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History of Bailey Hall

Bailey Hall, designed by Edward B. Green, who graduated from Cornell in 1878, was first used in June of 1913. Today the hall is named after Liberty Hyde Bailey (1856-1954), the first Dean of the College of Agriculture. As Parsons notes in The Cornell Campus, "Liberty Hyde Bailey supplied most of the initiative and a great deal of the drive and intelligence behind the expansion of the Cornell College of Agriculture between 1903 and 1913." (212)¹

Bailey Hall Over the Years

Bailey Hall has been a part of the campus and the community for more than a century. Originally built for the use of state college students, it filled an urgent need for an auditorium for the whole campus. Perhaps one of the more dramatic events to transpire in Bailey is recounted below from Bishops book, A History of Cornell: "The Hill prided itself on its broad-mindedness, its humanity above all nations and nationalisms. Fritz Kreisler, the Austrian violinist (who had played in Bailey Hall in October 1917, before an enthusiastic capacity audience), was again invited for a concert on 11 December 1919. But downtown a fervid patriotism reigned. The American Legion had condemned in national convention the appearance of any German or Austrian performer. Ithaca's Mayor called on all patriotic citizens to stay away from the concert. Nevertheless Bailey Hall was packed, the front seats being conspicuously occupied by the football team. In mid-concert about eighty hoodlums, as the Sun termed them, cut the lighting circuit and tried to invade the hall. The students rose and fought. A large band returning from a basketball game took the invaders in the rear. Kreisler, unperturbed, played on in the din of the Battle of Bailey Hall. President Schurman took his stand beside the performer. A volunteer leaped to the stage with a flashlight for the accompanist. The invaders were magnificently repelled, to the strains of Viotti's Concerto in A minor. No tumult since Nero's time has had such a fine violin accompaniment." (433-34)

There has been a long, distinguished list of classical musicians and singers who have performed at Bailey Hall including among others: Paul Robeson, Marion Anderson, Issac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Rudolph Serkin, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, and Luciano Pavarotti.

Bailey Hall has been put to some unusual uses over the years when space has been tight. Plant Pathology was housed in the basement of Bailey Hall for a time in the 1920s. The Cornell Federal Credit Union was around the back for several years.

Works Cited

1 Parsons, Kermit. The Cornell Campus: A History of Its Planning and Development. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1968.

2 Bishop, Morris. A History of Cornell. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1962.

The Rehabilitation of Bailey Hall

Someone once described Bailey Hall as: "acoustics by God, seats by Torquemada." The renovation, which includes the points below, has remedied the second and improved on the first.

  • Wider, cushioned seats in the auditorium with aisle lighting
  • Acoustical panels in the auditorium to enhance different types of acoustical performances ranging across lectures, solo musicians, orchestras, theatrical performances, and rock concerts
  • State of the art audio/visual and lighting systems
  • New 9’ Steinway D Grand Piano
  • Addition of green room, dressing rooms, and rehearsal room
  • New HVAC units to provide heating and cooling with separate controls for the stage, dressing/green room, orchestra and balcony
  • Handicapped accessible entrance ways, two new elevators, and one handicapped lift (building is now ADA compliant)
  • New restrooms
  • Building security system
  • Wireless technology in the auditorium
  • Internet access with two-way video streaming
  • Restoration of the exterior

The cost of renovating Bailey Hall, a State building, was shared by the State ($12.2 million) and Cornell ($5.1 million).