After years of neglect, renovations on the Arts Quad’s McGraw Hall are ongoing, due to necessary repairs needed to both the exterior and interior of the building.
Located between Morrill Hall and White Hall, McGraw Hall was constructed in 1868, designating it as the third oldest building at Cornell. Yet, there seemingly has been little done to preserve its structural integrity over the years.
Following a ceiling collapse in 2009, structural supports were constructed around the exterior of the building. Though several of the ceilings were redone, visible cracks remained.
According to Robert Silman Associates, the company chosen to do these renovations, led by Beyer Blinder Belle, the cracks both on the exterior and interior could be seen as early as the 1990s.
The firm stated that the renovation intends to break down the existing framing while conserving the exterior masonry walls. Several Cornell students expressed support for the decision to preserve the majority of the appearance of the exterior while renovating the interior.
“I think, on the outside, it looks really nice, and the inside is ridiculously outdated,” Andres Aradillas ’25 said.
Aradillas noted that other buildings on the Arts Quad, such as Klarman Hall and Goldwin Smith Hall, are far more updated. Contrasted with White Hall and Morrill Hall, buildings of similar age, McGraw Hall, he said, is exceptionally outdated.
“The elevator, for instance, is very sketchy,” said Olivia Fisher ’25.
Fisher described McGraw as being more run down juxtaposed with other buildings bordering the Arts Quad.
Lal Kosematgolu ’23 also cited McGraw’s elevator as a concern regarding the building’s present condition.
“I’m sure a lot of other people have experienced this elevator. It kind of rattles a lot and is a bit scary going up,” Kosematoglu said. “I am a little afraid of elevators. I am even more afraid of the McGraw elevator.”
According to Fisher, the state of the building has affected her learning.
“Whenever I’d have to go to the bathroom it was very far away and I’d have to navigate down a million different hallways just to find it,” Fisher said. “I’d spend half of the discussion section not participating, but trying to just locate the bathroom.”
Fisher also remembers the building’s air conditioning disrupting her class. The loud noises that it made prevented her from hearing her teaching assistant and made it difficult to concentrate.
“I still think a lot of humanities buildings on the Arts Quad do deserve to be renovated, because I know a lot of STEM buildings are brand new,” Fisher said. “So, it just kind of shows where the value and money is being put in terms of different fields of studies at Cornell.”
When asked about specific changes she would like to see, Fisher said that she would appreciate a more open floor plan and a balance between modern and historic design. She emphasized the preservation of the historical look of the building, such as the possibility of adding wood paneling.
Aradillas also expressed affinity for McGraw Hall’s historic design, adding that renovations should preserve those aesthetics.
“I would definitely like it fixed structurally, but I would still like it to maintain the older look, antique look that it has,” Aradillas said. “Kind of what they’re trying to do with Balch Hall.”