Manhattanville University Campus Buildings



Campus Buildings – What’s In A Name?

Ever wonder why our buildings have the names they do? Manhattanville University spent its first 100 years, from 1847 to 1952, located in New York City’s Manhattanville neighborhood – hence the name! After World War II, wanting to expand the size and facilities of Manhattanville, the administrators decided upon the Reid Estate for their new home in Westchester County. From the Groundbreaking Ceremony in May 1951 to the Dedication of the Campus in October 1952 the entire process was completed in just sixteen months. Upon its opening in 1952 the campus consisted of just five buildings: Reid Hall, the Library, Benziger, Brownson, and Founders. ANCHORS: Main Buildings  Residence Buildings  

Main Buidlings

Reid Hall 1892

Reid Hall (1892)

In 1888 Whitelaw Reid and his wife Elizabeth Mills Reid purchased the estate upon which our campus now sits. Reid had made his fortune as the owner of The New York Tribune and served in various political positions. The Reids remodeled the existing mansion and outfitted it with the latest home luxuries, including electricity. Shortly before the scheduled to move-in date, faulty wiring sparked a fire that destroyed the home on July 14, 1888.


The Reids rebuilt under the direction of the famed architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. This home was designed in the style of a gothic castle and built onto the old foundation. The estate was completed in 1892.

A three story addition including the East Library and West Room was completed in 1912. Unfortunately Whitelaw Reid did not live to see its completion, he had passed away a few months earlier while serving as the ambassador to England.

Elizabeth Mills Reid passed away in 1931 and the contents of the house were auctioned in 1935. In 1947 the Reid family placed the estate up for sale.

When Manhattanville University took ownership of the building, the main floor was preserved, however, the upper floors were repartitioned to provide office space for the administration.

The castle was dedicated to Elizabeth Mills Reid September 19, 1969 and formally named Reid Hall in her honor. In 1974 the U.S. Department of the Interior placed Reid Hall on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its historical and architectural significance.


The Library (1952)

Manhattanville enlisted the New York City architectural firm of Eggers & Higgins to design their new campus. Eggers & Higgins had made a name in higher education architecture, designing the Indiana University Bloomington campus, and buildings at Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The library was built to hold over 200,000 books and maintained similar design features of the previous library, including the layout of reading rooms and study carrels in the book tiers.


Benziger (1952)

When Manhattanville relocated to Purchase a few familiar names were carried over. At the previous campus, Benziger was the name of the gymnasium. It had been named in honor of the Benziger family who had assisted with the financing of the building. 

Benziger is remarkable in being the first building in the United States to utilize prestressed concrete. The Korean War created a shortage of steel for construction purposes, necessitating innovation. Today, prestressed concrete is found in high rise buildings and even used for the containment of nuclear reactors. To understand the strengths of this technique note how few columns are necessary for support, allowing for unobstructed views of the entire dining hall.


Brownson Hall (1952)

During planning stages the Academic Building was to be called just that. However, shortly after the completion of the campus in October 1952, Mother Sarah Brownson, RSCJ passed away. Brownson had been Academic Dean to the school during its transition from an Academy to College in 1917. In honor of her influence and guidance the building was named in her memory. Mother Sarah Brownson, RSCJ is buried on the Purchase campus in the Sacred Heart cemetery.


The south end of the building was designed to house the sciences and the north end was designed for the studio arts. The Music Building, although attached, was built as its own entity to house the Pius X School of Liturgical Music.

Brownson Wing was not added until 1959. This addition initially held no classrooms, instead serving as office space for faculty members, rooms for committee meetings, and typing facilities for students.


Kennedy Gymnasium (1957)

The Kennedy Gymnasium was made possible through a grant from the Lieutenant Joseph Kennedy Jr. Foundation. The Kennedy family dedicated the gymnasium in honor of daughter Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish, who was killed in a plane crash in 1948.

The dedication for both Kennedy Gymnasium and Spellman Hall were held October 27, 1957 and presided over by Cardinal Spellman. In attendance were Joseph P. Kennedy, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy ‘11, Jean Kennedy Smith ‘49, and Ethel Skakel Kennedy ‘49. Edward M. Kennedy delivered the dedication speech.


O'Byrne Chapel (1963)

For the first decade in Purchase, the campus worship space was located in the West Room.

In 1961 construction began on the chapel. On June 8, 1962 the bell tower was installed. Of the three bells, two are from the original campus on Convent Avenue in New York City. These bells are named “Saint Joseph” and “Mater Admirabilis” and date to 1889 and 1901 respectively. The third bell, given as a gift, was named “Saint Madeleine Sophie” to honor the French founder of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. 



The Chapel was completed in 1963 and named in Honor of President Eleanor O’Byrne, RSCJ. O’Byrne is the longest serving president with an administration lasting from 1945 to 1966. President O’Byrne guided Manhattanville through the relocation of campus and the subsequent doubling of the student and faculty population. Upon her retirement, The New York Times wrote of her legacy, “In front of her to the south as she stood on the old gray turreted castle was the campus she was instrumental in creating, all limestone and brick, and still a-building.” 



Many design and artistic elements in the chapel celebrate color and light. The stained glass windows were created by Stephen Bridges of the Rambush Studios. The large window over the nave is 35 feet high and 32 feet wide, while the windows along the nave are 36 feet high and 5 feet wide. An abstract design and the rich reds, yellows and blues used in the glass, create different effects in the Chapel as the sun changes position.



The altar itself also plays with color and light. The tile behind the bronze crucifix appears at first to be gold. In fact it is a mosaic composed of different colored stones. The effect of light transmission is achieved by grading the colors from intense tones of blue, red and green at the base to pale shades of silver and gold at the top.


