Campus Planning

Frederick Law Olmsted to Andrew Dickson White.
Autograph letter signed. September 10, 1867.
In May of 1867, White contacted Frederick Law Olmsted, who had been interested in campus planning for some time, to consult about the appearance of the new campus. Olmsted recommended abandoning the quadrangle idea, urging a freer disposition of the buildings more in keeping with the rugged topography of the site and the unforeseeable demands of later generations. The recommendation came too late; planning was well advanced and White was committed to the quadrangle design. Nonetheless, Olmsted was at least able to reconcile the divergent approaches of White and Ezra Cornell. Olmsted's comments and plans deserve much of the credit for the quality of Cornell’s Arts Quadrangle.

The site of your second building having been determined against my judgment, it seems to me to be very important that nothing should be done which shall make the suggestion which I offered to you in regard to a terrace impracticable and especially if the first building is duplicated, that its roof lines and base lines should be on the same level with those of the first.

If it is to be almost a duplicate, it should be precisely a duplicate otherwise (especially with a difference of two feet elevation on the horizontal sky-lines), it will look as if any variation has been accidental and a mistake arising from the carelessness or stupidity of the builders. I am surprised to think that Mr. Cornell would entertain such a project; the expense to be saved by it is very trifling.

Andrew Dickson White to William Henry Miller.
Autograph letter signed. August 22, 1870.
White actively involved himself with the design and construction of many campus buildings. He worked closely with Babcock and also with William Henry Miller. Miller studied directly with White, and White encouraged him, writing in 1870: "Everything I see and hear confirms my opinion as to the advice I gave you. There is no nobler or more promising profession for any young man who has a taste for it and a willingness to master it than that of Architect." Miller subsequently designed many buildings on campus including Barnes, Boardman, Stimson, and Risley Halls, as well as many buildings in Ithaca. Perhaps Miller’s most famous building was the University Library (now Uris Library), built to house White’s historical library. In 1957 the College acquired the Miller-Heller House, designed by William Henry Miller.

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