JOHN AHLBERG: Yeah. Now, suppose all the fireplaces went to [INAUDIBLE].
KENT HUBBELL: Pots-- start it that way, and then they pick them up later. But you know--
JOHN AHLBERG: As long as they'd freeze over the winter.
JOHN AHLBERG: Yeah. Well, that'll be a trouble spot here, right?
KENT HUBBELL: Well, good afternoon. I'm Kent Hubbell. I'm a member of the faculty in architecture, and I'm currently the dean of students. And this is John Ahlberg.
JOHN AHLBERG: I'm a landscape architect with the Facility Planning Office.
KENT HUBBELL: And we are here to talk about the history of the Cornell landscape, both spaces, places, and buildings. I guess it's fair to say that we are sort of absorbed and obsessed by this subject. And down through the years, we've come to really love the history of the landscape and the buildings of Cornell.
So we'd like to spend the next several chat rooms talking about the history of Cornell. We'd like to start with the Arts Quad, and we're sitting here on the AD White bench.
JOHN AHLBERG: Well, the Arts Quad is a good place to start because it represents so much of the history of Cornell and actually encapsulates lots of stories about the growth of the campus from 1868 to the present.
KENT HUBBELL: And to that point, let me stand up and read to you the inscription on this bench from AD White. "To those who shall sit here rejoicing, to those who shall sit here mourning, sympathy and greetings. So have we done in our time, 1892," AD White and his wife.
And from what we know of AD White and his habits, in the evening, he and his wife used to walk down from their house that's behind us, of course, up on The Knoll, down amongst a grove of trees, an alley of trees, and then arrive here and sit and just take the view and sort of contemplate the day's activities as they watched the sunset. And of course, in the early days of Cornell, this place overlooked AD White's or Ezra Cornell's home, which was just south and west of us here at the bottom of Libe Slope.
JOHN AHLBERG: Yeah, this is an incredible commanding view of the valley. And AD White's attraction to this site is very similar to Ezra Cornell's attraction to this area. And in fact, his choice of this site for his university had a lot to do with its exposure to that western view.
KENT HUBBELL: As you think back of the campus in that period of the mid to late 19th century, you have to remember that the landscape had been largely denuded of trees. You'd look across a landscape that was altogether different. It was very agrarian. This was a rubble and relatively rude farm landscape. And Ezra Cornell's farmstead was just down the hill at the bottom of Libe Slope.
JOHN AHLBERG: Right. You can picture cows grazing on Libe Slope-- not today, but there was a time. This bench is here for a reason. As Ken says, Andrew Dixon White and his wife sat here and looked at sunsets and enjoyed the view. And the fact that the bench is here in turn affects how other things happened on campus.
For example, it became the locus of this President's Walk, which became the southern boundary of the Arts Quad, eventually. The bench also tells stories about White himself and his predisposition to certain materials, certain types of architecture, and monuments on campus.
KENT HUBBELL: It's very interesting, too, that while AD White took his architecture very, very seriously and had perhaps arguably the largest library of architectural text in the country, he with Ezra Cornell made a very interesting pair because Ezra Cornell's pragmatism played off against AD White's desire for things that were architecturally quite refined. And you see that debate played out in the form of a variety of types of buildings down through the 19th century, probably into the early 20th century.
So for example, while AD White was traveling in Europe, Ezra Cornell decided that there would be a science building in the midst of the Arts Quad. And it took some number of years to get it off the Arts Quad. So this interplay between the sensibilities of these two men really does inform the fabric of the campus in a very significant way to this day.
JOHN AHLBERG: It's more than a matter of aesthetics. It's a real visceral connection that the landscape and the presence of this campus has on people.
KENT HUBBELL: So with this, perhaps we should go over and take a look at Morrill Hall.
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The story of the earliest days of Cornell University is about much more than the construction of buildings. The opinions and personalities of the men and women decision-makers, the political climate of the times, the financial health of the University, even the layout of the surrounding landscape all played a vital role in the formation of what we know today as the Cornell campus.
Join Kent Hubbell and John Ullberg as they relay some of the rich and fascinating stories behind the current day Arts Quad, home of Cornell's first structures, which today stand among a diverse collection of buildings representing many architectural styles.
This video is part 1 of 7 in the Ezra's Farmstead series.