Building Histories

Initial Sites, 1824-1862

Old Bank Place

The Rensselaer School began its existence in a single building known as the Old Bank Place on the northwest corner of River and Middleburgh Streets. The structure was erected in 1801 at a cost of $11,000 to house Troy's first bank, the Farmer's Bank.

Van der Heyden Mansion

The Rensselaer Institute, desiring a better location, moved into the Van der Heyden Mansion or "Walnut Grove" in 1834. The Mansion, constructed in 1794 by Jacob Van der Heyden, was a two-story brick structure located on the southwest corner of Grand Division and Eighth Streets.

Infant School Property

The Rensselaer Institute found itself without a home when the Old Bank Place was claimed as part of the Amos Eaton estate in 1844. The City of Troy offered to give the Institute property formerly known as the Infant School located on the northeast corner of State and 6th Streets.

Climbing the Hill, 1864-1904

Rensselaer Main Building, 1864-1904

The Main Building was the first building designed and built for the Rensselaer Institute. The four-story brick building, erected on land given by the Warren family, was completed in 1864 at a cost of $44,000.

Exterior of the Rensselaer Winslow Building, circa 1866

The Winslow Chemical Laboratory was opened in 1866. The building of brick with stone trimmings was finished inside with butternut, chestnut and black walnut. The whole building was fitted for complete courses in general and analytical chemistry.

Exterior of the Ranken House (date unknown)

The Ranken House was acquired by the Institute with the Ranken property purchase in 1877. The two-story brick house was used as a mechanics recitation room.

Exterior of the Proudfit Laboratory (east elevation, date unknown)

The Williams Proudfit Astronomical Observatory was built in 1878 at a cost of $15,000. It was presented to the Institute by Mr. and Mrs.

Exterior of the Old Rensselaer Gymnasium (southwest elevation showing turret, date unknown)
The building was used as a gymnasium until 1912 when all recreational operations moved to the 1887 Gymnasium. The building was rented to the Troy Academy and later used by the Masonic Order until 1929. The RPI Players then took it over and converted it into the RPI Playhouse at a cost of $4000.
Street-level exterior view of old Rensselaer Alumni Building (date unknown)

During the 1889 mid-winter alumni meeting in Pittsburgh, New York State geologist James Hall (Class of 1832) announced the gift of his fossil collection to the alumni association. An alumni house was immediately conceived of to house the collection.

The Ricketts Campus, 1906-1935

Exterior view of Carnegie Building (low northwest elevation, date unknown)

The Institute acquired the ten-acre Walter Phelps Warren estate in 1905 making it possible to establish a real campus. The first building erected on this parcel was the Carnegie Building.

Exterior of original Rensselaer campus dormitory (south-southwest elevation, circa early to mid-1930s)

The Warren House, acquired with the purchase of the Warren estate, was converted into a student dormitory in 1907 and remained the only campus housing until 1916. The house was officially named the Campus Dormitory by a resolution of the Board of Trustees in 1916.

Granite staircase between Rensselaer and downtown Troy

The Approach is a massive granite staircase between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and downtown Troy.

Exterior of Walker Laboratory (east elevation, circa 1908)

The Walker Chemical Laboratory was financed by a $200,000 gift from Mrs. R. J. Walker in memory of her son Dr. William Weightman Walker, Class of 1886.

Exterior view of original Rensselaer Student Club House (north-northwest elevation, circa early 1900s)

The Student Club House provided a new home for the Student's Association or what became known as the Rensselaer Union, which oversaw the athletic, religious and social activities of the student body.

Exterior view of Russell Sage Laboratory (southwest elevation, circa early 1900s)

In 1907, Mrs. Russell Sage gave Rensselaer $1,000,000 as a memorial to Russell Sage, who, for ten years prior to his death, was a trustee of the Institute.

Exterior view of the '87 Gymnasium (south-southwest elevation, circa 1930s?)

Once the campus was established on the hill, students began to complain about the location and inadequacy of the old gymnasium.