Ohnell Environmental Center (2006)

On September 26, 2006 the Manhattanville community dedicated the Ohnell Environmental Center. The center was made possible through a generous contribution from Pat Ohnell ’67 and Trustee Nick Ohnell.

The center includes a classroom housed within a LEED-compliant, non-invasive structure designed by Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam War Memorial. This was Maya Lin's first external structure for a college campus. The structure's innovations include sustainable harvested wood, angled sun-shade louvers, low-E insulated windows, recycled cellulose insulation batts, and a "living machine" filtration pool. The classroom is designed in a way that no mechanical devices are required for heating or cooling.


Lady Chapel Restoration

The Environmental Center also included a restoration of the Lady Chapel. The Chapel was built in the 1860s by the Holladay family and is the oldest of three remaining family chapels in Westchester County. New stonework and a glass roof provided a unique reflective space on campus.  As President Berman noted at the dedication, "The Environmental Park is a sustainable way to preserve our past and present and protect our future."


Richard A. Berman Student Center (2008)

The Richard A. Berman Student Center is the most recent building on campus, completed in 2008. The building was named in honor of Richard Berman who served as Manhattanville's president from 1995 to 2009.

The center continues the commitment to environmental sustainability. Requiring less than half the total energy of a building of the same size, the Center achieved a LEED gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building houses fitness, dance, and performance centers, the University's radio station, and Student Activities Offices.


Founders Hall (1952)

From 1952 to 1957 Founder’s was the only residence hall. Founder’s was another name carried over from the previous residence hall to maintain a sense of familiarity. The name Founder’s was selected to honor Mother Mary Moran, RSCJ, the first President of Manhattanville from 1917-1919, remembered as the “founder” of Manhattanville.

Spellman Hall (1957)

On November 11, 1956 eight months into the construction of the Kennedy Gymasium, ground was broken on a second residence hall. The dormitory was made possible through contributions from alumnae, parents, and friends of Manhattanville.  

Architects Eggers and Higgins returned to design both buildings in the established Manhattanville style of Norman rusticated brick. Spellman was built to house an additional 331 students, a typing room, and television room. Spellman Hall was named for Francis Cardinal Spellman, a longtime friend of the Manhattanville who served as the sixth Archbishop of New York from 1939 to 1967.


Dammann Hall and Tenney Hall (1966)

Two additional residence halls were added to the campus in 1966. Unlike the Norman rusticated brick of previous buildings these broke from the former style and used buffed limestone.

Dammann Hall is named for Mother Grace C. Dammann, RSCJ, the fourth president of Manhattanville from 1931 to 1945. President Dammann is central to Manhattanville history as an early champion for civil rights and social action.

Tenney Hall is named for Mother Mary B. Tenney, RSCJ, Registrar from 1921 to 1945 and much admired Professor of History from 1921 to 1961.


Faculty Housing (1991)

In 1991 the campus underwent a series of upgrades. This included the creation of the current bookstore, pub, and post office in Benziger. In late 1991 faculty housing was completed. Forty eight units, divided among three buildings, added a new dimension to the Manhattanville campus community.

The Cottages (2010)

Long before Manhattanville arrived at this location, the estate of Whitelaw Reid was a working farm with livestock, orchards, and hundreds of acres of crops. Several structures remain from this farm. Among them, cottages, once home to farm employees and their families. In 2010 these cottages were converted to student housing. Their names also honor important Manhattanville individuals and locations. 


The Burnett House

The Burnett House was named in honor of Mother Ruth Burnett, RSCJ, president of Manhattanville from 1919-1924. It was President Burnett who secured the permanent charter for Manhattanville in 1919. She also pushed the young college to advance its academic programs and embrace modern curriculum and classes.

The Olmsted House

The Olmsted House was named for Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the most famous landscape architects in history. Having already designed New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Olmsted was hired by Whitelaw Reid to design the gardens and grounds of his estate in 1888. Olmsted imported plants and trees from all over the world to complete his vision. Much of the outdoor ambiance on the campus we can thank Olmsted for!

The Houston House

The Houston House was named for the very first location of the school that is now Manhattanville University. In 1841 the Sacred Heart Academy was founded at Mulberry and E. Houston Street. In 1847 the school moved to the northern Manhattan town of Manhattanville. Today, the Puck Building stands where the Academy was once located.

Barat House

Barat House was named for Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat who, at the age of twenty-one founded the Order of the Sacred Heart in 1800. This religious order was specifically founded in France to educate young women in an era when girls were not offered the same academic opportunities as their male counterparts. Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat passed away in 1865 and was canonized in 1925.

The Duchesne House

The Duchesne House was named for the Duchesne Center for Religion & Social Justice. The Center itself was named in honor of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, a contemporary of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, who in 1818 started the first Sacred Heart Academy in the United States. The school, located in St. Charles, Missouri, became the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi. Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

The Marissa A. Pagli House

The Marissa A. Pagli House was named in honor of a Manhattanville student who passed away in 2010. Marissa grew up on the Manhattanville campus, graduated from Harrison High School in 2009, and was a beloved member of the Manhattanville volleyball team. As a student athlete and scholar Marissa focused on maintaining health and wellness. In her memory Manhattanville University established the Marissa A. Pagli House as a special interest housing option with the goal of providing interested students a supportive environment focused on all aspects of health and wellness: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.




For more information please contact:

  • Lauren Ziarko, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian

    Manhattanville University Library
    2900 Purchase St. 
    Purchase, New York 10577