“October 1897: Welcome to Morningside Heights!” April Curatorial Short

On April 11th,University Archivist Jocelyn Wilk and Records Manager Joanna Rios told the fascinating story behind Columbia’s move to the Morningside campus. Transporting attendees to the late 1890s, Wilk and Rios offered a vivid picture of Columbia University at this critical junction. Formerly an asylum for the mentally ill, the Morningside campus was far more spacious and secluded than the previous midtown location. Moving uptown not only addressed issues of noise pollution and space, but it was also an essential component of Columbia’s transformation into a research university. Columbia College became Columbia University in the City of New York, and the new location was designed with this new status in mind. This included cutting-edge science and engineering facilities as well as the Lowe Library, which was designed to be a laboratory for the humanistic disciplines. With a growing number of graduate students in the law, philosophy, and other liberal arts, Columbia sought to make Lowe Library a place that facilitated scholarly research. Seminar rooms, private reading rooms, and subject-specific reading rooms provided a place for students and faculty to conduct their academic work in a centralized location oriented specifically around their disciplinary needs. In the fall of 1897, Columbia inaugurated this new campus, which stretched from 116th street to 120th street, for its 144th academic year. Then, in 1907, the university added what is now the southernmost part of campus, from 114th street to 116th street.