A d F o n t e s

(Latin: "to the sources")

Blacktop on the College Walk

College Walk

A couple of months ago Columbia University began a project to restore its “College Walk,” the main drag through the center of the campus, connecting Broadway to Amsterdam avenues via (what used to be) 116th street.

The renovation was clearly needed: the beautiful cobblestone that covered the walk was badly damaged, uneven, and many of the stones were loose or raised, and water would pool during the rain, making it difficult to cross. I always found it amusing to watch women in high heels carefully trying to negotiate the cobblestones and the enormous cracks between them, occasionally tripping or getting their heels caught. It probably took them 15 minutes to cross the campus versus 2 for the rest of us. They should know better. The College Walk renovation was to replace the cobblestone and install a drainage system so that it would look beautiful and stay dry.

See the old College Walk here.

However, I noticed something tragic on Saturday. I saw with what they replaced that beautiful cobblestone: black top.

Tacky looking blacktop. Tacky looking blacktop with beautiful granite trim, making it look even more tacky. And what’s worse, the blacktop is uneven (and anyone who’s worked w/ blacktop knows that if you want to prevent pooling, you can’t have uneven blacktop). And all last year Columbia spent oodles of money replacing the ornate red brick sidewalks that surround the street entrances to the campus. Wow, what a contrast: enter the campus via beautiful red brick only to stride on black top. Why not just add a basketball court in there while they’re at it?

I’m pretty unhappy. It looks terrible, especially in light of the dignified appearance of the rest of the campus architecture (except for Lerner hall, which is now the 2nd ugliest monstrosity on campus). I was expecting new cobblestone, or nice granite slabs, more red brick, or something else nice. Something attractive. Something that at least matches the character of the rest of the school (again, save Lerner).

UPDATE: I was wrong.

As Jared pointed out in the comments, Columbia is indeed putting in cobblestone. I walked by today and they had a good 1/3 of the College Walk laid. I’m happy to have been wrong. Very happy.

July 30, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Fear NOT! The blacktop is just the base layer for the hexagonal stones that are currently sitting outside of the entrance at B-way and 116. It is the same style of stones that lead up to Butler. By the way, the base layer of the brickwork is also blacktop.

    Comment by Jared | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  2. Really? I must go have a look. If you’re right, I recant in sackcloth and ashes–that would be much better. I was petrified when I saw the blacktop, and then read the sign which did not mention any new stone.

    Comment by JD | August 1, 2007 | Reply

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