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Source: New York Times, Sept. 1, 1929.
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Eighty years ago New York City made a new departure in education at the corner of Twenty-third Street and Lexington Avenue. The Free Academy, now the College of the City of New York, established by the Board of Education and backed by the Board of Education and backed by popular referendum, opened its doors for the higher education of the community's young men.
The eightieth anniversary is marked by another development on that same corner. Wreckers began an attack on the old City College two years ago, and now on its site has arisen a handsome, modern edifice, the Commerce Building of City College, which will be put into use this Fall. Here will be housed the School of Business and Civic Administration, in the largest structure anywhere devoted to the teaching of up-to-date business methods.
Above a ground-floor facade of limestone, surmounted by a row of lofty arched windows, the building lifts a front of light-faced brick toward what eventually will be a height of sixteen stories. With its set-back, skyscraper type of architecture, it will appear, when completed, much more like a stronghold of business itself than an educational institution.
At present, only nine stories are done, but by the time these begin to swarm with student life, work will already have been begun on the structure's upper reaches, appropriations for which are in hand, and before next Summer, it is thought, the architect's drawing will have materialized.
In its simple interpretation of the Italian Romanesque style the building, designed by Thompson, Homes & Converse, is an embellishment to its neighborhood. Its exterior, however, claims to be no more than an expression of the necessities of the plan. Inside it is largely an aggregation of classrooms, where a possible student population of 3,500 will be accommodated at one time. There will be, in all, 125 classrooms of the twenty-five-pupil size, half of which are convertible by folding partitions to double this size. In addition two small lecture rooms and one of 500 capacity are ready for use and four others are planned to take care of courses, such as that on income tax, that draw students by the hundreds.
There are also small laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology and a large room for the ledgers and files of classes in accountancy. The auditorium, occupying a large part of the first three floors, has space for 1,500 persons and will be subjected to practically full-time service as a study hall. The arched windows on the western side of the building light the library and reading room, which have access to shelves containing 40,000 volumes. On the sixth and seventh stories is a mammoth gymnasium, with locker rooms, and a swimming pool is provided in the basement.
In this great plant for the training of future captains and lieutenants of business and government City College will create new history. In the previous building it grew in attendance and diversification of courses from 1849 until 1907, when it was moved to Washington Heights, leaving its former quarters to sub-freshmen. Here the infant School of Business and Civic Administration grew lustily, until it became apparent that even this building would have to be replaced if the school was to realize full usefulness.
This school celebrates its tenth birthday by returning from temporary quarters to its former location and being established in the newly christened Commerce Building. The school is the child of Dr. Frederick B. Robinson, dormer dean, now president of the college, and its new home is the realization of a dream of his. Many years ago the need for certain commerce courses in the City College curriculum manifested itself, and in keeping with its policy of broadening the educational opportunities of the community, these were offered.
Presently they were collected together in what was known as the division of vocational subjects and civics administration. The purpose of this division was largely the training of city employees, but accountancy in general was also offered some engineering and other special and technical subjects. In 1919 this division's work was reorganized, and out of the reorganization came the School of Technology and the School of Business and Civic Administration.
"The school has developed," explained Dr. George W. Edwards, its dean, "in step with the industrial expansion of New York. Our purpose is avowedly local. We aim primarily to meet the needs of the city. We are New Yorkers running the school and we mean to turn out of it New Yorkers who will be fitted to carry on the great business enterprises of the city, both public and private, according to the best approved modern standards.
"This purpose does not involve only the imparting of technical knowledge; it presupposes the laying first of a broad culture base; hence out unusually high liberal arts requirements for the degree in business. It recognizes also the importance of physical education and recreation, for we are not unaware that some of the biggest business deals are put over on the golf links, for instance.
"The curriculum is designed to turn out well-rounded business men and women who, at the same time, are highly specialized. We have formulated our courses in consultation with men of practical experience that actual needs might be met, and we have scheduled the work so as to permit of realistic methods of instructions."
The courses of the school, in addition to the cultural departments, divide themselves into six main groups. Those in general business management aim to qualify the graduate to rise in the business world in advertising, salesmanship, efficiency methods or general management. Those in public service are intended for young men and women aspiring to hold positions in city or State government. The international business group deals with foreign trade and the Consular Service. There is a group in public utilities transportation, one in finance and one for professional accountants.
To these courses a number of new ones will be added with the opening of the Commerce Building, bringing the total to nearly 100. Of the new courses the outstanding, perhaps, is a forum, attendance at which will be required of candidates for degrees. here discussions on the practically operations of various industries will be led by the captains of such industries themselves, a railroad president, a public utilities chairman, and so on.
The bulk of the school's work is done in the evening by students who hold jobs during the day. This past year, according to Howard C. Green, assistant director of the evening session in charge of the commerce center, they numbered 3,000. The daytime enrolment of men only was 1,500. Of late, cramped quarters has made it necessary to turn away 200 or 300 applicants every year because facilities were lacking. The new Commerce Building, it is believed, will provide for this overflow and will stimulate marked increases in the student body, especially in the daytime section.
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