Morrill Hall and Lincoln Hall

As New York State’s Land-Grant institution, Cornell honored the men who authored and passed the Land-Grant College Act into law—Senator Justin S. Morrill and President Abraham Lincoln—by naming two of its earliest buildings after them.

Erected in 1866 as Building Number One and later known as South University Building, Morrill Hall originally served as a combination dormitory (without running water), classroom and lab, and administration building. As Murray Edward Poole noted in his book, Distinguished Cornellians, “In the early days this building was a very busy place.”

With the construction of Lincoln Hall in 1888, the third side of the Arts Quadrangle was initiated, though not without controversy. Built to replace the “temporary” wooden barracks that had housed the Civil Engineering and Architecture programs for 20 years on the east side of the Quad, this “graceless structure” (as Cornell professor Morris Bishop called it) embodies the aesthetic and economic debate that Andrew D. White and Henry W. Sage had over Cornell building policies. Sage liked red, White liked stone, and bricks were cheaper—so the front and sides of Lincoln were made of red stone, the back side of bricks.

“Morrill Hall.” Photograph. Syracuse Post-Standard. July 28, 1940.

This image of Morrill Hall is from a newspaper clipping in the Justin Morrill archive that was donated to Cornell by two Senator Morrill’s nephews. The caption reads: “”Old grads,’ will be interested in this picture of Morrill Hall, first building on the campus at Cornell. Photograph was made on Oct. 19, 1868, just 10 days after the opening of the university.”

“Lincoln Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.” Rotograph Co., 1905.
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Erected in 1888 to house the Schools of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Lincoln Hall was designed by Cornell professor and architect, Charles Babcock. The memorial stone on the west face of the building tells the story of its name:


By whose approval of the Act of Congress donating public land for Liberal and Practical Education became a Law.

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