MacCracken’s Vision

Watercolor of the University Building. Designed by Alexander Jackson Davis and erected in 1833, the New York University Building served as a focal point at Washington Square Park until it was demolished in the 1890s and replaced by the NYU Main Building.

MacCracken believed a business district to be an unsuitable learning environment for undergraduates. Current with the times, he wanted an enclosed spacious campus set apart from the urban world.

On June 1, 1891, Henry Mitchell MacCracken became the sixth chancellor of New York University. During his time at NYU, MacCracken observed the bustling Washington Square neighborhood around him. No longer an epicenter for artists, writers, and academics, the neighborhood had transformed into an industrial and commercial district. The one time University Building, the center of activity at New York University, became part of the scenery, with its academic function almost unknown.

Seth Low acted as president of Columbia University from 1890-1901. He is credited with moving Columbia University's campus from Midtown Manhattan to Morningside Heights, its current home today. Courtesy of Library of Congress's Print and Photograph Division.

Concurrently, Columbia University also sought out larger dwellings. Before embarking on their expansion plans, MacCracken and Seth Low, the President of Columbia University at the time, discussed a possible merger between the two institutions. Low sought to merge the two, while MacCracken supported a federation in order to maintain the university’s autonomy. Both administrations, unable to compromise, determined that two university’s could serve the city.



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