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Remaking Our Entrance

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Teachers College, Columbia University

Teachers College, Columbia University
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis

Teachers College, Columbia University

Teachers College, Columbia University
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis

Teachers College, Columbia University

Teachers College, Columbia University
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis

Teachers College, Columbia University

Teachers College, Columbia University
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis
Photo by Heather Van Uxem Lewis

A TC architectural treasure was hiding in plain sight

(Photography by Heather Van Uxem Lewis)

As the 125th anniversary of Teachers College’s founding approaches, everyone is getting into the act – including the College’s Office of Facilities Management.

“Part of our job is to be good stewards of our campus’ architectural beauty,” says Jim Mitchell, Assistant Vice President for Campus and Auxiliary Services. Together with Suzanne Jablonski, Director of Campus Facilities, Mitchell has launched several refurbishment efforts that will be completed in time for the 125th anniversary celebration, which will begin this coming spring.  Targeted areas on campus include:
  • The decorative iron railings that surround the exterior of the campus. The railings had fallen into a state of disrepair and could not be restored, so they have been completely replaced with replicas of the original. 
  • The Thompson driveway arch, which has been decoratively painted and re-outfitted with a historically correct light fixture. 
  • The exterior entrance doors to Russell Hall, which are currently undergoing restoration by the Office of Facilities. 
The doors, heavy and ornate, are 80 years old.  Two members of Facilities’ trades staff, Mike Spratt and Rance Osborne, have removed some 30 or 40 coats of linseed oil and varnish formerly used for “cleaning.” The work has exposed a medallion bearing the TC shield, which was previously obscured beyond recognition. Spratt says he used only denatured alcohol to reveal the colorful shield (“anything else would have been disrespectful"), which says "Teachers College - Incorporated 1892." (The College was founded in 1887 as the Industrial Arts Association, briefly became known as the New York College for the Training of Teachers, and ultimately reincorporated under its current name five years later.)

The shield, in turn, sits near the top of an intricate vertical panel that is inlaid with a magnificent carving of a tree – “probably the tree of life,” Spratt says. Because of the carving’s many twists and crevices, Spratt and Osborne are likely to be at their work for at least several weeks longer. 
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