The Development and Evolution of the Baruch Campus

1968 is remembered for the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. & Robert Kennedy and the protests on college campuses across the country. However, this year also marked the birth of a new independent college in the city of New York which, in a short amount of time, would garner praise and earn an excellent reputation - Baruch College.

2008 marked the 40th anniversary of Baruch College becoming an independent senior College of the City University of New York. In these short forty years, Baruch College has become a highly selective CUNY College. The latest addition to the college, the William & Anita Newman Vertical Campus, opened on August 27, 2001. This exhibit will examine the evolution of the campus from its first building on 23rd Street to the state of the art Newman Vertical Campus which takes up almost an entire square city block today.

Free Academy Building, 19th century
(From the Baruch College Archives)
Free Academy Building, 19th century
(Copy of the Original in the Baruch College Archives)

The story of Baruch College begins in 1847 with the founding of the Free Academy of New York at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street, an institution which later became the City College of New York. Education was free to qualified applicants and only a small fraction of the students who enrolled actually made it through the five years to receive their degree. Bernard Baruch, an 1889 graduate of the Free Academy, entered with seven hundred students but only fifty were able to make it to graduation.


The classes took place in the eight story building which eventually became insufficient for the increasing number of students enrolled. By the end of the 19th century the facilities were in a dilapidated state and it was decided to move the campus uptown to St. Nicholas Terrace. The college facilitated the move in 1907 and the original building at 23rd street was virtually abandoned, remaining partially utilized by the Townsend Harris High School freshmen.


A second life of sorts began in 1919 with the establishment of the School of Business and Civic Administration. A number of renovations took place at 17 Lexington Avenue and classes began to be held once more on all except the third floor, which was particularly shaky. The problem of overcrowding became immediately apparent with even the basement converted to class use. Some classes were relocated to the Municipal Building at Chambers and Centers Streets.

17 Lexington Construction
ca. 1928
(From the Baruch College Archives)
17 Lexington Construction
ca. 1928
(From the Baruch College Archives)
17 Lexington Construction
ca. 1928
(From the Baruch College
Archives)

17 Lexington Construction
ca. 1928
(From the Baruch College Archives)

By 1926 the conditions of the old college building had completely deteriorated and city funds were acquired for the construction of a new building. In the meantime the school moved to rented space at Grand Central Palace, an office building at 42nd Street, where it was to remain for four years.

On December 4, 1928, James Walker, the mayor of New York, used a silver trowel, the handle of which was made from a balustrade of the old Free Academy, at the cornerstone laying ceremony. A copper box which was placed in the cornerstone of 17 Lexington Avenue contained copies of the addresses made at the ceremony, a copy of the rag paper edition of The New York Times from the previous day, the 1928 Year Book of the students of the Business School, two copies of the City College Alumnus, and a number of silver coins of the United States (The New York Times, December 5, 1928, pg 8).

Completed 17 Lexington Ave Building
Ca. 1930
(From the Baruch College Archives)

Initially only enough money was allocated for an eight story building but eventually, with persistent lobbying, more money was appropriated for an additional eight floors which were completed two years later. The new structure, built of a warm tan brick in the Northern Italian style of architecture and having a capacity for 10,000 students finally opened in its current form in 1930.

The new building did not sufficiently alleviate the overcrowding problem since enrollment in the business school continued to grow throughout the 1930's, peaking at slightly more than 10,000 day and evening session students in 1940.

Former Children's Court century
After 1950
(From the Baruch College Archives)
Children's Water Fountain in the Court Building
(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)

In the years following the end of World War II the issue of space was as critical as ever. A Feb. 13, 1946 New York Times headline read "More Space Asked for City College: It Must be doubled or tripled in next 10 years. Dr. Wright tells Alumni meeting." By 1957 the only permanent increase in space was the acquisition of the old Children's Court building on 22nd Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues to be used as a student center.


The court building, built on land which once belonged to City College in 1913 and dedicated in 1916, was dubbed the "the largest and finest the kind in the world,..." The description of the court when it opened was as follows:

The courthouse moved in 1953 and by 1960 the college had acquired and renovated the building in an effort to solve the space problem.

155 East 24th Building
Ca. 1980

(From the Baruch College Archives)
155 East 24th Building

Lexicon, 1971

After independence in 1968 additional space was rented at 257 Park Avenue South and a new building was purchased at 155 East 24th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues.


Additional space was temporarily acquired at Cathedral High School on 50th Street and Lexington Avenue and used as a freshmen center. There were a long term plans to build a new campus in the Atlantic Terminal site in Brooklyn at an estimated cost of 73 to 120 million dollars, but the fiscal crisis of 1975 halted those plans.

Administrative building

(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)
(From the Baruch College Archives)

Administrative Building
After 1990
(From the Baruch College Archives)

Relief Panel
(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)
Relief Panel
(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)
Relief Panel
(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)

The only permanent new structure acquired after that was the old Family Court building. It was built in 1939 and constructed in a "modern classic" style. The building was meant to complement the Children's Court next door, as a number of relief panels with family motifs visible on the side facing Lexington Avenue and 22nd Street demonstrate.

Baruch College Master Plan, pg 13.
1986
(From the Baruch College Archives)

To cope with a lack of space, Baruch was forced to rent space in two additional buildings. Two new buildings were planned in the proximity to the existing campus, named site A and site B.

Original Building Seal
(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)
The Information and Technology Building
ca 1995
(from the Baruch College Archives)
Original Building Seal
(Photo by Alex Gelfand, Feb 2009)

Site A (click here to read more), which became the Information & Technology Building and houses the William and Anita Newman Library was renovated and opened in 1994. Additional space was rented in the building next door at 137 East 25th Street called the Annex Building.

The Newman Vertical Campus
ca. 2001
(Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC, New Academic Complex
The City University of New
York/Baruch College, pg 3)

Site B (click here to read more), the future Vertical Campus, took much longer to realize but when it was completed in 2001, the building of 14 stories and three sub-basements covered almost an entire square block.

Bibliography

Berrol, Selma C., Getting Down to Business: Baruch College in the City of New York, 1847-1987, New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.