Exterior view of Rensselaer Pittsburgh Building (southwest elevation, likely as seen from Eighth Street, circa early 1900s)

In 1909, at the mid-winter alumni dinner in Pittsburgh, the Alumni Association of Pittsburgh pledged $125,000 to build an administration building. The building, made of Harvard brick and Indiana limestone, was designed by W. G.

The original Tillinghast Gate, as viewed from Sage Avenue (date unknown)

Mrs. C. Whitney Tillinghast presented the Institute with a gateway to be placed where the road from the '86 Athletic Field met Sage Ave.

Exterior view of the Russell Sage Dining Hall (north-northeast elevation, date unknown)

The Russell Sage Dining Hall was named for Russell Sage II, a nephew of Mrs. Sage, who graduated in the class of 1859.

View of the original Quadrangle dorms, as viewed from 15th Street (northeast elevation, circa mid- to late1910s)

Alfred T. White, Class of 1865, expressed the desire to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation by presenting the Institute with a dormitory.

Exterior view of the entrance to the Troy Building (southwest elevation, date unknown)

The Troy Building was built with funds raised by the citizens of Troy to commemorate the centennial of the Institute in 1924. The brick and limestone building, designed by Frederick Marcus Cummings, Class of 1886, was completed in 1925.

Exterior view of Amos Eaton Hall (southeast elevation, date unknown)

In 1926, the Board of Trustees recognized the need for a larger library and assembly hall. A resolution was made to name the proposed building in memory of Amos Eaton. The library was built to accommodate 160,000 volumes and 240 readers. The auditorium could accommodate up to 1400 people.

Exterior view of the Greene Building (northern elevation, date unknown)

The establishment of the School of Architecture in 1929 necessitated a building for that purpose. The five-story structure was built with money accumulated in the Bankers Trust Fund.

Exterior view of E-dormitories, with North Hall beyond, as seen from Sage Avenue (southeast elevation, date unknown)

There had been no campus accommodations for upper class students until the completion of North Hall and the E Complex in 1932. These two dormitories were divided into ten separate units, each named for an alum who had been president of a railroad company:

Exterior view of the then-new Rensselaer Union Club House (northeast elevation, date unknown)

The new club house was erected between the Greene and Amos Eaton buildings in 1932. It was made of the same materials as the other buildings on the Ricketts campus and cost $125,000.

Exterior view of the Ricketts Building, as seen from what would have been the '86 Field (southwestern elevation, date unknown)

In 1933, Palmer Ricketts initiated the construction of a building for the newly established aeronautical and metallurgical engineering courses.

Exterior street view of the Rensselaer President's House on Tibbits Avenue (southern elevation, date unknown)

The Institute purchased and renovated a house on the Sims property at Upper Tibbits Avenue for use as the first official President's residence. President Hotchkiss lived in this house from 1936 to 1943.

Exterior view of the original Ricketts House in downtown Troy

The Ricketts House was given to Rensselaer as a bequest of Mrs. Palmer C. (Vjera) Ricketts who died in 1937. The house at 5 Park Place (Congress St. between First and Second Streets) was renovated and used as a student dormitory.

Exterior street view of Thompson House in downtown Troy

Thompson House was given to Rensselaer by William Leland Thompson in 1938. The house, located at 24 First St., was renovated and used as a student dormitory. It was sold to a Troy law firm in 1961 and later demolished.

Post-War Expansion, 1946-1960

Exterior view of original observatory, with facility's large dome in foreground

In 1938, a group of students interested in astronomy organized the Astrophysical Society.

Exterior view of the entrance to the two-story auxiliary dormitory located at 2 Eaton Road (west-southwest elevation, date known)

An Auxiliary Dormitory Plan was initiated in 1945 as part of a planned expansion of campus facilities. The Institute offered to assume the mortgages and deeds of existing fraternity houses and construct new houses for fraternities who were able to raise forty percent of the total cost.

