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Getting History Right

There is a really interesting article in the Daily Sun today about the houses and history of Collegetown. The author includes all of these wonderful historical gems about the houses that Cornellians walk by each and every day on their way to classes:

For instance, Nabokov wrote (and almost destroyed) Lolita at 802 E. Seneca street. I walked by this house every day for two years, and never realized the significance of the structure.

But there is unfortunately also some misinformation. The article asserts:

The Sages are another notable Collegetown family. Henry Sage, who donated the Sage College for Women (presently the Johnson School of Management), built a home for him and his son between East State and East Seneca Streets. Today, most Cornellians know this house as Sage Place. Many member of the Glee Club live here, so the house frequently plays host to a capella after-parties.

But the house referred to as 'Sage Place' (103 Sage Place), now home to members of the Glee Club, was never a residence for the Sage family. Rather, the lot it (and it's greenhouse and carriage house) stands on was purchased by Liberty Hyde Bailey from the Sages. The house was designed by Liberty Hyde and resided in by Bailey until his death in the 1950s and his family until the 1970s. Bailey, as you know, was the first Dean of the New York State College of Agriculture and botanist extraodinaire. The much more grandiose building across the parking lot/street from the Bailey homestead, now home to Cornell University Press, was the residence for the Sage's.

I should know. I lived in the former Bailey homestead during my senior year, and myself and my house mates became somewhat obsessed with the esteemed botanist. The house was littered with his books (which should really be in the University archives), and we incorporated the spirit of Dr. Bailey into seemingly every aspect of our lives. We all read a biography of Bailey and visited the fantastic exhibit on him in Kroch library. Our two house pets, a fish and a tarantula, were named 'Liberty' and 'Hyde', respectively. And we held two different formal, black-tie events; 'The Liberty Hyde Bailey Ball' in the autumn, and in May: "La Pasiflora Caerulea: A Springtime Soiree" (named after one of Bailey's favorite plants).

Ah, college.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 07, 2007 (#)

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