Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carnegie Hall

The story of Carnegie Hall is incredibly interesting. Built in 1912, the building was originally constructed to be a library. Davis, the current president at the time of construction, jumped through many hoops to get it built. Including conquering the great king of steel, Andrew Carnegie, for which the building was named. At the time, Carnegie was becoming a great philanthropist. His favorite form of endowment was a library, and Alfred University needed one. Eventually, Carnegie agreed to fund the construction. Davis, after being fed up with letters and slow means of communication, went all the way to Carnegie’s mansion and demanded to know the status of his application. According to John Nelson Norwood, president of AU and writer of the book FIAT LUX: story of Alfred University, “For answer [to the status of his application] these required the secretary to go into the house for some papers. While he was gone Mr. Carnegie came out for his morning walk. When the secretary returned, Davis told him that he had not taken the unexpected opportunity to speak to Mr. Carnegie directly as he felt that once the official understood the facts he would give the request his personal attention.” After this incident, the secretary helped finally achieve Davis’ dream of a new library.
Another interesting note to add to this story, it was Melvil Dewey, former Alfred University student and creator of the Dewey Decimal System, who also helped convince Carnegie to fund a library.
Yet there was a condition to this gift. Alfred University had to liquidate its debt. Starting New Years Eve of 1907, the town pulled together to solicit funds to ease the debt of the university. From 1907 to 1910 the money came in, ending in a triumphant $1,100 from Orra S. Rogers to quell the debt of $75,000. In the fall of 1912 the cornerstone ceremony was held, and Davis again thanked all the trustees for their support. For the next two decades Alfred University was on budget, no debt thanks to the determined Davis, and the inspiration from Mr. Andrew Carnegie.
Carnegie Hall is beautiful, once covered in vines, which are now cut back, the decorative stone on the front is intriguing, and a wonderful welcome to any interested student.
Now this building holds the offices of the President, the Business Office, Provost, Student Affairs, and Summer Programs. The library was moved once it became too big for the space.

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