Aerial photo of the Rendael post-war dormitories (looking east-northeast, with Houston Field House in center)

The Rendael dormitories housed single students during the surge in post-war enrollment. Metal barracks, which had been prepared to house troops overseas, were obtained from the federal government in 1946-1947.

Exterior view of the four-story brick Mason House/Laboratory, as seen from Peoples Avenue (northwest elevation, date unknown)

The Institute purchased this property, located on the southeast corner of Eighth St. and Peoples Ave., from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 1946.

Aerial photograph of Rensselaerwyck housing development, probably circa 1946 (looking south-southwest; Armory and other campus buildings visible, with Hudson River in distance)

Rensselaerwyck was the name given to a post-war housing development for married students constructed in 1946. Approximately 1000 married veterans attended RPI that year. The development consisted of surplus housing units brought in from U.S. military centers.

Artist's rendering of the former Snack Bar, which was eventually converted to the F. E. Gallagher Infirmary (southeast elevation)

The Snack Bar was constructed from surplus barracks in 1947 to ease overcrowding in campus dining halls. The structure was gutted and converted into an infirmary in 1955.

Exterior view of the original 15th Street Llounge building, later to be renovated as the RPI Playhouse (east-northeast elevation as seen from 15th Street, circa 1940s)

This former U.S.O. building was moved from Windsor Locks, Connecticut to Rensselaer in 1946. The building was acquired by the Institute to accommodate a library extension, study space and social activities. The structure was placed along 15th St.

Aerial photograph of Rensselaer campus, with Service Building visible just above the E-dorms, near upper right of photo (circa 1949)

The Service Building, located on the north edge of the campus off of Peoples Avenue, was built in 1948. The yellow brick, steel-frame structure contained 16,044 feet of space and cost $113,480. The building was doubled in size in 1959 with a two-story addition on the north side.

Aerial view of the Blaw-Knox facility, looking northwest as viewed from above Sage Avenue (circa late 1940s)

The Blaw-Knox buildings, named for the fabricators of the sheet-iron structures, were moved to Rensselaer from a naval base in Davisville, R.I.

Exterior view of the entrance to the Houston Field House (southwest elevation, circa late 1940s or early 1950s)

The Houston Field House began its existence as a Navy warehouse in Davisville, Rhode Island. The structure was acquired by the Institute in 1946 for use as a sports arena. The warehouse shell was dismantled, moved to the Rensselaer campus, erected and an interior constructed.

Former site of the Stenard House at the corner of Eighth and Federal Streets, 2020.

The Institute purchased the Stenard property, located on the southeast corner of Federal and Eighth Streets, in 1950. The Stenard House was occupied by the testing and counseling bureau and the Veteran's Administration. A fire in January 1959 damaged the interior of the house.

Aerial photo of newly-built freshman dormitory complex (north elevation as viewed from upper Sage Avenue, date unknown)

The Institute quickly constructed a new dormitory complex in the summer of 1953 to house a large incoming freshman class. Four residence halls housed 636 students and a common dining hall, completed in 1954, seated 500 people.

Exterior view of West Hall (west-northwest elevation, as viewed up the hill from Eighth Street, date unknown)

West Hall, located on Eighth Street at the top of Fulton Street, was built as the Troy Hospital. The hospital opened in 1869 and was operated by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The design of the building has been attributed to Marcus F.

Artist's rendering of the F. E. Gallagher Infirmary, which previously served as the Snack Bar on 15th Street (southeast elevation)

The F. E. Gallagher Memorial Infirmary was built on the site of the former Snack Bar next to the 15th Street Lounge. The Snack Bar was constructed from surplus barracks in 1947 to ease overcrowding in campus dining halls.

Exterior view of the campus Chapel, now known as the Voorhees Computing Center (north-northeast elevation, date unknown)

The Chapel was built for the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1933 to adjoin the main Seminary building (see University Building).

