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Left to right: Boardman Hall and the University Library (now Uris Library), ca. 1892; An Ithaca trolley in the Arts Quad, seen from the portico of Boardman Hall in 1895; Law School Library in Boardman Hall (used from 1892 to 1932), with librarian E. E. Willever, ca. 1920; O’Connor and Kilham, Architects. Proposed Alterations and Additions. Cornell University Library, 1949. All: University Archives
“Boardman Hall was opened in 1892, to be the home of the new, thriving Law School. Designed by William H. Miller, it corresponded in style and materials with the Library. It was called the finest law-school building in the country. Noteworthy were the high-vaulting classrooms, which no money or ingenuity could heat on a windy day, the spaciousness of the professorial offices, and the fourteen imposing fireplaces. Their use was forbidden, because of the fire hazard.”
— Morris Bishop, A History of Cornell
William Henry Miller, Cornell’s first architecture student, designed many campus landmark structures, including the President’s House (now the A. D. White House) and the three buildings along “President’s Avenue” that anchored and unified the south end of the Arts Quad: Stimson Hall, Boardman Hall, and his masterpiece, the University Library.
Boardman Hall — built as the new home of the Law School and named for Judge Douglas Boardman, its first dean — perfectly complemented the “Romanesque” style of the Library with its stonework and arched entryways. The upper floors housed the law library; its simple exterior adornments, a series of carved stone heads, would become its legacy.
From the first decade of the 20th century onward, Cornell University Library struggled to accommodate its growing collections. An addition in the 1930s provided only temporary relief. The university considered several options — including extending and expanding the Library out across Libe Slope — before making the decision to demolish Boardman Hall in 1959 to make room for a new, large research library building.
Although the building and the trolley that connected campus with downtown Ithaca are now both gone, salvaged stone and eight of the heads that once decorated Boardman’s exterior can be found in and around Olin Library.