Cornell West Campus

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Cornell West Campus as seen from McGraw Tower.

West Campus is a residential section of Cornell University's Ithaca, New York campus located west of Libe Slope and between the Fall Creek gorge and the Cascadilla gorge. It now primarily houses transfer students, second year, and upperclassmen.


Grand Terrace[edit]

The 1920s Plans to Expand the Gothics
Detail of ornamentation on Founders Hall

After Risley Hall was designed as a women's residence hall in 1911, work began on the construction of a men's residence hall complex on West Campus. In 1910, Warren Hanning's campus plan had established the site for new halls in the English collegiate gothic style. Trustees George Charles Boldt, Andrew Dickson White, and Robert Henry Treman led a subscription campaign. The site was designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram, who had recently completed the Graduate School at Princeton University. Architectural firm Day & Klauder designed multiple buildings, each housing between 16 and 30 men. Founders Hall was built in 1914 and South Baker Hall was built in 1915.

The War Memorial

In the 1920s, West Campus was envisioned as fully Gothic in style, connected to Frederick Law Olmsted's plan of a grand terrace overlooking Lake Cayuga. Rhode Island architect F. Ellis Jackson, class of 1900, expanded this plan to include a memorial to the 264 Cornellians who had died in the First World War. The World War I Memorial group has twin Army and Navy towers with Lyon Hall to the north and McFaddin Hall to the south, both built in 1928. Mennen Hall was built in 1931. Names of those who served are inscribed on plaques between unglazed tracery windows in the cloister. Over the windows are names of battles in which they fought. The names of individual and group donors toward the construction of the halls are inscribed in the tower rooms, Lyon Hall, and over the buildings' entries. The first floor of the War Memorial includes an elaborately decorated octagonal memorial room to the war dead, including a painting by Alison Mason Kingsbury. The upper two floors were designed as the meeting rooms and apartments for the Quill and Dagger honorary society.[1]

Although portions of West Campus were built in the Gothic style, the grand terrace plan was ultimately scrapped. Six dormitories were built in 1953 to accommodate the post-World War II expansion in enrollment. These six brick dormitories were called the "University Halls" to distinguish them from the gothic "Baker Dormitories." In the 1960s -1980's, five of the individual University Halls were named in honor of various alumni classes that had achieved large donation records. The original Noyes Community Center, which offered dining, recreation and other services to residents of the campus, was constructed in 1966.

Before funding was obtained for either the new North Campus dorms or the West campus replacement dorms, Sheldon Court and Sage Infirmary (now Schuyler House) were converted into dormitories in 1981, and Cascadilla Hall was later renovated.[2]

West Campus Initiative[edit]

Cornell had been considering establishing a series of residential colleges since a campus committee chaired by Alain Seznec recommended them in 1969.[3] Although a residential college was established in Risley Hall in 1970, a lack of funding delayed a more widespread implementation. In 1999, then-Cornell president Hunter R. Rawlings III announced a new West Campus Initiative to rebuild large parts of West Campus. With an initial $100 million donation, the project aimed to create a residential college system on West Campus. Furthermore, a new Noyes Recreational Community Center was also proposed to replace the original community center. The project was completed in August 2008.


House system[edit]

One dormitory wing of Hans Bethe House (left) connected to a communal area (right). The house dining hall is situated on the first floor of the structure on the right, while lounges, meeting rooms, and study space fills the second floor of that structure.

As part of the Residential Initiative, the house system aims to create smaller communities enhanced by a relaxed atmosphere to supplement students' academic pursuits. Each residential college is housed in a newly built main building, and three colleges include surrounding Gothic-styled buildings. Within each main building, each college has its own dining hall. Rooms are divided into hallway-style arrangements and suite-style arrangements. All residents must enroll in the House Choice meal plan, which allows them unlimited meals in West Campus dining halls, but limits the number of meals they may take elsewhere. This is similar to the Risley meal plan which has been in effect since 1971. The rooms are singles or doubles arranged in suites and apartments. The facilities include laundry, kitchens, computer networking, study lounges, and TV/social lounges. Some annual events include drive-in movies on the Tower, Fall trips to hike the gorges, sea kayaking on Cayuga Lake, go-karting, a Winter Semi-formal, a Mardi Gras celebration, trips to the Late Show with David Letterman and an end of the year barbecue.

The house system comprises:

Baker Dormitories[edit]

War Memorial from a distance

Known as the Baker Dormitories or recently called The Gothic Halls, these are nine residence halls on West Campus recognizable by their ivy-covered stone walls of local bluestone trimmed in Indiana limestone, reflecting the late Gothic architectural style of Oxford and Cambridge. All nine were named The Baker Dormitories in honor of George Fisher Baker, a New York City banker. They housed both freshmen and upperclass males through the 1970s. Women were also housed in some sections of the Baker dormitories beginning in the early 1970s.

Closer view of the War Memorial, with Hans Bethe House in the background

All of the Baker dorms became affiliated with house communities. Boldt Tower, Boldt Hall (Language House), Baker Tower, and North Baker Hall are now part of Alice Cook House. McFaddin Hall is now part of Hans Bethe House. The others, South Baker Hall, Founders Hall, Mennen Hall, and Lyon Hall, are now part of Flora Rose House.

Boldt Hall

The halls are currently coeducational except for Lyon Hall (women only), but they are all open only to upperclassmen. Lyon Hall also houses the permanent sanctuary of the Quill and Dagger senior honor society and a war memorial shrine.

