Thursday, February 17, 2011

Most Recent Update

Cowles Hall Renovation

Work continues and remains on schedule. The picture above shows the chapel's framework. Right now, the belvedere (cupola) is in the process of coming off. The east wing has been gutted and the framework for the chapel has gone up. As you can see below, the roof was removed in order to lower the structural steel (red iron) into place.

Cowles Hall Renovation

I have been doing research and found interesting information that I thought I would share. The building's construction was so massive, that at the time, one firm could not handle all the work. As a result, there were three different construction firms used. One team built the east wing, another the west, and a final team built the center octagon. Each team worked at the same time, starting in the middle and worked outwards. On July 6th, 1854, the public was invited to see the cornerstone set in place. It was a ceremony of historic importance, since it was the cornerstone not only for the building, but also for the cause of women's education at the collegiate level.

Through the eyes of a reporter on that July afternoon, we are privileged to view the ceremony that took place.

Laying the Cornerstone

The ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the Elmira Female College, yesterday, was an occasion of unusual interest, and will be remembered with emotions of pleasure by numerous assemblage, which notwithstanding the intense heat convened to witness and participate in the proceedings.

After the stone had been prepared, and the cement for its setting laid, Rev. Dr. Murdoch, the presence of the auditory, specified the object of convening, accompanying the statement with some appropriate remarks, commending the enterprise to the Great Architect of all things. A metallic box containing the following documents, was placed in the stone: Charter and Circular of the Female College; Charter of the Village of Elmira, Copies of the Newspaper of the Village; copies of Religious Newspapers of different Christian denominations, the American and Foreign Christian Union; Home Missionary, and other periodicals of the day; Public Documents, speeches in Congress, ect.; ect.; Law of 1853, enlarging the powers of the Regents of the University of the State of new York; Circular of the American Women's Educational Association; catalogue and circular of the Elmira Female Seminary; and of other Literary Institutions, charter of the People's College; Thanksgiving Sermon by Rev. Mr. Fowler; and other documents not specified.

The cornerstone having been adjusted to its place, the Throne of Grace was addressed by Rev. Mr. Bement, the audience then repaired to the "shady side" of the hill; and under the cool awning of leaves, looking down on our happy and prosperous city, environed with its amphitheater of hills, listened to one of the most felicitous and pleasant speeches from Dr. Murdoch that was ever pronounced upon such an occasion. His allusions to the future of our yet infantile city, when with her head laid upon the college grounds, her tresses thrown back to the rear in the shape of of beautiful cottages and splendid mansions, her left arm resting upon the hills off to the east, her right upon those to the west, and her feet being laved in the pure waters of the Chemung; when the Female College, rising in her beautiful proportions, should be one eye, the counterpart of which, at no distant day would be "put in" on the same or adjacent grounds for the education of young men of this country; his illustrations of our city as a great hub of a wheel, the spokes of which would be the railroads, now converging and hereafter to concentrate at the point-were exceedingly happy and suggestive.

He was followed by Rev. W. H. Goowin in his remarks of some length on the change of sentiment and opinions relative to the education of the female sex since "the times of old," the practical elucidation of which should be set down to honor of this nation and which was illustrated in the enterprise before them . . . concluded by a benediction by Rev. Mr. Chandler, pastor of the Baptist Church.

The most surprising thing about this article is the information that is left out. For all the detail that is in it, the writer fails to mention the College's founder and the location of the cornerstone. The information about the cornerstone's location would have been handy as its position remains a mystery, and every effort to locate it has failed.

Cowles Hall Renovation

There have been many requests about seeing what the future chapel will look like. As soon as I have permission to show them to you as well as other pieces of the chapel, I will.


  1. Very interesting! It's exciting to see the work really happening. What a shame that the corner stone has been lost. Maybe someday it will be discovered again.

  2. Thanks for the update and the interesting article from the original laying of the cornerstone. Can't wait to see the renderings of the new chapel.