Cornell College

Tour curated by: Hannah Robertson '18 and Brad Kane '18 under the direction of Professor Catherine Stewart, History Department

Welcome to Cornell College!

This tour includes the historic buildings of Cornell College’s campus, which is unique in that it is one of two college campuses nationwide included in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places. Cornell College, originally the Iowa Conference Seminary, was founded in 1853 by Reverend George Bryant Bowman, a Methodist Episcopal minister, when Mount Vernon as a town was still quite young. Bowman was known for his steadfast devotion to his pursuits. He had already had a church constructed in the town, and was relentless in his ambition to found the school, going door to door to ask for funds for the institution. A 1977 article from the Cornellian publication even states that Bowman was described as “The College Beggar” for these methods of fundraising. For all his dedication, Bowman was somewhat secretive, keeping minimal records and refusing to allow others to see the details of his plans unless it was absolutely necessary.

Finally, classes began in September of 1853, making it the first institution west of the Mississippi to permit both male and female students. Initially it was a Seminary and preparatory school. It then transitioned to being both a college and a Seminary after its name change to Cornell College in 1855. The name change was in honour of William Cornell, as the college hoped for a sizable donation from the wealthy cousin of Ezra Cornell. Ultimately the institution did not receive much money at all, nor was the Cornell family consulted in renaming the college. Thus, the name change led to some embarrassment.

Over time the College’s primary education was phased out and it became exclusively a college, adding buildings through the years based on need. Today, Cornell offers its students a unique liberal arts education, being one of two colleges in the nation that operates on the block plan, allowing students to immerse themselves in their studies by taking one course at a time.

Locations for Tour

Rebuilt after a devastating fireRich in traditionCornell’s first buildingWill stand to welcome generationsof future college studentslong after most of us are gone. - The Cornellian, March 13, 1959.

From the beginning of the discussions, trustees referred to the new building as the “college edifice,” meaning that its intended use was to house the college. - C. William Heywood and Richard Harlan Thomas, Cornell College: A Sesquicentennial…

That whereas it has been found necessary, in order to conform to the wishes and conditions of Mr. Carnegie, in making the donation of forty thousand ($40,000) dollars, for the erection of a library building, to be erected on the campus of [Cornell…

Quiet hours are from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.An alarm clock may be obtained from the hostess.The use of alcoholic beverages is not permitted.Check-out time is 2:00 p.m.A pay station telephone is located on the first floor.Please arrange for the…

You are defeated once. Die once. But every defeat, every humiliation, every death I have ever seen or imagined is mine. I am the fox, hunted and pursued and torn by dogs. – Winifred Mayne Van Etten, I am the Fox original manuscript, submitted to…

I prefer to speak of South Hall as the “grande dame” of the humanities...Queen of languages, philosophy, political science, and literature. To me she has always looked like a slightly top-heavy old frigate loaded to the “gunwales” reeling, veering…

A lot of students came from all over the country and needed a place. People didn't do well if they didn't have a place they could go and connect. - Odell McGee ’74

Grand! Magnificent! Beautiful! Are some of the exclamations indulged in, when viewing the elevation picture of the new college chapel. -The Mount Vernon Hawk-Eye, October 8, 1875.

Then I recall the many facets of my work-study job at the Bowman reception desk. It was a great place to keep up with what was going on. We buzzed the girls for vistors, took phone calls and yelled up the "tube", gave out the mail, chatted with…

Down the hill from the Thomas Commons sits the building known today as McWethy Hall, home to the Cornell College art department and the Peter Paul Luce Art Gallery. However, when the building was first constructed in 1909, it served a very different…

Shall we compare you to a modern manse?Your recent renovation is on view,No hint of past encumbrance at first glance,Nor echoes of the problems that we knew. We counted on our “guys” to keep us sane,To monitor the heat and water flow.Is winter’s…