Cushing House

Last updated
Cushing House
Cushing House panorama December 2013.jpg
Cushing as seen from its courtyard
Cushing House
Former namesCushing Hall
General information
Architectural styleOld English manor house
Location Poughkeepsie, New York
CountryUnited States
Coordinates 41°41′22″N73°53′35″W / 41.689428°N 73.893118°W / 41.689428; -73.893118 Coordinates: 41°41′22″N73°53′35″W / 41.689428°N 73.893118°W / 41.689428; -73.893118 [1]
Current tenants Vassar College
Cost$400,000 (1927)
OwnerVassar College
Technical details
Floor count4
Design and construction
Architecture firm Allen & Collens

Cushing House (formerly called Cushing Hall) is a four-story co-ed dormitory on Vassar College's campus in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. A response to freshmen overcrowding, the college's Board of Trustees hurried the Allen & Collens-designed building, named for college librarian and alumna trustee Florence M. Cushing, to construction and completion in 1927. Cushing was originally designed as eight smaller houses with euthenic principles in mind, but ended up as a single U-shaped dormitory in the Old English manor house style with Jacobean interior furnishings. Students of all grades may live in the house which houses up to 202 in single, double, and triple rooms and are referred to as "Cushlings". Throughout Cushing's history, various proposals and plans have incited controversy among the building's residents, including designating one of its wings as all-black housing and converting one of its common areas into eight single rooms. Contemporary reviewers have looked favorably upon Cushing's aesthetic qualities, declaring it to be one of Vassar's most beautiful buildings.



Florence Cushing, the dormitory's namesake, in 1874 Florence Cushing, 1874.jpg
Florence Cushing, the dormitory's namesake, in 1874

Before Cushing House's construction, Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, faced a surplus of students and too few available rooms, a situation deemed an "emergency" by the Board of Trustees. [2] For the first quarter of the twentieth century, one third of the college's freshmen were housed off campus due to rising enrollment over that period. [3] The Board voted in 1925 to move all students to on-campus housing, acknowledging the lack of adequate space for the move but pledging that they would swiftly build more. [3] The following year, the Board voted to begin construction on the new hall without first securing funding for the building, trusting that the "friends of the College" would meet the financial demands of the project. [2] In the meantime, the house was built using loaned funds, [3] with the total project cost coming to $400,000. [4]

Original plans for Cushing House, then called Cushing Hall, saw the building as a model of Vassar's euthenics program. [5] The term euthenics was first defined by Ellen Swallow Richards of Vassar's class of 1870 as "[t]he betterment of living conditions, though conspicuous endeavor for the purpose of securing more efficient human beings". [6] In accordance with these principles, initial schematics saw the dormitory divided into eight separate houses all surrounded by a brick wall. [5] Cushing was ultimately designed by architectural firm Allen & Collens [7] which was also responsible for several other buildings on Vassar's campus including the Thompson Memorial Library and its wings before Cushing's completion, Wimpfheimer Nursery School concurrently, [8] and Skinner Hall of Music afterwards in 1932. [9] The Cushing project was completed in 1927 [7] and the dormitory was named for the college's first alumnae trustee, Florence M. Cushing, who was a member of the Vassar class of 1874 [2] and the college's librarian from the year of her graduation until 1876. [10] On account of her death in September 1927, Cushing Hall was not dedicated in time for the incoming class of freshman for the 192728 school year; instead, the dedication which was marked by an informal reception was put off until October 29 of the same year. [4]

In 1954, Cushing residents were "perturbed" by the possibility of a new language hall being built within the dormitory's sightlines, citing the concern that any artificial construction would ruin their views. [11] Another controversy arose in April 1970 after students from Cushing objected to a plan put forth by a contingent of black students and approved by the Board of Trustees that would designate one wing of Cushing as a co-ed housing space for black students of all grades. [12] Prior to the plan's formulation, upperclassmen black students could opt to live in a student community in Kendrick House while underclassmen could live in an analogous community in Main Building. [12] Cushing residents were not notified of the plan until after its approval and a public meeting was held at which objections were raised by both Cushing residents and black students that one wing of the dorm might not be enough space to foster a black community and that Kendrick House should instead be repurposed as elective all-black housing. [12] After the college's administration expressed the possibility that this plan might be in violation of U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare standards on segregation, all but four black students walked out of the meeting and the assembly decided that the Board of Trustees needed to be better informed of the racial climate on campus. [12] In 1974, Vassar's Master Planning Committee voted to convert one of Cushing's common areas, then a dining room, to eight single dorms. [13] An emergency meeting was held and students organized a Save Cushing Dining Room movement which collected 800 signatures against the plan in 24 hours. [13] Other instances have seen one of Cushing's parlors converted to a quad dorm used to house students temporarily when no other housing could be found for them, first in 1989 [14] then again during the first semester of the 199899 school year. [15] [16]

