All the rays of force alive in the modern world
     move inward upon the city, and the burning
     glass of its attraction concentrates them in the 
     flame that is New York

     - New York Panorama, Federal Writers' Project, 1939


Suddenly it's real.
You're in New York.

You catch a glimpse of Manhattan's soaring spires, and you flash on familiar films and television shows. Ghostbusters. King Kong. Saturday Night Live. Letterman. Friends. Maybe some old Broadway tune begins playing in your mind. Or maybe George Gershwin or Count Basie or Billie Holiday or even Pavorotti. New York has a different soundtrack for everyone.

Someday you'll think of New York as your town. You'll have favorite restaurants, favorite bookstores, even favorite neighborhoods. You'll tell stories when you show off the city to visiting friends. You'll know the shortcuts. You'll feel at home.

But for now, everything is new and waiting. You've entered a world of pure potential. This is where you'll grow up. This is where they're sure to take you seriously. This is where you'll find out what comes next.

What drew you to New York? No mystery there. Name a field of human experience, and this is where the pumping heart is. Science. Education. Art. Music. Dance. Literature. Theatre. Cinema. Cuisine. Business. Finance. International relations. Retailing. Design. Fashion. Publishing. Communications. Medicine. Architecture. Big things happen here. Ground-breaking, mind-blowing things. Buildings rise. Starts burn hot. Fortunes flourish. Genius flashes and flares. Events blaze.

New York is where the full range of human thought and emotion finds expression. In tenants' meetings and U.N. debates, in SoHo lofts and Fifth Avenue penthouses, in Broadway theatres and corner diners, New Yorkers pursue their shared lives and separate destinies. Individualists of all tempers and kinds, they are  New York: gritty, glamorous, tell-it-like-it-is New York.

Your town. In days to come, when your friends at other schools talk about going out into the "real world" after they graduate, you can toss them your best been-there-done-that smile. This is New York. And this is Columbia. From where we sit, the world is real.

  Maybe you come by 

  plane. Maybe you fly 

  over midtown. In 

  every direction, you 

  spot members of our 

  welcoming committee. 

  The World Trade Center. 

  The Empire State Building. 

  The United Nations. 

  Central Park. Times 

  Square. There it is: the 

  greatest city in the world.
Morningside Heights. New York is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own character and personality. Our neighborhood -- Morningside Heights -- is an ideal setting for a great university. Situated on hilly riverside terrain about sixty blocks north of Midtown, it affords easy access to the city's cultural resources and attractions. Friendly, lively and sophisticated, it's an eminently livable residential neighborhood. Look for Morningside Heights just north of the city's Upper West Side, between 110th Street and 125th street. Broadway -- the "Main Street" of New York City as well as Columbia University -- takes on a collegiate air. There, on the east side of the street, the handsome George Delacorte Gate opens onto the Columbia campus.

A leisurely walk through the neighborhood takes you past a number of other important educational and cultural institutions, including Barnard College, the Union Theological Seminary, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Manhattan School of Music, Teachers College, the Interchurch Center, Riverside Church and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine -- a lively center of community life which, even though it's still being completed, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Small wonder that Morningside Heights is often called the "Acropolis of America."

On a typical morning in Morningside Heights, you'll see children on their way to school, booksellers arranging their inventory on sidewalk tables, cafe and shop owners opening their doors for the business day. You'll share the early-morning streets with New Yorkers coming and going in taxis and buses and hurrying to and from the 116th Street entrance to the subway that runs under Broadway.

By midmorning, things will settle down a bit, and you'll see people of all walks of life busily going about their daily routines. The end of the work day will bring another transition, as the area around Columbia becomes a center of college nightlife where coffee houses and restaurants serve as popular meeting places for students, faculty members and other residents of the area.

More than half of Columbia's faculty members and administrators live within a few blocks of campus. Most will tell you that they live here because the community has so much to offer to them and their families. Spend an afternoon checking out a few local bookstores, linger over a sandwich at the West End Gate or Tom's Restaurant or take in a little league game some Saturday in nearby Riverside Park, and you'll begin to see what they mean.

Onto the campus. Now that you've had a quick tour of the neighborhood, let's head back to the main entrance to the campus at 116th Street. Entering the campus, you notice after only a few steps that the sounds of Broadway are dropping away behind you. Continuing along College Walk -- that's Dodge Hall on your left and Journalism Hall on your right -- you'll find yourself among students and professors hurrying with briefcases, bookbags and an occasional steaming cup of take-out coffee.

Birds dodge human feet, alert for dropped crumbs, and a squirrel daringly scampers across the walkway and up a tree. A Beethoven piano sonata spills from a window somewhere. Two students pass you, and you catch part of their conversation about an upcoming chemistry exam.

A few paces more and you emerge onto the great green space that's the heart of a campus unlike any other university campus in America. To the north is Low Memorial Library, rising from the highest hill in this part of Manhattan. As usual, students sit singly and in small clusters on its fifty-seven steps -- one of the grandest public spaces in New York City -- reading, visiting or just enjoying the day. To the south is stately Butler Library. Note the names of the great thinkers inscribed on Butler's exterior: Homer. Herodotus. Sophocles. Plato. Aristotle. Vergil. Dante. Shakespeare. Cervantes. Voltaire.

As your eyes sweep the quad, you see other great halls and more grass and trees and open space than you ever dreamed of finding on a New York City campus. And then you notice something even more impressive: a great many people who don't fit many of the conventional stereotypes of elite Ivy League students and professors. You watch for a while, observing all these wonderful human beings as they move, laughing and talking, from building to building -- people of every nationality and ethnic background, all here working together, all seeking knowledge and insight and inspiration.

Already, you've begun to understand what makes Columbia unique. You've realized that here, on the spot where you're standing, is where the Ivy League meets the real world of the twenty-first century.

And that here -- right here -- is where your great adventure is about to begin.

Planning your first visit to New York 
City and Columbia? Be warned: 
you may be in for a few suprises.

Eye-opener one. New Yorkers can be friendly. In fact, the Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca, who lived at Columbia during his stay in the United States, described New York City as "the friendliest city I know." Go exploring in Greenwich Village or Morningside Heights on a sunny Saturday morning and see if you don't agree.

Eye-opener two. New Yorkers live in neighborhoods, and many of those neighborhoods are places where people like to live. Forget NYPD Blue. Morningside Heights -- our neighborhood -- is closer to the world of Seinfeld.

Eye-opener three. Visitors are sometimes surprised to find that Columbia has a traditional campus -- with wide lawns, grand old buildings, and on-campus residence halls. And besides being the center of university life, the campus also offers an ideal home base for exploring the city. It's a place where you can feel the pulse of New York. But it's also a place where you'll always be able to hear yourself think.


Founded as King's College in 1754 by charter of England's King George II, Columbia was the first institution of higher learning in the province of New York and the fifth in the colonies. Its original home was in lower Manhattan, and it's earliest alumni included John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Instruction at King's College was suspended during the American Revolution, and the college reopened in 1784 as Columbia College. Rechartered at that time without ties to church or state, Columbia has the distinction of being the country's oldest independent institution of higher education. As the college and New York City grew and prospered together, Columbia moved from the Wall Street area to Midtown and finally, at the end of the nineteenth century, to the present Morningside Heights campus.

     I know I could live somewhere else and commute to Morningside
     Heights. But look at all I'd be giving up.  This is a friendly, lively
     city neighborhood that works.  It's a wonderfully diverse place
     to live and raise a family. I like it here.
          - Professor Lisa Anderson, chair, Department of Political Science

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last modified: January 15, 1997
Chris Gwiazda, College Web Manager, [email protected]