As you have probably heard, North Campus is undergoing a dramatic change called the North Campus Residental Expansion. NCRE has already added five new dorms and several thousand beds; sophomores are now required to live on campus. Cornell is also modernizing older dorms and first up is much-beloved Balch. After a 2-year top to bottom renovation, Balch’s capacity will double to 450 beds.
Balch is the only remaining all-female dormitory on campus. (Currently, Barbara McClintock Hall on North Campus has been temporarily designated all-women.) In 1920, Cornell formed a committee to research the feasibility of constructing a new women’s dormitory to meet the growing female enrollment. In 1922, a plan for the construction of a dormitory on North Campus was submitted and approved by Cornell’s Architectural Advisory Board. In 1928, the university accepted the $1,650,000 donation of Allen C. Balch, Class of 1889 and Janet Balch, a graduate student from 1886 to 1888. According to legend, Janet Balch insisted that her husband donate the money for the dormitory after attending an event at Allen’s fraternity. As the story goes, she was offended by the behavior of the undergraduate brothers and believed that a dormitory dedicated to the welfare of female students was important. This Sun article is a great read.
Recent Balch residents treasured the vintage, original wooden Stickley furniture that graced students’ rooms, including bookshelves and mirrors with heart engravings. Fortunately, most of this furniture is being recycled and has been consigned to Significant Elements, an architectural salvage store in downtown Ithaca. The furniture, in good condition and pictured below, is priced between $25 and $50. If you want a piece of history, call Significant Elements at 607-277-3450.
Until recently, some Balch rooms’ closets held wrought iron racks that women used to store their fancy hats. No word on where the hat racks ended up.