Buell Hall (also known in the past as College Hall, Alumni House and East Hall), is the only remaining building on the Morningside Heights campus that dates back to Columbia's predecessor on the site, the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. As such, it is the oldest building on campus. Today Buell is better known as "Maison Française" as the French cultural house is the primary occupant of the building, though it shares the building with gallery space for GSAPP and GSAPP's Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, which strangely has its office in Avery anyway.
Designed in 1885 and built to a design by Ralph Townsend, with a gift from William H. Macy (a rich 19th century gentleman, not the actor), Macy Villa, as it was originally called, was a residential facility for wealthy male insane people, so that they wouldn't have to mix with the hoi polloi in the more "institutional" main buildings. In the spring of 1895, Columbia's Crew team took possession of the Villa for their use. Thereafter it housed Columbia College until Hamilton Hall's construction, and later was used to house the offices of the Bursar, the Registrar, Dean of the graduate faculties, Provost, Alumni Council, Committee on Employment for Students, and the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions. It also housed the Columbia University Press. As of at least 1912, the building was thought to be temporary.
Prior to the construction of Kent Hall, Buell actually sat on 116th street. It was physically moved back to make way for the new building, and in the process, the deep wooden porches that had surrounded the building were removed. Until 1964, Buell Hall housed offices of the School of General Studies.
La Maison Française moved into the building in 1977. Founded in 1913, La Maison Française is the oldest French cultural center established on an American university campus. It is a meeting place for students, scholars, business leaders, policy-makers and those seeking a better understanding of the French and Francophone world.
Buell Hall also houses the Temple Hoyne Center for the Study of American Architecture, the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery and Columbia's Headquarters for Japanese Architectural Studies and Advanced Research.
The first floor has a gallery space and is one of the venues for the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation's end-of-year exhibition in May.
Entrance to Buell while it housed GS
Kent cannot be accessed from inside Buell. To get to the basement, you must either travel through the hot tunnels and climb up the ladder from Kent, or break the lock on the grate on the east side of the building, then go down and through the half door, and down the ladder. So its really only a dead-end; there is no exit from Buell. If you were to continue past Buell northwards you would get blocked at a hot mass of pipes, beyond which are connections to Uris Hall, Low Library, and St. Paul's.
Although there are no alarms or cameras, this is probably the most physically dangerous passage on campus. You are in a passage that is 5 1/2 feet tall, with scalding-hot water dripping from uninsulated steam pipes all around you. There are no lights, muddy pitted floors, and exposed electrical wires. Not to mention the heat and humidity - it is unbearably hot (>100F) and moist (100%). The air is thick with dust (and probably asbestos too). There is no one to hear your screams if you are hurt. You could rot for years down here without being found. I guarantee that no maintenance person has been here in decades. It misses the 10/10 mark only because there is virtually no risk of being caught.
Do not go here if you are unfamiliar with tunnel exploration. If you must go, do not go alone. At least 3 people is recommended. Bring a light long-sleeved garment and a hat/hood to protect you from boiling water drops. You'll be hot, but at least you won't get scalded. Show as little skin as possible to reduce your risk. Bring at least 3 sources of light. Imagine this is an actual cave, it has all the dangers of one and more. Water is a good thing to bring, cause you will sweat like a pig. Tell someone that isn't going with you where you are going, just in case you don't come back.
One can climb the fire escape stairs to the second floor of Buell and sit there until Public Safety tells you to get off.
- ""The Lion is Busy", Columbia Spectator, 8 May 1956
- COLUMBIA'S IMPROVED CREW.; Has Moved Into Macy Cottage and Is Doing Good Work., New York Times, March 25, 1895
- http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/columbia?a=d&d=cs19741126-01.2.4 Deutsches Haus had refused to move there 3 years earlier. (http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/columbia?a=d&d=cs19741126-01.2.4)