NYU Residence Halls Have Hidden Histories
Many New York City stories have unfolded in the places you’ll call home
When you live in New York City, history is everywhere. And for students in NYU residence halls, it’s right under their feet. