Uniting Columbia's Campus

Archive photo of Columbia's campus

Courtesy Columbia University Archives

Crisp fall weather might bring to mind memories of heading to class along College Walk, but the pedestrian path tread by so many students hasn’t always been there. A street once ran through the center of campus, from Broadway to Amsterdam, but in 1953 the City of New York gave its blessing for a radical project. Columbia’s “bicentennial beautification plans,” as Spectator reported on April 7 that year, called for closing the block to motor traffic, ripping up the paving and replacing it “with a new surfacing and landscaping which will be in harmony with the surrounding area.” The article continued: “Columbia, which has agreed to pay a token $1,000 to the city, will be bound not to erect any structures over the entire area. The closing of the street ... will consolidate the campus, making the area from 114th to 120th Street virtually one unit.”

On June 6, 1955, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name from West 116th Street to College Walk, making it part of Columbia’s signature landscape and lexicon.