Distant exterior view of the original Troy Univsersity Building, shown atop the hillside overlooking Troy (west-northwest elevation, date unknown)

The Troy University building was erected on Mount Ida on property formerly owned by Jacob D. Van der Heyden. The building, designed by Edson and Engelbert of New York, was opened in 1858.

>xterior view of teh entrance to the Seismograph Lab, showing the structure's arched, earth-covered roof (west-southwest elevation, date unknown)

The Seismograph Laboratory, located on the east side of Sunset Terrace near People's Avenue, was completed in 1960. The Lab consisted of an arched metal structure 14 x 20 feet with a foundation reaching to bedrock and a roof covered with earth.

Modern Campus, 1961-1990

Photograph showing an interior space of the Gaerttner Linear Accelerator (date unknown)

The Linear Accelerator, a device for accelerating electrons along straight lines, was the most powerful ever built at the time of its opening in 1961. The unit was obtained under an Atomic Energy Commission contract, with Rensselaer providing the site and building.

Exterior view of the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center (northeast elevation, date unknown)

Construction of the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center marked the first step in a plan to develop institutional research, increase graduate enrollment and modernize the RPI campus.

Exterior view of the MRC (north-northwest elevation, date unknown)

The Materials Research Center (MRC) was constructed under the first facilities grant awarded by NASA on September 25, 1962. According to James E.

Aerial photograph showing the layout of the original complex (date unknown)

The People's Avenue Complex consisted of ten buildings that were interconnected into a sprawling complex between 11th St. and 14th St . The initial four-story building was built in 1887 as a home for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Exterior view of the Rensselaer Student Union (northwest elevation, date unknown)

Planning for a new student union began more than ten years before it became a reality. The proposal for a new union was first made public in December 1955.

Exterior view of teh Black Cultural Center located along Ninth Street (northeast elevation, date unknown)

Several buildings along Ninth St. were acquired by Rensselaer in the 1960s. The building at 41 9th St. was purchased in 1968 and used by the psychology department as a laboratory until 1971.

Exterior view of the entrance to the Armory/ASRC (west elevation, date unknown)

The Alumni Sports and Recreation Center was built as the Troy Armory in 1920. The Armory was used as a headquarters for the New York Guard and National Guard for many years.

Exterior view of the Cogswell Laboratory building (low aerial view of north elevation, date unknown)

The Chemistry-Biology research center was completed in 1971. Donald J. Stephens Associates, designed the 75,000 sq. ft. laboratory building at a cost of $3.3 million. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation and the New York State Dormitory Authority.

Exterior view of the Darrin Communication Center, with students shown walking outside the building (west elevation angled slightly upwward, date unknown)

An architectural competition for an Instructional Communications and Research Center project was held in 1962. The winning design, selected by a jury in 1963, was submitted by the Perkins & Will architectural firm.

Exterior view of the Folsom Library (southeast elevation angled slightly upward over side lawn, date unknown)

Plans for a new library building date back as far as 1953 when a proposed building was designed on the site of the current Rensselaer Union. The proposal was tabled because of the lack of funding and completely faded from view when St. Joseph 's chapel was renovated as a library in 1960.

Night-time exterior view of the JEC (northeast elevation angled slightly upward from area of '86 Field, date unknown)

Plans for a new engineering center were made public in February 1974. The project moved forward quickly due to a pressing need to improve office conditions, facilitate student-faculty contact and faculty collaboration and upgrade laboratory facilities.

A current image of Center for Industrial Innovation

George M. Low, with the support of Walter Fallon of Eastman Kodak, John Opel of IBM, George Strichman of Colt Industries and John Welch of General Electric, made a proposal to Governor Hugh Carey to jointly sponsor a research and teaching center to promote industrial innovation.

Exterior view of the front entrance to Academy Hall (east elevation, date unknown)

The building known today as Academy Hall was built as Troy Public School 14 in 1923. The 55,000 sq. ft. building served as an elementary school located on the corner of 15th St. and College Ave.

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