New York University, University Heights Campus, photo 1904. Via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Detroit Publishing Co.

With fall and the back to school season in full swing, Untapped Cites is uncovering the hidden and little known past uses of some of New York City’s colleges. Today we look at Bronx Community College, the first community college to be declared a National Historic Landmark, which is located in the former University Heights campus of New York University. Its Beaux-Arts buildings, which include the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, were designed by the celebrated architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead, and White.

In the early 1890s NYU purchased the Mali Estate, a 40-acre site in the Bronx on a bluff overlooking the Harlem River. At the time, much of the neighborhood around NYU’s buildings in Greenwich Village consisted of crowded tenements and factories. The new site enabled NYU to create a campus of monumental buildings and open lawns with fresh air and river views.

New York University, circa 1900-1910. Via Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. Photo by Detroit Publishing Co.

This was part of a larger trend. For similar reasons, Columbia University relocated from Midtown to Morningside Heights in 1897 and City College moved from East 23rd Street to West Harlem in 1907.

Emphasizing the site’s hilltop location, NYU’s new campus was called University Heights, a name that was also applied to the surrounding neighborhood.

“New York University, New York City” circa 1904. Image via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Photo by Detroit Publishing Co.

Stanford White‘s master plan for the University Heights campus included several buildings arranged around a quadrangle. Designed in a Beaux-Arts style described as “American Renaissance,” they were completed between 1894 and 1912. The centerpiece of the plan was Gould Memorial Library, which features a dome that has become an iconic symbol of the campus.

Butler Hall, former Mali Mansion, built about 1859

In addition to White’s new buildings, NYU adaptively reused existing structures on the property including the Mali Mansion, which was converted into Charles Butler Hall. Butler Hall initially served as a dormitory until larger facilities were built.

1901 Image via NY Public Library Digital Collections. Art and Picture Collection.

Hall of Fame for Great Americans

A few years after the campus opened, NYU established a new institution called the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Stanford White designed a colonnaded-terrace encircling the rear of the Gould Memorial Library in which busts of famous Americans were placed. Once a popular tourist attraction, the Hall of Fame is largely forgotten but is still located on the site.

Gould Memorial Library (1900), no longer a library, now offices

Hall of Languages, first Stanford White building completed at University Heights (1894)

Gould Residence Hall (1896), now classrooms and offices

Hall of Philosophy (1912), the campus’ final Stanford White-designed building

University Heights in effect became the main campus of NYU, housing the undergraduate programs. However, NYU retained its Greenwich Village buildings for graduate programs, which would prove decisive to the later history of the University Heights campus.

One of the Later Additions, Modernist Style: Meister Hall, Marcel Breuer & Associates (1967). Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Photo by yusunkwon

Subsequent to the construction of White’s buildings, NYU’s University Heights campus continued to grow during the next several decades. Later NYU buildings, designed in a variety of architectural styles, are not part of the National Historic Landmark designation.

In the early 1970s, NYU, which was in financial distress, decided to leave University Heights and retrench in the Village. NYU sold the campus to the state Dormitory Authority, which enabled Bronx Community College to move there in 1973.

University Heights Campus Newest Building, A Contextual Design: North Hall and Library, Robert A.M. Stern Architects (2012) facing Stanford White’s Quad

Bronx Community College up until then lacked a cohesive campus and had been spread across eight buildings in the nearby Fordham Heights neighborhood. Thanks to NYU’s move, Bronx Community College inherited an architectural masterpiece.

Next, read about NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall, built in 1951, which portended the university’s renewed focus on expanding around Washington Square.

With fall and the back to school season coming up, Untapped Cites is uncovering the hidden and little known past uses of some of New York City’s colleges. Today we look at Vanderbilt Hall, home of the New York University School of Law, located at 40 Washington Square South in Greenwich Village.

In the late 1940s when New York University announced plans to develop Vanderbilt Hall, a new home for its Law School, many local residents rallied to “Save Washington Square” from a project that they charged would debase the area’s character. In a case of history coming full circle, in 2013 historic preservationists hailed the inclusion of Vanderbilt Hall in the South Village Historic District.


Washington Square Park-NYC-Untapped Cities-jinwoo chong-01

Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village is a wonderful respite from the city with is magnificent arch and public spaces. But all around it, secrets abound in the history of how it came to be. Here are our top 10 favorite secrets of Washington Square Park:


Pomander Walk on the Upper West Side

Strolling through certain streets or areas of NYC, you might feel suddenly transported to an older time. From an old world fishing village in the Bronx, to back houses transformed into luxury mansions in the West Village, the following areas capture the essence of a different period of NYC. While some, like City Island Fishing Village stand as microcosms, others are literally side-by-side with modern skyscrapers.


dick grayson-batman and robin-hudson univeristy-nyc that never was-untapped cities-02Strapping young Dick Grayson sporting a Hudson sweater as he bids farewell to Bruce and Alfred. (Image from Batman #217 via iFanboy)

New York City isn’t exactly a “college town,” but for TV buffs the name Hudson University should ring a bell as the alma mater of Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show and a frequent location for murders and raunchy college parties investigated by cops on Law and Order. But if you look at a map or list of NY schools today, you won’t find Hudson at all. Filmed at many locations throughout city, Hudson University is a combination of several different buildings including schools, government buildings, and public areas. NY Times called it, “where everyone majors in murder,” but the ongoing joke dates back much further than its references on TV.  (more…)

This 17-story building on the corner of East 10th Street and Broadway is home to nearly 575 New York University freshmen. Constructed in 1929, Brittany Hall at 55 East 10th Street served as a luxury hotel long before its status as a dormitory.

NYU-Dorm-Brittany-ExteriorImage via NYU

Now, these NYU students have the benefit of high pre-war ceilings and a terrific proximity to the renowned Grace Church. This residence hall also features a penthouse suite, now a 24 hour study lounge, with bewitching views and a Prohibition-era history. (more…)