The Construction and Evolution of the UTS Campus: a Re-Imagined Exhibit


With the new residential tower at 122nd and Claremont underway, construction seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. The Burke Library staff thought now would be an appropriate time to highlight the past and present of Union’s physical campus. Now on view on level L1 of the Burke Library, “The Construction and Evolution of the Union Theological Seminary Campus” brings together new photographs and original illustrations to tell the story of the seminary through its architecture.


Administration Building
“Administration Building,” dated May 3, 1909. Photograph from Union Theological Seminary Archives, Box 1, Folder 18B, the Burke Library (New York, NY). The image shows the partially-constructed south-east corner of UTS as viewed from across 120th Street and Broadway. The skeletons of the stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings of the Burke Reading Room can be seen as if through x-ray vision. Note the horse-drawn cart filled with building materials stationed out front.


Many of the archival photos in this exhibit are reproduced prints from a digital exhibit of the same name. Viewers of the online version can literally scroll through time and watch the seminary rise — and the trees bloom — over the summers of construction. One photo of the plot of land before the arrival of UTS is particularly striking. Horse-drawn carts — used to transport building materials across the site — are visible in many of the photos.

University Place
“The original seminary building, 9 University Place, 1838,” artist unknown, from Handy, “History of Union Theological Seminary,” p. 15

The exhibit inside the Burke Library combines images from the digital exhibit with some additional bonus content, including illustrations of Union’sprevious two campuses. Having moved from University Place in lower Manhattan, up to Park Avenue, and finally to the current campus in Morningside Heights, Union has grown into each of its successive buildings– notably, in part, to accommodate the growth of its beloved Library. (Plans for the Morningside Heights campus included the stipulation that the reading room be given “generous height, and be abundantly lighted.”) Explore the expansion of this historic space and visit the new exhibit, which will stay on view in the Burke Library through at least December of 2022.

[TIP: Visiting this exhibit is a great activity during Commencement Week!]





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