Architecture and features

Cushing House wood paneling.JPG
Cushing House traceried window.JPG
Cushing House plaster ceiling detail.JPG
Cushing's interior features, including wood paneling, traceried windows, and decorated plaster ceilings

Cushing House was built on the north side of campus and sits apart from most of the school's other dorms, with the exception of Noyes House to its west. [17] [18] Cushing stands four stories tall [19] and is configured in a U shape with two wings of student rooms connected by center common areas [3] on the ground floor and more halls of student housing on the upper "trans" (inter-wing) levels. [20] Between the wings is a courtyard covered by a lawn and trees. [3] Two articles published in Vassar's weekly Miscellany News in 1975 identified some of the species present at the time: Cryptomeria japonica , Ilex opaca (American holly), [21] several crab apple trees, and a Fagus sylvatica (European beech). [22] The exterior of the house is built in an Old English manor house style designed to mimic the nearby Pratt House [3] which was designed by architects York and Sawyer and completed in 1916. [9] The roof of the hall is made of slate, with walls of patterned brickwork covered with half-timbered decorations as well as leaded windows and towers. [3] A smaller wing, sometimes referred to as the SQs ("servants' quarters") or "maid's wing", [20] [23] abuts the center common area and includes a pantry and kitchen on its ground floor and smaller dorm rooms that originally housed servants on the floors above. [3]

An undecorated Cushing single with the shades drawn Cushing House room, January 2014.jpg
An undecorated Cushing single with the shades drawn

Inside the dorm, common area furnishings are Jacobean in style and architectural features include plaster ceilings, windows with tracery, and wood paneling. [3] Within rooms, closets and windows are also notably large and soft light is present throughout the hall. [23] The building was designed to house 130 students split between two double rooms and 126 singles, [5] but now fits up to 202 students, [24] demonymously referred to as "Cushlings". [20] The house presently includes single dorms, one-room doubles, and two-room doubles and triples. [19] Upon opening in 1927 (prior to Vassar's 1969 transition from being an all-female to co-ed college), [25] the dormitory was limited to housing freshmen. [24] It is now co-ed [26] and acts as home to students from all grades [24] including, as of 1999, the highest proportion of upperclassmen of any dorm at the school. [27] Bathrooms are shared by all members of a hall. [19] A minor renovation in summer 1995 and funded by the Estée Lauder Companies included more efficient lighting, rewiring, and new furniture for the house. [28] Like all other Vassar dorms, Cushing houses a game room, a laundry room, and a Steinway grand piano. [29]

In 1928, a year after Cushing opened, Keene Richards, Vassar College's general manager, wrote to college president Henry Noble MacCracken that Cushing was "neither luxurious nor extravagant." [3] Authors Karen Van Lengen and Lisa Reilly countered this sentiment in their 2004 architectural guide to the campus, noting that "Cushing's cozy domesticity is a far cry from the institutional nature of collegiate residential architecture found on other college campuses" [5] and concluding that the dorm was one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. [30] Another guide, compiled in 2003 by the staff of the Yale Daily News , identified the dorm as one of the two most popular at the college, along with Jewett House. [29] Cushing has drawn comparisons to the fictitious Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry according to The Miscellany News. [20] The building's parlor was singled out in College Prowler's 2012 guide to the college as the most beautiful at Vassar. [19]

Related Research Articles

Vassar College Private, coeducational liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York

Vassar College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York. Founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, it was the second degree-granting institution of higher education for women in the United States, closely following Elmira College. It became coeducational in 1969, and now has a gender ratio at the national average. The school is one of the historic Seven Sisters, the first elite women's colleges in the U.S., and has a historic relationship with Yale University, which suggested a merger before they both became coeducational institutions. About 2,450 students attend the college.

Dormitory sleeping quarters or entire buildings primarily providing sleeping and residential quarters

A dormitory is a building primarily providing sleeping and residential quarters for large numbers of people such as boarding school, high school, college or university students. In some countries, it can also refer to a room containing several beds accommodating people.

Euthenics is the study of the improvement of human functioning and well-being by improvement of living conditions. "Improvement" is conducted by altering external factors such as education and the controllable environment, including the prevention and removal of contagious disease and parasites, environmentalism, education regarding employment, home economics, sanitation, and housing.

