Columbia University Computing History
University in 1926
The Columbia University campus 1926, looking north. Everything you see here
was built without the aid of electronic computers. Hamilton Hall, location of
the Columbia University Statistical Bureau, is pointed to by the line from
Home Plate to the pitcher's mound. Pupin Hall, home of the TJ Watson
Astronomical Lab (and later the Manhattan Project
the tall building five blocks north of Home Plate. The future Watson Lab
buildings, 612 West 116th Street
and 612 West 115th Street
, are in the blocks on the left
side of the picture (between Broadway and the Hudson River), facing north so
only the roofs are visible. The domed building is Low Library. Note:
- No George Washington Bridge (construction began in 1927; the bridge
opened for traffic 24 October 1931).
- No Riverside Church (construction began in
- No Henry Hudson Parkway.
- North of 180th Street was not really a wilderness; probably airbrushed out
(for example, from 1895 until it burned down in 1914, the
Fort George Amusement Park
at 190th Street and 3rd Avenue, complete with ferris wheel, "Rough Rider"
roller coaster, toboggan slide, music halls, beer hall, hotel, and casino).
Field stadium at 215th Street was completed in 1922.
- No Butler Library or Ferris Booth / Lerner Hall.
- No Law, Business, International Affairs, Carman, Mudd, Fairchild,
New Gym, or Computer Center buildings. No bridge across Amsterdam Avenue.
- No modern St Lukes or Womens Hospital buildings. St Lukes had a front
- 117th Street still existed between Amsterdam Ave and Morningside Drive.
- The brand-new (1924) medical center towers visible at 168th Street
west of Broadway; the medical school is still on 59th Street between 9th
and 10th Avenues.
- Johnson (now Wien) Hall (then a women's residence), visible in "East Field"
on the right; it opened in 1924 .
- Apartments used to have awnings.
- Difficult to see: the
116th Street subway
kiosk in the middle of Broadway; this was
down in 1968-69 and entrances installed on either side of Broadway. Also
not visible at this resolution: the Broadway trolley line (but sometimes you
can still see the tracks exposed in potholes or excavations).
Street running through campus (see the cars?); this remained a public street
until about 1948, when Columbia won the right from Robert Moses to close it
off in exchange for 10 acres of its newly acquired Lamont estate, which
Moses wanted for his Palisades Interstate Park
- Also difficult to see:
railroad stops at 130th Street, 152nd Street, 177th Street, and others
- The baseball field where Lou Gehrig used to
break windows (1922-25).
- A 400-meter track; pole-vault broad-jump shotput facilities.
- There is no Studebaker Building
(supposedly it was built in 1923 but I don't see it).
- There is no Columbia
Manhattanville campus in West Harlem.
- The docks at 125th Street. At the dock you can see the
Edgewater, NJ, connecting to interurban trolleys that ran to Bergen County
points up the Palisades cliff on a switchback private right of
way, passing the Palisades Amusement Park (which opened in 1898 and closed
about 1970) at the crest of the cliff. An aerial photo from 1954 (in ) shows the 125th Street piers and ferry
substantially unchanged. The giant gas shell near the docks is now the site
of the NYC Transit Authority bus barn at 132nd Street and 12th Avenue. There
is a move afoot to transform the 125th Street pier into a cultural center and
possibly to resume ferry service (look for news at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone
- Just north of Grant's Tomb is the 1700's era Claremont
Inn ("George Washington Slept Here") that burned down in 1949.
Professors used to stop here for a drink on the terrace, with its panoramic
view, before walking down the hill to take the ferry home.
What you can't see:
- Past the left edge of the photo on the River at 114th Street is Columbia's
Gould Boat House (the Columbia Yacht Club), equipped with boats,
lockers, and showers , which is, of
course, long gone,
in 1934 when Riverside Park was reconstructed by the WPA.
The site along the river from
114th to 120th Street was to have been Columbia's athletic field, including
boathouse and "water gate" for visiting dignitaries arriving by ship, to be
built upon landfill west of
and the railroad tracks, according
to grand plans made in 1906 and again in 1912, but the money was never raised
. Columbia's athletic field (stadium,
track, boathouse, etc) was eventually constructed on 215th Street at the
northern tip of Manhattan, about five miles north of the main campus and two
miles north of the medical center.
for a closer view of campus with South Field
in its football configuration.
Photo: The Columbiana
archive. Info: The 1925 Columbia University Catalogue
stories from older professors when I was in school, common knowledge.
Most recent update:
Fri Apr 21 07:51:37 2017
Frank da Cruz / email@example.com /
Columbia University Computing History / 2001