Silver Center

The Silver Center of Arts and Science is the name of the building in which New York University's College of Arts & Science is located. The offices of several Deans are in the building. The structure forms an imposing landmark on the eastern border of Washington Square Park.

Prior to its present name, the building was entitled Main Building. Today, the building is most popularly called the "Silver Building" or just "Silver"; many students continue to call the edifice "Main Building". Main Building was renamed the "Silver Center" in 2002 after Julius Silver, an alumnus of the College of Arts & Science, bequeathed $150 million to the college. Recent renovations have dramatically improved the facility while maintaining the building's many historic features. Main Building previously served as the home of NYU's Washington Square College until all undergraduate liberal arts education returned to the Washington Square campus in 1973 after the sale of NYU's University Heights campus in the Bronx.

The current building was designed by Alfred Zucker, a German born and trained architect in 1892. Zucker maintained the foundation and many other features of the original university building but not the Gothic facade, partially for sake of historic continuity. Main Building replaced architects' Town, Davis & Dakin's Gothic Revival structure from 1835. Today, NYU owns nine other buildings designed by Zucker that were built in this formerly commercial area, as lofts and wholesale stores. These other buildings were purchased by NYU as its academic requirements increased. The Brown Building (formerly the Asch Building) and the Waverly Building occupy the same block as the Silver Center. The Brown Building was the site of the horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which generated many of New York's current labor laws. The three buildings are internally connected at the ground floor as well as by stairway and elevator (with the idiosyncrasy of adjacent floors that do not correspond by floor number.)

Initially, the light brick, stone and terra-cotta edifice housed portions the Schools of Commerce, Law and Pedagogy. During those early years, in addition to serving as NYU's main academic building, the university rented offices, studio space and residential apartments within the building and the American Book Company also rented space in the building. This combination of institutional and commercial tenants is apparent in the building's tripartite facade design. The University's academic presence on the three top floors was marked by engaged Ionic columns capped by pediments. In 1927, due to the pressures of a growing post-war student body, NYU ejected commercial tenants to use the space for academic purposes. In the building, Samuel Colt developed the revolver and Samuel Morse invented the telegraph; John William Draper in 1840 took the first photograph in the United States at the building. Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman lived and taught and privately lectured there, Winslow Homer painted there, and architects Alexander Jackson Davis and Richard Morris Hunt had offices there.


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