The History Center in Tompkins County
The renovation of Sage Hall on the Cornell University Campus in the late 1990s ignited controversy from historic preservationists and architectural historians. On April 21, Saturday, from 2 to 3:15 p.m., a panel of participants in that controversy spoke at the History Center. Present were Jennifer Cleland, Cornell Ph.D., and Robert Stundtner, Director of Capitol Project Management at Cornell, authors of Sage Hall: Experiments in Coeducation and Preservation at Cornell University, and Alan Chimacoff, the principal architect at Ikon5 Architects. Dr. Cleland presented the history of the building, constructed as a women's residence in 1874, which made coeducation at Cornell a reality. This history reflects the early feminist movement in upstate New York, and the social reformism of the founders of the University. Mr. Stundtner discussed the challenges of the renovation project. Panelists and audience members explored a vital question on whether the rebuilding of Sage Hall furthered or detracted from efforts to preserve history. A special guest at the event was Ezra Cornell, who read a letter from his great-great grandfather, which was found when the original cornerstone was opened during the site renovation. For more information on this and other programs, please visit www.thehistorycenter.net or call 607.273.8284 ext. 0. The History Center is located east of the Ithaca Commons, at 401 East State Street, Ithaca, New York.
CORNELL ALUMNI MAGAZINE, January / February 2012
Inside Job, by Jim Roberts, Editor
Self-published book recounts the Sage Hall renovation
The 1996-98 renovation of Sage Hall was one of the most complicated and controversial projects in Cornell's history. The old building, which had opened as a residential college for women in 1875, was in terrible shape, so the renovation essentially consisted of putting a new structure inside the original walls. Easier said than done.
Sage Hall: Experiments in Coeducation and Preservation at Cornell University by Jennifer Cleland '72, PhD '99, and Robert Stundtner begins with an overview of Sage's early history and the battles that accompanied its pioneering role in co -education. The account of the renovation starts about halfway through and is interwoven with a memoir of the courtship and marriage of Cleland and Stundtner. The most entertaining reading, though, is the series of construction update e-mails written by Stundtner, the project manager, which are reproduced more or less verbatim. He traces the progress in detail, often with wry humor, providing a sort of cinema verité overview of the day-to-day troubles and triumphs. There's also a good account of the opening of the original cornerstone, which contained Ezra Cornell's 1873 letter to "the coming man and woman"—a missive whose contents had remained mysterious for more than a century.
Like many self-published works, this book suffers from curious typography and errors large and small. Even so, the inside view of the massive project that produced a spectacular new home for the Johnson School is a valuable nugget of Cornell history. For more information, go to: www.sagehallbook.com.
— Jim Roberts '71