madison and Park Avenues between 49th and 50th Street. This was Columbia's second of its three homes. The photos include the exteriors of the buildings (Hamilton Hall, School of Mines) and some of the interiors (Library, Collections Building).

For the Morningside Heights campus:

  • Columbia University 1897.
    A detailed guide to the buildings on the new Morningside Heights campus. This brochure includes drawings of the new buildings, floor plans and directories for each of the floors.
  • Columbia University. Dedication of the New Site. Morningside Heights. Saturday, the second of May, 1896.
    A commemorative program for the dedication of the new campus on Morningside Heights. It includes the morning and afternoon exercise programs as well as a history of the two previous University sites and information about the new site in Morningside Heights.

For additional campus photographs and viewbooks, please visit our Booklets, Guides and Campus Viewbooks website.

These are the most comprehensive resources to learn about the Morningside campus. To request these materials, you will first need to create a Special Collections Research Account. Once you have your account, look for the item in CLIO or use the links provided below to the CLIO record. From the catalog record, select "Request: Special Collections" on the right side of the page. You will then be able to add the request to your account.

  • Bergdoll, Barry. Mastering McKim's plan: Columbia's first century on Morningside Heights. New York: Columbia University, Miriam and Ira Wallach Art Gallery, 1997.
    Issued in conjunction with two exhibitions held at Columbia University: Mastering McKim's Plan, at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, and Constructing Low Memorial Library, in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library, Columbia University, October 1997 to January 1998.
     

  • Dolkart, Andrew. Morningside Heights: a history of its architecture & development. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
    The announcement during the final years of the nineteenth century that the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Columbia College, St. Luke's Hospital, Teachers College, and Barnard College would construct new complexes on Morningside Heights heralded the transformation of this geographically isolated area into "the Acropolis of New York."
     

  • Robson, John Williams. A guide to Columbia University, with some account of its history and traditions. New York: Columbia University Press, 1937.
    The 1937 update to the 1912 An official guide to Columbia University. Prepared as a guide to visitors and prospective students, this booklet includes a history of the University, facts and figures, and a walking tour guide to the campus on Morningside Heights.

In addition to the holdings at the Columbia University Archives, you can find Morningside Heights campus architectural drawings at the Avery Drawings & Archives Collection at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

  • Columbia University architectural drawings, circa 1888-1957
    Architectural drawings, surveys, maps, and site proposals, for Columbia's Morningside Heights campus, designed primarily by McKim, Mead & White. Drawings for buildings no longer in existence or never constructed and drawings for later alterations, are included. Architectural drawings of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, and surveys of the asylum site prepared for Columbia, 1888-1894. Also included are site plans and proposals, surveys, and maps, circa 1890s-1910s, showing the surrounding area, including such institutions as the Jewish Theological Seminary, St. Luke's Home, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grant's Tomb, and others. This collection is available for use by qualified readers by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please contact avery-drawings@libraries.columbia.edu.

  • Columbia University, Department of Facilities Management, architectural drawings, 1895-ongoing
    Architectural drawings (no longer in current use by Facilities Management), transferred to the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library from the Department of Facilities Management pertaining to proposals, construction, alteration and addition of properties formerly used or owned, and buildings demolished or still extant. The dates of the materials span 1895 to today. The drawings include plans showing the heating and ventilation systems, electrical and plumbing details, and some original construction materials.

For more information on how to access materials at Avery Drawings and Archives, see their FAQ for visits.

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About the image

South Field from Low Library, c1920s. (Scan 37) Buildings and Grounds Collection, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.