WITHIN THE FAMILY
Everything Old Is New Again
BY ALEX SACHARE '71
Two restored, 100-year-old Tiffany stained glass windows, one of
which graced Columbia's midtown campus in the 19th century, will
soon take their places at opposite ends of Hamilton Hall's renovated
lobby. When students return for classes in the fall, the eyes of
Sophocles and Virgil will gaze down upon them as they head to their
CC and Lit Hum classes.
It has been said that for many years, renovation at Columbia meant
a man with a paint brush and a bucket that may not have held enough
paint to cover all the cracks. Thankfully, that has not been the
case of late.
Butler Library is a wonderful example. This magnificent renovation
was planned and carried out by people of taste who respect and appreciate
the past yet recognize the need for the best of the modern. Attention
was paid to the smallest details while the grand scheme was being
executed. It stands as an example of how, given the proper resources,
something old and beautiful can be lovingly and painstakingly restored,
equipped with the latest technology, and serve as well or better
than something built from scratch.
The same type of renovation is going on in Hamilton Hall, the College's
signature building which was built in 1907, thanks in no small measure
to the hands-on approach of people like Dean Austin Quigley and
Associate Dean for Administration Susan Mescher. Most of the classrooms
have been completely renovated and now are outfitted with new desks
and flooring, improved lighting fixtures and soundproofing, and
connections for modern electronic equipment. The main floor of Hamilton
is nearing completion and will house a renovated dean's suite flanked
by new offices for admissions and the Core Curriculum. The lobby
also is nearing completion, with marble flooring, rebuilt and repainted
walls and beautiful sconces. The crown jewels will be the Tiffany
windows that will be mounted at either side and back-lit for all
“Sophocles dates back to about 1890 or 1892 and was part
of the midtown campus," says Martin Rambusch, chairman of the Rambusch
Decorating Co., which is renovating the windows at its workshop
in Jersey City, N.J. "In the early 1900s, after Columbia moved to
Morningside Heights, a decorative border was added to Sophocles
to make a larger window, and a second window of Virgil was created."
Rambusch received his master's in historic preservation from the
School of Architecture in 1993 and, with his brother, is the fourth
generation to head the family company.
"These windows have almost all their original glass and almost
all their original leadwork. Our job is to clean away the dirt and
replace only what needs replacing. There is value in retaining as
much of the original as possible," Rambusch noted.
The windows were stored away in Columbia's art properties archives
for many years until they were discovered by Dean Quigley when he
went searching for artifacts that might be used in the renovation
of Hamilton Hall. "Somebody said they had these windows in crates,
so I said 'Let's take a look.' When I saw them, I knew we had something
And in good condition, thanks to having been in storage for more
than half a century. "At least, when the windows went out of favor,
they were put in a box and taken care of," observed Rambusch. "In
its own way, neglect can be a great thing."