York and Sawyer former architectural firm based in New York City

York and Sawyer is an architectural firm that produced many outstanding structures, exemplary of Beaux-Arts architecture as it was practiced in the United States. The partners Edward York (1863–1928) and Philip Sawyer (1868–1949) both trained in the office of McKim, Mead & White in the 1890s. In 1898, they established their independent firm, based in New York City.

Boston University Housing System Housing system for Boston University

The Boston University housing system is the 2nd-largest of any private university in the United States, with 76% of the undergraduate population living on campus. On-campus housing at BU is an unusually diverse melange, ranging from individual 19th-century brownstone town houses and apartment buildings acquired by the school to large-scale high-rises built in the 60s and 2000s.

Cornell West Campus

West Campus is a residential section of Cornell University's Ithaca, New York campus located west of Libe Slope and between the Fall Creek gorge and the Cascadilla gorge. It now primarily houses transfer students, second year, and upperclassmen.

Strong House (Vassar College)

Strong House is a dormitory at Vassar College named after Bessie Rockefeller Strong, the oldest daughter of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who was largely responsible for funding the building's construction. It used to be the only all female dormitory remaining after Vassar went coeducational in 1969. However, Strong House currently identifies as a gender inclusive dorm. The building was designed by Francis R. Allen and was completed in 1893.

Housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) consists of eleven undergraduate dormitories and nine graduate dorms. All undergraduate students are required to live in an MIT residence during their first year of study. Undergraduate dorms are usually divided into suites or floors, and usually have Graduate Resident Assistants (GRA), graduate students living among the undergraduates who help support student morale and social activities. Many MIT undergraduate dorms are known for their distinctive student cultures and traditions.

Since the founding, Stanford University has provided on-campus housing for students. Today, all undergraduate students, most graduate students, and many graduate employees use campus housing. While not all graduate students are eligible for campus or subsidized off-campus housing, of those that are, only 64% are able to take advantage of this opportunity due to the limited housing stock. Student Housing at Stanford is currently part of Residential & Dining Enterprises, an in-house standalone vendor within the Stanford affiliated network of businesses.

Seeley G. Mudd Chemistry Building American chemistry laboratory

The Seeley G. Mudd Chemistry Building was a chemistry laboratory and classroom building on the campus of Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. The 42,000-square-foot (3,900 m2) postmodern building stood on the north end of a cluster of other science buildings on the site of the school's first chemistry laboratory. It was completed in 1984 at a cost of $7.2 million after the college received money from a fund bequeathed to it in the will of California cardiologist and professor Seeley G. Mudd. The structure replaced Sanders Hall of Chemistry and included elements designed to be energy efficient, notably a large wall of glass blocks that designers hoped would passively heat the building. Reviews of the structure were positive when it opened with critics praising the way its form complemented nearby older buildings. By 2015, many aspects of the building had been evaluated as being in Fair or Poor condition and the building was demolished in April 2016 as part of the Science Center project, later replaced with an open green space.

Raymond House (Vassar College)

Raymond House is one of five quadrangle residence halls at Vassar College, located in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Raymond House was erected in 1897 in response to the popularity of Strong House, and was promptly designed by Francis R. Allen. Named after the second president of Vassar College, John Howard Raymond, this dormitory has five floors and is one of the residence halls that was paid for by the college in entirety.

Lathrop House (Vassar College) Coed residential dormitory in Vassar College

Lathrop House was the third quadrangle dormitory built on Vassar College's campus in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Constructed in 1901 and designed by Boston-based Allen & Vance, the brick dorm stands five stories tall. Lathrop houses 180 students who may be any year or gender.

The Philaletheis Society

The Philaletheis Society is a student theatre group at Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, and the school's oldest student organization. Founded in December 1865, Phil began as a college literary society and its first leader was college president John Howard Raymond. Control of the organization was swiftly handed to the students and the group split into three chapters, each with a distinct focus. The group maintained its literary focus until the 1890s, by which point dramatic productions had taken over in popularity. The tradition of producing four and later three plays per year continued into the mid-twentieth century, but in 1958, the organization disbanded due to lack of interest. It was revived in 1975, first as an arm of student government and then as an independent student organization.

Davison House Vassar College dormitory

Davison House is a five-story dormitory on the campus of Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Designed by Boston architecture firm Allen & Vance and built 1902, it was the fourth dorm built on Vassar's residential quadrangle. It houses 191 students of any grade or gender and it became Vassar's first disabled-accessible dorm following a 2008–2009 renovation.

