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Brought to you by The Developing Librarian team at Columbia University

Browse Exhibits (10 total)

Bloomingdale Asylum

new york hospital from stokes.jpg

For much of the nineteenth century  the landscape of the future Morningside Heights was dominated by a major mental hospital. A pioneering institution, it was widely admired for many years, but came to face serious challenges and criticism during the last 25 years before its departure to White Plains in 1894.  Thanks to its strategic placement at the center of a narrow ridge and its dogged defense of that position in the late 1880s, it created the space for the coming of Columbia University and the ultimate transformation of the Heights into an "acropolis" of educational, religious, and public institutions.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine: Recovering the Vision of Heins and La Farge


This exhibit utilizes contemporary documents to explore the coherence and singularity of the vision of the first architects, George Lewis Heins (1860-1907) and C. Grant La Farge (1862-1938), appointed to design and build the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

Engine Company No. 47


This exhibit provides a history of Engine Company No. 47 from its beginnings as a combination engine company in 1882 through motorization in 1920.   From 1883 to 1887, the company housed the Fire Department's first School of Instruction and Life-Saving Corps in its firehouse at 97th and Tenth Avenue.  These programs trained and tested recruits and firemen, anticipating New York City's later adoption of Civil Service laws.  In 1891, the company moved north to its handsome, newly completed brick firehouse on 113th Street.  That year the company responded to 83 alarms, by 1911 the number would grow to 341.  During these years, the firemen of Engine Company No. 47 served continuous duty, meaning that they were allowed only three hours a day away from the firehouse for meals and to see their families.  In January 1920, Engine Company 47 moved to a two-platoon system and in August, the fire horses of Engine 47 were retired, and it became the last company in Manhattan to be motorized.

The exhibit draws on the rich collections and staff expertise of the George F. Mand Library.  I am grateful for the use of images and documents from the library and especially for research assistance from Fire Marshal Daniel Maye and his colleagues.

Leake and Watts Orphan House

Lithograph representing John Watts

This exhibit explores the history of the Leake and Watts Orphan House, or Asylum, which was located in Morningside Heights from 1843 to 1891 on the site where the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and its affiliated buildings stand today. The preservation of the Orphan House grounds as largely open land insured that a significant portion of the neighborhood would remain undeveloped until the end of the 19th century, and made possible the development of the area as an academic and religious center.

Riverside Park


This exhibit describes the evolution of Riverside Park and Riverside Drive, adjacent to the Hudson River on the far west side of Morningside Heights. First conceived in 1865, the park and drive were redesigned by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1873 and built over several decades. Olmsted championed the urban park movement, bringing fresh air and open space to city dwellers.

St. Luke's Hospital

St. Luke's 5th Ave..jpg

This exhibit focuses on the history of St. Luke’s Hospital and its founding by Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg. Initially located in mid-Manhattan, the hospital moved to Morningside Heights in 1896 joining The Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University. The exhibit discusses the relationship of St. Luke’s Hospital and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.

The Lion Brewery: 90 years of social history


The Lion Brewery, founded by Emanuel Bernheimer and Joseph Schmid in 1850, developed an impressive commercial and social presence in Morningside Heights.  The Lion Brewery Park, adjoining the brewery itself, was a site for events at all levels of society.  

The Opening of the IRT Subway

1904 Subway System Map w Els Source 1904 IRT Report.jpg

This exhibit seeks to illustrate the context and impact on Morningside Heights of the opening of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway in 1904.

The Riverside Church


This exhibit will describe briefly the history of the Riverside Church and its founding by Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It will explore the architectural design, symbolic choices, and unique visual elements that combine Old World religious grandeur with modern ecumenical ideas in this striking edifice.


Videbimus Lumen: Butler Library Mural


The Videbimus Lumen mural by artist Eugene Francis Savage in Butler Library illustrates the changing landscape of Morningside Heights as Columbia's presence began to dominate the neighborhood in the early 20th century.