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New York University
 
Original University Building on University Place

University of the City of New York
In 1831, Albert Galatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Jefferson and Madison for 12 years (still a record), spear-headed the effort to build a University for the common man, as an alternative to Columbia University whose students came from the aristocratic strata of society. It was called the University of the City of New York, later to become NYU.

In 1835, they completed the building seen at left. 100 feet wide by 180 feet long, it dominated the eastern side of the Square. The facade was covered with marble from the quarries of Sing Sing Prison, where the warden had agreed to donate it for free.

Noble as this sounds, it actually became something of a problem. Stonecutters were a significant group back then, and when they heard that prisoners were being used to undercut their market, they rioted. The Stonecutters Riot of 1834 was the first labor riot in American History.

 

 

Samuel Morse

This massive old building was a bee-hive of activity for decades. Samuel Colt developed the revolver here, patenting it in 1836. Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph was a professor of Fine Arts.

Morse's original telegraph used a battery designed by John Draper, NYU's first Professor of Chemistry. Draper's other works included extensive refinement to the daguerreotype - the early precursor to the camera. By reducing exposure time from 50 minutes to 50 seconds, he was able to take the first known photograph of the human face. (See below.)

Walt Whitman taught poetry here; Winslow Homer painted here, and architects Alexander Jackson Davis and Richard Morris Hunt had offices here. But unfortunately, NYU demolished the building in 1894 thinking that it could make better use of the space.

 
 
 
 
Dorothy Draper in First Photographic Portrait of the Human Face - 1840

 

 

 

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