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The 'Main Building' is Dedicated

Opening Day Main Building

The Biological Laboratory of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences was already eight years old when Charles Davenport arrived at Cold Spring Harbor in 1898 to take charge of its educational program. Although at that time the Bio Lab, as it was called, was active only in the summer months, addressing itself to the instruction of high school biology teachers, it would not be long before its ambitious new director, just 32 years old, would find an opportunity to make Cold Spring Harbor an important site of year-round biological research.

1904 Floorplan

It was a pivotal moment. At the dawn of the twentieth centry, important discoveries about patterns of inheritance in pea plants that had been made 35 years earlier by an obscure Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel were rediscovered by scientists in Europe and America, giving rise to the modern study of genetics. As the study of life moved away from descriptive natural history and toward experimental laboratory-based science, Davenport took his place among the Mendelians, whose work exemplified the new tendency. Parlaying academic appointments at Harvard and Chicago and his position at the Bio Lab, he campaigned vigorously to persuade the newly formed Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., to locate one of its three programs for the advancement of knowledge at Cold Spring Harbor, on the grounds adjacent to the Bio Lab.

On July 11, 1904, 50 dignitaries from New York City joined an equal number of local notables at the Bio Lab to mark the formal opening of the Carnegie Institution's Station for Experimental Evolution. By early 1905, this new entity, separate and distinct from the Bio Lab but also directed by Davenport, had a home of its own at the edge of the harbor — a two-story brick-trimmed stuccoed laboratory building, designed in a variant of the Second Renaissance Revival style by the New York architects Kirby, Petit & Green. Called the 'Main Building' for the next half-centry, it was the headquarters of the Carnegie Institution's effort under Davenport to study and explain how life evolved and adapted.

The 'Main Building' Becomes a Library

With the completion in 1953 of a 16,000 square-foot laboratory later named for Demerec, scientific facilities were removed from the Main Building. From this the time the latter was used primarily as a library, in which housed the combined collections of the Department of Genetics and the Bio Lab.

The Library did not get its first professional librarian until 1972, when Susan Cooper succeeded Guinevere Smith, an assistant in the laboratory of Oscar Riddle who had managed the collection previously. Cooper begain building a collection of books and materials on genetics, one that Ludmila Pollock, hired in 1999 as the director of Library & Archives, later aimed to make "comprehensive". Carnegie Building

In 1981 the Carnegie Building was remodeled and by the end of 1982 had an entirely new look. In 1986 office of the CSHL Press were moved into the building. The marketing department and bookstore were located in the basement for a time while offices were located on the second floor. In 1988 reference and book collections were moved to the basement and the bookstore was moved to the basement of Grace Auditorium.

The library attic was renovated in 1988 to house the CSHL Archives. In 2002, the journals section of the Press left the second floor of the building and moved to the new Woodbury facility.

In September 2007, the historic Carnegie Building was closed for renovation. Library & Archives staff were relocated to Osterhout Cottage, along with a portion of the monograph, journal and archival collections. Access to all other materials was maintained by Library staff at various locations on and off the Main Campus.

In October 2007, ground was broken on a construction project that would transform the Carnegie Building. The original 1905 building was to be completely renovated and a new annex added to accommodate archival materials collect by the Genentech Center for the History of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, established in 2006. While room placement in the old building would remain the same, all walls, ceilings, light fixtures, electrical wiring and plumbing were to be replaced. Archways covered up in prior renovation would be reopned. Much of the classic oak trim and stair rails and banisters would also be restored.

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