Note on 49th Street Campus and Finances

Note on 49th Street Campus of Columbia College

College moved from its 13-lot original site between Murray St. and Park Place in Tribeca, after operating for  97 years in the same building.  Building footprint property sold to federal government for almost $600,000. Some adjoining properties leased to commercial tenents retained as income stream (aka “The Lower Estate”)

Trustees decided against using the Botanic Garden property (the”Upper Estate”),  because of its commercial potential, which was just beginning to be realized. Instead, they selected a “temporary” site two blocks east of the Botanic Garden that consisted  of a 20-lot  city block east of Madison Avenue and west of 4th (now Park Ave.) between 49th and 50th Street.]It had been the site of the Institution for the Instruction of  the Deaf and Dumb [The “Asylum”]. The 2-acre site  (412’ e/w x 206’n/s) was bought for $63,000.

The college buildings included:
Chapel, classrooms and president’s residence  –all initially in the old Asylum building facing 50th Street
School of Mines Building in northeast corner (1877-78)
Law School (1881-82)
Library (1881-82) – on 49th St
Hamilton Hall (1881-82) – Facing Madison Avenue

Note on the Elgin Botanical  Garden/’Upper Estate” Property – Four city blocks between 5th and 6th Avenues, between 47th and 51st Streets (660,000 sq. ft.)  Given to College by New York State in 1814, which had bought it from Dr. David Hosack for almost $75,000. Hosack bought it 1801 for $5000 and put $100,000 into its development.

Began leasing these lots in early 1850s in 20-year arrangements, which were either renewed by the leasees or transferred to new ones every 20 years at substantially higher prices.



Columbia College Income from Real Estate, 1800 – 1900

Year Lower Estate Rental Income Upper Estate Rental Income Total annual rental Income













































Endowment equivalent for income-producing property calculated at annual rent totals x 20, or, in 1900, $8 million.

 Last updated: February 8, 2014

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