Barnard Hall Through The Years
Rendering of Barnard Hall, circa 1916-1917
Rendering of Barnard Hall, circa 1916-1917
An aerial view of South Campus, 1906
View of "the Jungle" and Barnard Hall from Milbank Hall, circa 1918-1919. "The Jungle" was the part of Barnard's campus between 117th and 118th Streets, south of Milbank Hall, just north of Barnard Hall, near the former site of Lehman Hall. "The Jungle" had a path and a landscaped area prior to the construction of Lehman in 1958.
An aerial view of Broadway from 119th to 116th showing Brooks Hall, Barnard Hall, and Brickerhoff Hall, 1929
Students seated around the fireplace in the parlor, Barnard Hall, circa 1930s
Aerial view of Barnard College buildings (including Barnard Hall, Brooks Hall, Hewitt Hall, Milbank Hall, Brinkerhoff Hall, and Fiske Hall), as well as some non-Barnard buildings, 1933. (Some of Columbia's campus, as well as Riverside Church, are visible.)
Barnard Hall exterior, circa 1940s
South entrance to Barnard Hall Annex, 1944
Interior Barnard Hall Annex, circa 1948-1950
Residence halls (Hewitt Hall and Brooks Hall) and Barnard Hall as seen from the Journalism building at Columbia University, circa 1950s
The Barnard College Christian Association, shown in the parlor of Barnard Hall, circa 1950s
Aerial view of Barnard Hall, Barnard Annex, and the lawn, circa 1950s
View of Barnard College campus, left to right: Brooks Hall, Hewitt Hall, and Barnard Hall, circa 1950s
Students walking outside Barnard Hall, circa 1950s
A student reads a book while walking through "the Jungle." Barnard Hall is shown in the background, circa, early 1950s.
Students in the snow outside of Barnard Hall: Raquel Lorraine Arditti '57 (left) of Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Lois M. Bruce '56 (center) of Paia, Hawaii, both freshman at Barnard, get their first taste of snow as they engage in a snowball fight on campus with Margaret Martines Trapp '53, senior from Manhattan, who knows the rules. February, 1953.
The James Room in Barnard Hall, in 1954
Barnard College campus aerial image (including Lehman Hall, Barnard Hall, and the Quad), circa early 1960s
Two students standing next to Barnard's Greek Games statue, also known as the Spirit of the Greek Games, circa 1960s. Barnard Hall is visible behind them.
Barnard Hall columns with Reid Hall and Brooks Hall in the background, before the start of construction of Sulzberger Hall in 1987, circa 1960-1986
Barnard Hall, Lehman Hall, and the Lehman Lawn are pictured, circa 1960s
North Balcony Gate detail from Barnard Hall, circa 1970s
An aerial view of Barnard College (including the Quad: Brooks Hall, Hewitt Hall, and Reid Hall), Barnard Hall, Lehman Hall, Altschul Hall, Milbank Hall, Brinkerhoff Hall, and Fiske Hall, circa 1970s
Barnard campus aerial view, featuring Barnard Hall and Altschul Hall, circa 1985-1989
One hundred years ago, in November of 1917, Barnard Hall officially opened its doors. At first known as Students’ Hall, it was renamed in 1926 in honor of Frederick A. P. Barnard, Columbia University’s tenth president (1864-1889), who had fought unsuccessfully to admit women to Columbia and after whom the College is also named.
In the early days, when Barnard College was founded in 1889, it was located in a rented brownstone at 343 Madison Avenue, with a faculty of six and a student body of fewer than 40. In the 1890s, Barnard followed Columbia College to Morningside Heights, purchasing an acre of land on Broadway between 119th and 120th Streets, with donations from Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, Mary Brinckerhoff, and Martha Fiske. In 1897, Milbank and Brinckerhoff Halls were completed, with the Ella Weed Reading Room and its core collection of 120 books located on the second floor of Millbank Hall. Fiske Hall was constructed a year later, completing the initial Barnard campus. In 1903, the College extended the campus south to 116th Street, and in 1907, Brooks Hall was completed.
Barnard Hall was conceived in 1915 as the College grew beyond what the Milbank Hall complex could accommodate. Jacob H. Schiff, the College’s first treasurer and one of its original trustees, gifted $500,000 to create the Hall to house “all physical and social activities of students,” according to an October 6, 1915 article in The New York Times. “This building has been most urgently needed” because of overcrowding with “the greatly increased enrollment of students.” When the final brick was laid and trimmed in limestone, it housed a lunchroom, classrooms, gymnasium with swimming pool, and parlor.
The gymnasium, which doubled as a public lecture hall, hosted hundreds of historical figures over the decades, including Democratic Senator Herbert H. Lehman in debate with Republican Congressman Jacob K. Javits—along with former First Lady, and then United Nations spokesperson, Eleanor Roosevelt (1954); Malcolm X delivering his final public speech (1965); and authors Isabel Allende (1989) and Amy Tan (1994).
Today, Barnard Hall comprises 79,000 square feet and houses classrooms, dance studios, the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), Public Safety, Facilities, event spaces, departmental and faculty offices, the Lefrak Center, and the Fitness Center. Sulzberger Parlor features portraits of Barnard presidents and founders, period furniture, a 1923 Steinway concert grand piano, harpsichord, and fireplace. The James Room, where commuting students ate lunch for many years, features a grand piano and archival photographs of alumnae.
In the years since Barnard Hall was completed, construction of new buildings continued with Hewitt Hall (1925) and Reid Hall (1961)—along with Brooks Hall they are known as "The Quad"—Lehman Hall (1958), Plimpton Hall (1968), Altschul Hall (1969), Sulzberger Hall (1988), The Arthur Ross Greenhouse (1998), and The Diana Center (2010). In the fall of 2018, The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center is expected to open as a new academic hub in the heart of the Barnard College campus. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the 128,000-square-foot building—with a base of five floors and a narrow tower of eleven floors aligned with Altschul Hall—will include a new library that incorporates technologies and learning spaces in an interactive setting and creates an inviting environment that benefits from green spaces. The Milstein Center also will include a computational science center, a digital commons with innovative teaching labs, the BCRW and Athena Center, and social and study spaces for students.
*A special thank you for archival research assistance: Shannon O'Neill, director of Archives and Special Collections and personal librarian to the History Department; Martha Tenney, associate director of Archives and Special Collections and personal librarian to the American Studies Program; and Maya Garfinkel ’19, archives assistant. Thank you also to Professor Robert A. McCaughey, the Janet Robb Professor of History, for providing historical information and context.