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Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall Renaissance

Lincoln Hall was built in 1888 at a cost of $72, 603 to house Civil Engineering and Architecture. While the College of Architecture escaped from its crowded quarters in Lincoln Hall in 1906, Civil Engineering remained in the building until 1960. Over a period of two years, the Board of Trustees spent $310,000 for the rehabilitation of the building for the Departments of Music and Speech and Drama. The Department of Music moved into the south end of Lincoln Hall in 1961, and even with these renovations, the building was neither architecturally nor acoustically modified for the study of music.

Fast forward to August 2000, when the Department of Music moved from White Hall (home for the 1999-2000 academic year) back to a completely renovated and expanded Lincoln Hall — an industrious project costing 19 million dollars made possible by the generous gifts of many individuals and foundations. To provide the Department of Music with need-specific space, the interior of Lincoln Hall was renovated and a new, 18,640 square-foot wing designed to blend gracefully with the existing structure was constructed. The architectural firm of Schepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbot of Boston, who created the prize-winning Kroch Library and the Law School addition on the Cornell campus, designed the new space. After spending eight years developing and designing the “new” Lincoln Hall, work began in March 1999 and was completed in the fall of 2000.

Highlights of the project included:

  • Usable square footage increased from 31,000 to 44,000. A new addition to Lincoln Hall was added onto the east facade of the existing building facing East Avenue (where the original Lincoln Hall was left unfinished in 1888) to provide four levels of usable space as well as a new main entrance/atrium to provide a sense of identity for the facility.
  • The total space for the Music Library increased by 70 percent, representing approximately 50 percent of the total program area of the Lincoln Hall renovation and expansion project.
  • A 2,850 square-foot rehearsal room (two stories high) is an integral part of the new addition, with 600 square feet of adjacent space for storage of instruments and music.
  • The number of rooms available for student practice increased from 9 to 29 to accommodate the approximately 1,100 students who, at any one time, regularly study in the department or participate in one of its ensembles.
  • A gamelan world-music room, two stories high, was located in the new addition to replace the existing space in Lincoln Hall.
  • Temperature and humidity control was ensured to maintain musical instruments and to preserve library collections.
  • Acoustical construction systems were used to provide sound isolation between music spaces and sound quality within spaces.

What did all of this mean for the areas of study within the Department of Music, including musicology, composition, and performance?

      from musicologist
Neal Zaslaw, the Herbert Gussman Professor of Music
      from composer
Steven Stucky, Given Foundation Professor of Composition, Emeritus
      from conductor
Mark Davis Scatterday, former Professor of Music


In closing, we can’t pretend that this one building solved Cornell’s every musical need, of course. The most pressing thing we couldn’t fit into the space or the budget was more and better concert halls, which remains a severe problem for the university even after the renovation of Bailey Hall. But so many needs WERE met in this fine new building. Finally, the world-class quality of instruction, performance, and artistic talent housed within Lincoln Hall is complemented by a world-class facility that focuses on the future of music history, theory, composition, and performance with renewed confidence and enthusiasm.