Columbia University Computing History   

The Studebaker Building

The Studebaker Building in 2001

615 West 131st Street, between Broadway and 12th Avenue, and between 131st and 132nd Streets. A former Studebaker automobile finishing plant (hence the muscular freight elevator), constructed in the 1920s. Brick construction with white porcelein trim, 6 stories, plot size 175x200 feet, floorspace 210,000 square feet. The blue Studebaker "turning wheel" logo used between 1912 and 1934 is still visible on the southwest corner near the top. In 1937 Studebaker sold the building to the Borden Milk Company, which used it as a milk processing plant. Later it was home to various warehouses (e.g. for the American Museum of Natural History), offices, and small manufacturing facilities such as Madame Alexander Doll Company. Columbia began to rent office space there in the 1980s and bought the building in about 2000 and moved a good part of the former Computer Center there, as well as other administrative departments. Today it is one of the few remnants of the old industrial West Harlem neighborhood which is now the site of Columbia's new Manhattanville campus.

Currently houses Columbia University art studios, the Columbia Library Annex, Columbia administrative offices (printing services, bulk mailing, ...), the Columbia Urban Technical Assistance Project, warehousing for the American Museum of Natural History, and the Madame Alexander Doll Company (and hospital). Left center: NYC Transit Authority bus barn. Left background (horizon): City College. Right background: Grant Houses.

The nearby Nash Building, 3280 Broadway at 133rd Street was rented by Columbia for uranium separation research for the atomic bombs used in World War II. (the Studebaker Building might also have been used for this purpose). You can see the Nash Building in the photo peeking over the Studebaker Building — the maroon and yellow one, center. Before the war, this was a Nash automobile customizing assembly plant, and is now a diversified rental property that was sold to Columbia by its owner and manager, Jarvis Doctorow, in 2004; tenants include the Harlem Bay Network, New York City Voices, the Minority Task Force on AIDS, Broadway Video Duplication, All Day Emergency Towing, Artez Design Inc, Mental Health Association NY and Bronx, Marcata Recording Studios, the Hunter College Child Welfare Organizing Project, Central Harlem Home Attendants, La Monde Upholstery Co., and offices of the New York Foundling Hospital. For more about Columbia's WWII A-bomb work, CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE to see a letter from the Nash building during the Manhattan Project.

In late 2003, Columbia University announced plans to build a new campus in this area (Broadway to 12th Avenue, 125th to 133rd Street, plus a piece between Broadway and Old Broadway); these plans are going through the process of approval. The Studebaker and Nash buildings are two of only three buildings that will be preserved; the third is Prentis Hall, the former Sheffield Dairy building.

As of August 2005, the plan calls for Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT), the newly recombined academic and administrative computing and networking unit, to move from its various locations (Watson Lab, Thorndike Hall, etc) to a floor of the Studebaker Building.

Columbia University Computing History Frank da Cruz / This page created: January 2001 Last update: 27 March 2021