Cornell freshmen are all too familiar with these scenes: leaving their cozy rooms on Saturday night and tumbling back into soft beds (very) early Sunday morning, or throwing their backpacks next to their half-spilling closets before tiredly climbing up into the top bunk. Freshmen dorms represent more than just a shelter for many students, which is why I think it’s important for us to learn about the legacy and history that surround North Campus.
In Balch Hall, the rooms are unique because they each have their own functioning sink — something most freshmen can only dream about. According to legend, the all-female dorm was mostly funded by Janet Balch’s husband after her horrid experience attending an event at her husband’s fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi.
Clara Dickson Hall is not only the largest residential community on North Campus at Cornell, but in the entirety of the Ivy League Residentials. Dickson consists of a large Colonial-style brick building located next to a sand volleyball court. Its name, Clara Dickson, comes from the mother of Cornell’s first president, Andrew Dickson White.
As many Cornell students and alumni know, Clara Dickson was also where Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 lived during her freshman year. Omar Khan ’25 has the honor of passing the legendary space every morning.
“I live right by RBG’s room, and it’s not even locked, so we all know what’s inside,” he said.
The building was first named Court Hall for the dorm’s formation of a courtyard. In 2005, the University renamed the southern wing of Court Hall to Bauer Hall for a $10 million donation by Robert Bauer ’40 and Virginia Bauer ’42. In 2006, the middle wing of Court Hall was renamed to Kay Hall after a donation of $10 million by Bill Kay ’51. Names are worth a lot more than I thought.
Ganędagǫ: Hall is named in the language of the Gayogo̱ hó꞉nǫ’ (the Cayuga Nation). Ganędagǫ: means “it’s in the hill,” representing the ancestral name for the land Cornell is built upon.
Hall residents have gained a notorious reputation for living through their freshman year in luxury. Through its creative floor plans, Ganędagǫ: Hall encourages interaction and collaboration among students, drawing them out of their individual rooms and into areas promoting group study sessions and social interactions in spacious lounges and nearby cafés.
Jameson/High Rise 5
Many people use the names High Rise 5 and George Jameson Hall, also known as High Rise 1, interchangeably. However, what happened to High Rises 2, 3 and 4? Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC) takes up those plots of land on the original map!
The University named Jameson Hall after George Jameson, a Cornell alum who (surprise!) very generously donated all of the luxurious furniture in our Sky Lounge. As a resident of Jameson, I can definitely say that Floor 1’s social and cultural atmosphere has contributed to a more enjoyable freshmen year.
Low Rise 6/7
Sighhhh. The Low Rises. Completed in 1975, Low Rise 6 and 7 houses suite-style dorms, while 8, 9 and 10 are Program Houses.
There’s not much fascinating history tied to the lovely Low Rises, but Cam Muniz ’25 offered a positive take.
“I live in Low Rise 7, and I do not believe that it deserves its low reputation,” he said. “Sure, it is older and doesn’t have the amenities of the newer dorms, but I have made some great friends through its suite system.”
Like many other dorms at Cornell, Mary Donlon Hall, constructed in 1961, was a women’s dorm for its first ten years.
Mary Donlon Hall is named for one of the country’s first female judges, who was also a Cornell alumna. Donlon graduated from Cornell Law School, receiving a Bachelor of Laws in 1920. Some of her achievements on campus include becoming the first female editor-in-chief of the Cornell Law Quarterly and of any US law review; she also served on Cornell’s Board of Trustees from 1937 to 1966.
Donlon’s reputation for community involvement continued after her studies: “In 1956, she established a scholarship for Hungarian women at Cornell and endowed the ILR school’s annual Mary H. Donlon lectures.”
Stretching graciously across North Campus is Mews. This building is designed and named after its style, originating with British stables. “The building is separated into two parallel halves, East and West, which are linked by a hallway and Lund study lounge. Between the wings is a large courtyard.” What is a Mews-style building? Mews is a British name for a row or courtyard of stables and carriage houses with living quarters located above, which are usually catered to horses, coachmen and stable servants of prosperous residents.
Toni Morrison Hall
The lights spilling out of Toni Morrison’s newly-opened dining hall will forever be a sight of envy for most Cornell freshmen. Though I love Jameson with all my heart, I find it refreshing to pass Morrison’s sleek glass panels before pushing open Jameson’s jammed door. Keylin Saldana ’25 offers her favorite part about Morrison Hall: “Morrison is a really great place to live in. Along with the perks of having AC and a gym downstairs, it is nice to have a sense of calmness after a busy day.”
The new dorm is named in honor of Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison, more famously known as Toni Morrison ’55. She was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor who earned a master’s degree in American literature in 1955 at Cornell. Some of Morrison’s notable achievements include: “the Jefferson Lecture (the U.S. government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities); the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and the induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020.”
Cornell freshmen, as you enter and exit your humble abode for the year, please allow the legacy and aspirations that linger under the names of these buildings to motivate you to reach a future you can proudly call home.
Haley Qin is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].