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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York

by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher

History of Cornell
Chapter XVII.

Among the professorships proposed by Mr. WHITE in the organization of the university, was a professorship of architecture. Attention had already been called to the great need in this country of scientific instruction in this important branch. Professor William B. ROGERS, to whom, we may perhaps say, the Institute of Technology in Boston primarily owes its existence, in an address on the "Objects and plan of an Institute of Technology proposed to be established in Boston," published in 1860, had presented an eloquent plea for the organization of a Society of Arts and an Industrial Museum, and also for a School of Industrial Science and Art. He embodied in the plan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a course in architecture. Seldom have the beginnings of an institution been guided by a higher scientific wisdom and experience than in this case. Its foundation enlisted many of the most intelligent and progressive scholars in Boston, and all the discussions connected with the establishment of this school show an admirable mastery of the history of industrial education abroad, as well as a clear grasp of the demands of such an institution in America. This department of instruction went into operation in the Institute in 1865. President BARNARD, that sagacious educator and noble man, whose services as an investigator rank with his great merit in advancing the interests of Columbia College, of which he had become president two years before, said in his annual report presented June 4, 1866: "There is no country in the world in which building in a style of costly magnificence is more constantly going on than this; and yet, in the whole country there does not exist a school of scientific architecture." President WHITE, in his lectures upon the history of culture, had naturally become interested in the fine arts as illustrating intellectual development and typifying national character. He admired the English colleges with their picturesque quadrangles and cloister like appearance; their halls and chapels as miracles in the history of English art; and it was with something of the feeling derived from the contemplation of these buildings, having their origin in the ecclesiastical foundations of English culture, that he sought to transplant their form to this country, to a new atmosphere, but with a suggestion of the external glory and traditions of their home. This accounts for the attempted arrangement of the university buildings in the form of quadrangles. There seems to have been a suggestion at first, that the department of architecture should be linked with that of civil engineering, for we find it so grouped in the original announcements of the courses of study. It was, however, impossible to realize at once President WHITE's broad conception of the university as a center of all departments of industrial science, and it was not until September 18, 1871, that the Reverend Charles BABCOCK was elected professor of architecture. Professor BABCOCK was a graduate of Union College, and had been associated with that brilliant architect, Richard UPJOHN, in architectural work in New York. To a mind loving art in every form he added practical skill as a designer and draftsman. Ecclesiastical architecture he studied with especial fondness. Upon entering upon his duties, there was little equipment available for specific instruction in his department. Models, plans and designs, which are indispensable for training in drawing, and as an illustration of styles and historical periods in art, were lacking. One valuable feature, however, for his work was available in a collection of splendid works upon the history of architecture which had constituted a part of President WHITE's private library, and which he offered to present to the university in consideration of the acquisition of a mathematical library, were at the disposal of the department of architecture. Technical instruction in physics, in chemistry, in mechanics and mathematics, and to a limited extent in drawing, was supplied by associated departments of instruction; but the entire work of teaching architecture devolved at the beginning upon one professor. Not only was it necessary for him to give courses of lectures upon the history of classical, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and later architecture, and the history of its development in various countries, but to discuss the question of the materials of construction, and the designing of public and private buildings, and to give instruction in drawing in all the forms essential to the architect. No department, whose full equipment demands large appropriations for architectural models, has so grown, with limited support, as the department of architecture. It now ranks as one of the three great technical schools of the university. It was not until 1876 that the department was enlarged by the appointment of a single instructor in architectural drawing. In 1880 Charles Francis OSBORNE was made instructor in architecture, and in the following year assist ant, and later associate professor of architecture. The first accommodations for the architectural department were found in a single room on the second floor of the west division of Sibley College. Later it occupied two rooms in McGraw Hall; it was then transferred to Morrill Hall, north end, where it occupied the second and third floors. It was finally removed to Lincoln Hall, to accommodations that seemed ample when the building was erected, but the great increase in numbers has caused instruction to be given the present year to nearly one hundred students in rooms originally planned for fifty. With ample museum accommodations, the collections in this department would soon become among the most valuable in the university.

History of Cornell - Chapter XVIII

Carl Hommel donated this material and transcribed into digital format.
Thank you Carl Hommel.

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