You know how you work somewhere for a while but never take in your surrounding simply because you've become numb to the daily routine of traveling to and from work. Well, for it was that way for a while till on my usual lunch break on Columbia University's sprawling campus, a random vagabond shouted in my direction "Look at things deeper than just their shallow surface!" Gave the "evil eye", then hurried off with his ragtag shopping cart of aluminum cans. Usually I woulda shrugged the old coot's rambling off as just that...rambling! But I decided to take him up on that "jewel" he dropped and get my "Dan Brown" on researching some of the University's more iconic landmarks. Not it's not quite the "Davinci Code" of information that I was hoping to uncover, but what I DID find out was still pretty interesting, if I may say so myself.
Okay let's start of with the Alma Mata that adorns the center stairs of the campus. Come to find out that the statue place there was the original design engineer Gustave Eiffel (yeah of Eiffel Tower fame) had for the Statue of Liberty! The staff was to be the torch, the hand positioned upwards was to motion "What, MORE immigrants?" and the book on her lap was actual suppose to be a record log book to record all the names of the "newcomers." When NY state officials rejected the first design in fear of offending other nations, Columbia scooped up the "gift shop" sized, cheaper priced version, and saved a bundle. Wild huh? Who knew? Final note; the sculptor who's named Chester French is whom the group of the same name got it from.
Heard of "the Manhattan Project" , the code name for atomic bomb development during WWII? Well word is that it was first called the "Harlem Project" but it was renamed "Manhattan" to avoid it being confused with the low income housing projects being built in Harlem at the time. The Low Library was to double as a missile silo in fear of a possible German invasion starting with the Ivy League schools rumored to happen. Columbia not wanting to take any chances, quickly decided to move all of their existing library facilities across campus to what is now known as Butler Library. Today still emptied out of books, it on the short list of locations considered for the "Legion of Doom" in a live action film version of the "Justice League."
Back when Columbia was founded they were so eager to recruit players for their lagging basketball team they went as far as erecting a statue at the front gates as a sign of acceptance to the sport. Symbolizing what pride they took in their "hardwood" players. Coming out of the locker room shower with a basketball still in hand, draped with only towels and wearing sandals, was common practice (and not gay) back then. So this statue depicts just that.
However for women, cooking ruled the day. So then a statue had to be made in support of their "domestic prowess" with an equally grand front gate statue. One showing a young student woman holding up a cook book recipe proudly to the incoming student body and visitors alike.
Now this odd fact fans of the old Batman TV series will appreciate. Remember the statue / bust of Shakespeare Bruce Wanye used to lift in order to active the poles to the Batcave? Well the University has the SAME device...well not quite, but something very similar. Hidden inside this marble bust of "Athena" (I think) is two turn key locks to activite the missile silo and the dome to retract on top of Low Library if the fore mentioned German invasion ever had taken place. Only two people have possession of these keys, The (University) President has one and the head of security the other.
Forget a Recession, the Great Depression was what was on young students minds during the time when this sculpture was donated to the campus. Inspired by a student making ends meet by posing nude for fellow art students, this statue became the symbol for thousands of graduates wondering about student loan payments, and lack of job prospects. When the art teacher at the time asked the model what was he thinking about to invoke the now famous pose he replied, "Having to move back in with my God d@#n parents!" Understood.
Did you know "the Lion King" is the number one rented Netflix movie in campus dorms? So popular among the student body that a statue was erected with raised funds from bake sales to have a full scale statue made in honor of the animated film! In all honesty I swore it was the lion from those "Narnia" flicks! Guess that shows how much I watch movies huh?
Speaking of movies, 20th Century Fox has paid good money to the University to let them construct a full function life size version of the Fantastic Four's
famously known headquarters "the Baxter Building" as a set for their latest installment of the Fan Four's adventures. No word yet on what C.U. is going to do with the set / building once film production has ended. But I'm sure selling tours is one of their options. LOL.
That's about all I've uncovered for now but I'll be sure to get back to you with some more tidbit info before the book comes out, and I'm doing a book signing world tour