Columbia University
114th Street to 120th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, Master Plan: Charles McKim of McKim, Mead and White [1893-1913]

Known first as King's College, Columbia University was established in 1754 and had its first campus on land donated by Trinity Church in 1755. Following the American Revolution, the school's name was changed to Columbia College. In 1857 the college moved to the site behind St. Patrick's Cathedral, occupying a former asylum for the deaf and dumb (near where Rockefeller Center stands today). In 1891, having outgrown its midtown site, Columbia moved to Morningside Heights--an area then being developed as New York's new cultural and institutional 'Acropolis.' The college bought the site of the Bloomingdale Asylum.

Constructed in large part between 1893 and 1913, the college was based on a master plan that called for a dense urban campus with a narrow, central quadrangle and six small side courtyards. Two terraces flanking 116th Street were introduced later in order to adapt the campus to the steeply sloped site. Inspired by architectural and planning practices employed at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, this plan was designed as a small-scale City Beautiful.

Centered around Low Library, the upper terrace contains two groups of classroom buildings arranged along axial avenues and intimate courts. Added to the plan in 1903, the lower terrace contains dormitory and classroom buildings, athletic fields and Butler Library. The overal plan relates to the city grid while defining a seperate institutional enclave. Having initially considered the Gothic Revival style for the campus buildings, the architects ultimately settled on classical and Renaissance models. With rusticated granite bases, these buildings turn their back to the street, forming a fortress-like wall that creates a distinct academic precinct, isolated from the city.

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