Class Halls[edit]

Class of '18 Hall

Known as the University Halls or U-Halls, the Class Halls were originally all-male dormitories built on West Campus in 1953. They were designed by Chapman, Evans & Delehanty and Quinlivan, Pierik & Krause.[4] Although officially denied by Cornell, some claim that when constructed, they were intended to be temporary housing (as evidenced, for example, by the transitory fiberglass showers) until better structures could be built. The six halls were later named for Elmer Sperry (the inventor of the gyroscope)[5] and the Cornell graduating classes of 1917, 1918, 1922, 1926, and 1928.

In 1987, these buildings were gutted and the original aluminum-framed windows replaced with dark-brown metal casings. More study spaces and kitchens were added, and the capacity of each University Hall was reduced.[6]

In 1885, Andrew Dickson White's final presidential report warned the University of the day when "all be hard and dry, [the University]'s buildings mere boxes." Such a description is apt to describe the Class Halls. All were built in a similar box-like fashion, lacking individualizing characteristics and architectural complexity. The interiors were indistinguishable from each other, as well. Although not as clear with the addition of the Noyes Community Center, the Class Halls formed a quadrangle arranged symmetrically along an axis formed by the War Memorial. The Transfer Center, one of two West Campus Program Houses, resided in the Class of 1917 Hall. This Program House, established in 1977, was dissolved in May 2007 when the building was torn down. Between 2003 and 2007, the halls were demolished in favor of larger residential colleges as part of former president Hunter R. Rawlings III's "West Campus Housing Initiative." For many years Sperry Hall (University Hall #6) was also a Program House. The Class of 1926 Hall housed the Just About Music (JAM) Program House.

By 2007, all of the Class Halls had been demolished.

Housing selection process[edit]

Cascadilla Hall, one of Cornell's Collegetown Residence Halls

Whereas freshmen are guaranteed housing on North Campus, upperclassmen housing is more complex. Sophomores are guaranteed housing, but seniors and juniors are not. A lottery system is used to randomly allow students who apply to select their residences for the next year. For the residential college dorms, an in-house lottery of current upperclassmen is used to allocate a fixed number of rooms for rising juniors and seniors. Next, the remaining rooms are applied for. The number of senior and junior slots in this pool are determined by the total number of open rooms on West Campus, minus the number of sophomores who applied for West Campus housing. Then, in order of sophomore to senior, the applicants are allowed to select their rooms for the next academic year. Furthermore, students are allowed to block, so that up to five applicants may select adjacent rooms at the same time. Note that a special requirement for blocks of three or more participants is that one person must be assigned a bed in a double or a triple room.

Revisions to the Flora Rose Housing system have been implemented starting in the 2013-2014 academic year to keep the most active, interested residents of Rose House in the system. The lottery system has been abolished in Rose House and replaced with two programs: the Rose Scholars program and the Rose Community Organizers program. The larger Rose Scholars program requires residents to attend events hosted within and approved by the House on a weekly basis. The Rose Community Organizers, the smaller program, requires residents to attend the weekly Rose Roundtable meetings and organize events for the House and West Campus. Completion of either event guarantees residents housing within Rose House for the next year. Residents must apply and be accepted into the program in the early fall to participate. Emphasis in the application process is on essays.

Small living units[edit]

The Telluride House, a building placed on the National Register of Historic Places, houses a selective residential society on West Campus.

West Campus includes a number of other student residential structures, including those organized under the Cornell University Residence Plan of 1966, among the following:





Other Buildings[edit]

Noyes Community Recreation Center (2007)

West Campus was served by the Noyes Community Center (formerly the Noyes Student Union) located on Stewart Avenue, centered on the axis of the War Memorial, until the 2006-07 academic year.[12] This building was demolished and in 2007 was replaced with the Noyes Community Recreation Center, which provides indoor athletic facilities located on Campus Road.

Academic buildings include: the Kahin Center (1902) designed by William Henry Miller.[13]


The inadequacy of parking has been the source of controversy and litigation. Alice Cook House was built on the main West Campus parking lot. The University sought to replace the lost parking spaces by paving over the Redbud Woods, located on the gardens of the Treman estate. Conservation advocates sought to protect the area as a Historic District, and advocated underground parking beneath the new West Campus houses. Nonetheless, after much litigation and protests, the University paved the woods as a dormitory parking lot.[14]


  1. ^ 3013-WAR MEMORIAL - Facility Information Archived 2006-09-08 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Kriss, Erik (October 2, 1980). "Trustees Will Not Plan To Construct New Dorms For at Least Two Years". Cornell Daily Sun. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  3. ^ "Report on the Committee on Residential Colleges" (PDF). Cornell Chronicle. 1 (1). September 25, 1969. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
  4. ^ 3089-**SPERRY COMMUNITY - U HALL #6 - Facility Information Archived 2006-09-08 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Dear Uncle Ezra - Questions for Thursday, June 15, 1995 - Cornell University Archived October 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-08. Retrieved 2007-01-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) visited 2007-01-07
  7. ^ "Live on Campus". Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Chi Phi Cornell - House News". Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-06-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  11. ^ "Edgemoor". Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity at Cornell University. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  12. ^ 3029-**NOYES COMMUNITY CENTER - Facility Information Archived 2007-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-08. Retrieved 2007-01-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieve 2007-01-09
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-01-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved 2007-01-08

External links[edit]