July 16, 2007

North Campus Dorms Ready for Class of 2011

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In the 1900s, the Cornell student body was housed entirely in fraternities and boarding houses—no real dormitories existed. According to Cornell: Glorious to View, a history of Cornell written by Profs. Carol Kammen and Prof. Walter LaFeber, both history, Andrew Dickson White, Cornell’s founder and first president, believed students should board themselves. Clearly times have changed. The freshman class of 2011 enters Cornell with a plethora of housing options, ranging from traditional residence halls to more specialized program houses. Here we review some of the facts, figures and follies of the seven traditional halls:
Balch Hall
Balch Hall, Cornell’s only all-women dormitory, was constructed in the 1920s as the first dormitory on North Campus, according to Cornell Then and Now by Prof. Ronald Ostman, communication. Generations of Cornellians and architectural trends later, Balch’s Gothic style and ivy-covered exterior continue to exude a timeless and classically collegiate character.
“Balch is one of my favorites. The rooms are uniquely shaped, and the dormer windows are beautiful on the 5th and 6th floors,” said Karen Brown, director of marketing and communications for Campus Life.
The rooms in Balch are also the most spacious of all the North Campus dorms, according to residential advisor Doug Weinberg ’08. Another big plus: every room has a sink, either in the room itself or connected to an adjacent room.
Clara Dickson Hall
Named after president A.D. White’s mother, Clara Dickson Hall has also held the unusual nickname, “The Big Dick,” according to Weinberg. Originally, the dormitory was intended to house only females but it has become co-ed. Close to 500 students can fit in this four-story dormitory, currently the largest in the Ivy League, according to residential advisor Mazdak Asgary, ’08. Not quite so conveniently, however, Dickson has only four bathrooms per floor, making for a ratio of 35 students per facility, according to Weinberg. It’s a good thing that every bathroom has plenty of sinks, toilets, and showers — around seven of each.
Clara Dickson Hall is also chock full of single rooms, often a rarity for freshmen at most colleges. The rooms often stand on one long, winding hallway with a lounge in the middle.
“This setup makes for a more social atmosphere for students who would like singles, as opposed to being in any of the suite-style dorms living with people who mostly have roommates … It makes the single less socially isolating,” Weinberg said.
Court-Kay-Bauer Community
This new addition to North Campus opened in the fall of 2001 and conveniently features the air-conditioning other dormitories lack. While Ithaca does live up to its reputation of frigid winters, cool air is no doubt welcome on those first few humid days of school. These dorms also feature cable television through Cornell’s CUTV computer network service, according to the Cornell Campus Life website. As the most modern of the dormitories, the Court-Kay-Bauer Community also boasts brightly painted walls and comfortable common areas.
“There is a really nice lounge space. The TV lounge spaces are very unique … A couple of the lounges have a little loft so you can sit there and look down and still see the TV,” Brown said.
But all is fair, or pretty fair, in dormitory life, as the rooms in the Court-Kay-Bauer Community are also known to have walls that are paper thin, according to Weinberg.
The top three floors of the dormitory are residential, with primarily double and single rooms opening onto a main hallway. Students are grouped into suites of five that share one restroom. Altogether, approximately 270 students reside in the dormitory, along with one residence hall director, one faculty-in-residence and three faculty fellows, according to the Campus Life website.
Originally the entire dormitory with its three wings was named Court, after the courtyard it formed, according to Asgary. Recently, however, two of the wings were renamed after two 10 million dollar donations from each of the Bauer and Kay families.
Mews Hall
Along with the Court-Kay-Bauer Community, Mews Hall represents the latest in dormitories on North Campus. According to Asgary, the structure and facilities of the building closely mirror that of the Court-Kay-Bauer Community. Mews also contains 22 lounges, including the spacious, semicircular Lund Lounge that overlooks Rawlings Green.
“Mews, in England, is where the Royal Family keeps their horses and so the name basically represents the type of living that you see in both Mews and Court — tight, suite-style quarters that face each other,” Asgary said.
Mary Donlon Hall
Mary Donlon Hall could be said to be shaped in a curved “Y.” But some say the building is “thong-shaped,” a description somewhat more fitting considering its reputation for being a social dormitory.
“Donlon is uniquely situated because of the way the rooms go off into wings. Residents all have to go into the middle for social activity,” said Brown.
The majority of the rooms are doubles on co-ed corridors. While most bathrooms are single-sex, there is an occasional co-ed one as well, according to Weinberg.
Socializing may be a constant for life in Donlon, but the dormitory also balances that out with its recently renovated library on the first floor. A year and a half ago, the library was repainted and recarpeted, according to Brown, and serves as a quiet and convenient retreat from the chitter-chatter for some serious studying.
Low Rises 6 and 7
Step inside the Low Rises and you’ll feel like a rat in a maze. Winding corridors and unexpected turns are staples in these dormitories. But at the time the buildings were constructed, the Low Rises’ small, somewhat isolated suites were considered a novel proposition.
“The emphasis on building small communities was considered to be a wonderful approach in residential living. The Low Rises were planned from the beginning to serve as an asset in our quest to foster diversity and interaction among and between our students,” Brown said after speaking to LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president for Student and Academic Services.
Constructed at a time of high economic inflation, the Low Rises were built to be long-standing, according to Brown. A typical suite consists of one bathroom, two double rooms and two single rooms. The rooms themselves are large compared to those of other dormitories, according to Weinberg.
High-Rise 5 and Jameson
In the midst of rural Ithaca, High Rise 5 and Jameson do their best to stir up a bit of city life with their architectural styles intended to resemble city living. Their organization is very similar to that of the Low Rises, also with suites “designed to foster interactions within the community,” according to Brown.
The most distinctive feature of the High Rises is arguably their Sky Lounges. Located on the top floor of each building, they provide an unparalleled panoramic view of all North Campus.
“It’s like a penthouse suite but it’s lounge space,” Brown said.
Townhouse Community
Living in the Townhouses is pretty much like getting to share an apartment freshman year. Built in 1989, each has two double rooms and a bathroom—but also a sizable dining room and living room, not to mention a kitchen, according to Brown and the Campus Life website. While most agree the Townhouses are more secluded than the rest of the North Campus dormitories, their location also makes for a quieter, more private environment. Bus stops located right outside the community come in handy for the long walk to Central Campus. Despite being on the periphery of North Campus Townhouse residents are still fully able to participate in all that college life entails.
“Residents experience a bit of independence with all the support that comes from our Residential Programs staff and our Faculty Programs in Residential Communities…Residents have access to the Townhouse Community Center where community activities are prevalent. Residents also have easy access to Robert Purcell Community Center, just across the street,” Brown said.