Our History

A photo of Faculty House taken on a summer afternoon in 2020. Photo courtesy of Columbia University Facilities & Operations.

For nearly a century, Faculty House has served as the center of intellectual and social interaction among Columbia University and the greater community. Join us for a walk down memory lane to learn about the Faculty House building and its history.

In 1894, Columbia University hired renowned New York City architecture firm, McKim, Mead and White, to develop a master plan for the Morningside Heights campus. In 1921, the firm designed the blueprint for Faculty House, to be located at 117th Street and Morningside.

Original blueprint for Faculty House

A SOCIAL AND INTELLECTUAL CENTER

The goal of the new building was to foster a popular social and intellectual center. Funding for the building was a gift to the University from alumnus F. Augustus Schermerhorn, Class of 1868. Schermerhorn also served as Trustee of the Faculty House from 1877 to 1908.

A clipping from a July 1922 issue of AL News shows Faculty House being built

Over three hundred members of the University’s teaching staff were present at the formal opening on May 1, 1923. An article in The New York Times noted, “The new building’s features make it one of the most attractive and serviceable buildings in Morningside Heights.”

A newspaper clipping reads, 'Faculty Club Opens. Several Hundred Columbia Professors Inspect New Quarters.'

In 1923, construction at Faculty House was complete. The first floor contained a large reception room and coat rooms, as well as billiard and chess rooms. On the second floor was a large lounging room overlooking Morningside Park and a ballroom used for dancing and private parties. Two large dining rooms could be found on the third and fourth floors. This luxurious, spacious design made it possible to host large social events.

VISITED BY DISTINGUISHED GLOBAL SCHOLARS

Faculty House also contained assembly rooms where speakers from all over the world gathered to share their research and ideas. It was where the University’s most distinguished scholars met and visitors entertained.

THE SOCIAL HUB OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Over the years, Faculty House met the diverse event needs of the Columbia community, supporting nearly 1,500 functions a week. This included stag parties, annual Welcome Dinners to honor new faculty members, holiday parties for families, and formal dances.

UPDATING AN ICON FOR THE FUTURE

In the spring of 2008, the building was closed to undergo extensive renovations conducted by Bogdanow Partners Architects, PC. One of the chief renovation goals for the Bogdanow team was to ensure that each of Faculty House’s four floors be designed with its own distinct personality.

During the 18-month renovation, the 38,000 square feet of meeting and function space was completely retrofitted to support 21st-century technology. Nearly 75 percent of materials from the original structure were refurbished, re-purposed, recycled or donated during the renovation project.

Wreaths made of white roses hang on either side of the open gate that leads to Faculty House.

On September 2, 2009, Faculty House reopened its doors to Columbia and the greater community, ready once again to host seminars, meetings, receptions, social events, and weddings.

ACTIVELY SUPPORTING A GREENER FUTURE

On April 19, 2010, Faculty House was awarded the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification by the United States Green Building Council — just in time for Earth Day! A significant environmental milestone for Faculty House and Columbia University, it was the first McKim, Mead & White building in the country to be given this designation.

Today, Faculty House continues this illustrious tradition of hosting events of all scale.

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