Students Building (Vassar College) multipurpose college building in Poughkeepsie, New York

The Students' Building on the campus of Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S., houses the school's All Campus Dining Center as well as additional multifunctional student space on its second floor. Designed by Joseph Herenden Clark of McKim, Mead & White and built in 1913, the structure originally housed a variety of different student organizations and school functions. In 1973, it was converted into a campuswide dining hall; it underwent a second renovation in 2003 that returned multipurpose student functionalities to its upper floors.

Jewett House

Jewett House is a nine-story Tudor-style dormitory on the campus of Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Built in 1907 to accommodate increasing demand for residential space, the dorm was designed by Vassar art professor Lewis Pilcher of the architectural firm Pilcher and Tachau. Early reviews looked unfavorably upon Jewett, even dubbing it "Pilcher's Crime" and by 2002, a host of issues plagued the dorm, leading to a $21 million renovation. Up to 195 students of any gender or class year may live in Jewett, which has been purported to be haunted by several different ghosts during its existence.

Fonteyn Kill

The Fonteyn Kill is a 1.5-kilometer-long (0.93 mi) urban stream flowing through Dutchess County, New York, onto the campus of Vassar College, and into the Casperkill. The stream was first on land inhabited by the native Wappinger band before being transferred to the Dutch and then the British. A mill was built along the kill by 1714 and the stream's presence influenced Matthew Vassar's decision to locate his college in the area. The artificial Vassar Lake lies midway down the Fonteyn Kill and was once used for ice skating and boating.

Ely Hall

Ely Hall is a two-story Richardsonian Romanesque classroom and laboratory building on the campus of Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, US. The structure houses Vassar's Department of Earth Science and Geography, the A. Scott Warthin, Jr. Museum of Geology and Natural History, and the Aula, a spacious and frequently used gathering space.

Powerhouse Theater

The Powerhouse Theater is a theater building on the campus of Vassar College in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, US. Originally built as a power station in 1912, it was renovated and repurposed as a theater in 1973. Each summer it hosts student productions as well as professional workshops and readings as part of the Vassar–New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Theater program.


  1. Google (October 29, 2013). "Cushing House, Arlington, NY 12603" (Map). Google Maps . Google. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 Borton 1984, p. 64.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Van Lengen & Reilly 2004, p. 93.
  4. 1 2 "Vassar Dedicates Cushing Dormitory". The New York Times. October 30, 1927. p. 17. ProQuest   104069626.  via ProQuest (subscription required)
  5. 1 2 3 4 Van Lengen & Reilly 2004, p. 94.
  6. Borton 1984, p. 67.
  7. 1 2 Daniels 1996, p. 89.
  8. Daniels 1996, p. 92.
  9. 1 2 Daniels 1996, p. 91.
  10. Bruno & Daniels 2001, p. 27.
  11. Spatt, Sondra (May 12, 1954). "Site Of New Building Unknown; Lack Of Money Major Problem". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 4 "Housing at Cushing Enrages Campus". The Miscellany News. April 10, 1970. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  13. 1 2 "Students Protest Cushing Action". The Miscellany News. April 26, 1974. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  14. Pearlstein, Joanna R. (September 8, 1989). "Overcrowding, Housing Shortage Continues". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  15. Litos, Stephanie (September 4, 1998). "Students crowd residence halls". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  16. Knox, Julian (January 22, 1999). "Room openings increase after first-semester crunch". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  17. Vassar College Standard Map (PDF) (Map). Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 5, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  18. Yale Daily News Staff 2010, p. 610.
  19. 1 2 3 4 Murray, Goldsmith, & Falcone 2011, Campus Housing.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Benard, Vee (October 28, 2010). "In Cushing, Vassar prioritized comfort". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  21. Hollander, Ed (October 31, 1975). "Vassar Arboretum: Cushing Conifers". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  22. Hollander, Ed (November 7, 1975). "Deciduous Trees of Cushing House". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  23. 1 2 Schwartz, Sue (April 23, 1955). "Modern Trends Arrived With Cushing". The Vassar Chronicle. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  24. 1 2 3 "Cushing House". Vassar College Office of Residential Life. Archived from the original on April 2, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  25. Honan, William H. (May 14, 2000). "Three Decades of Men at Vassar". The New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  26. "Residential Halls". Vassar College Office of Residential Life. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  27. Silkiss-Hero, Sasheem (November 12, 1999). "Cushing: a freshman dorm?". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  28. Travis, Brennan (September 15, 1995). "College Completes Cushing House Renovations". The Miscellany News. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  29. 1 2 Yale Daily News Staff 2003, p. 656.
  30. Van Lengen & Reilly 2004, p. 17.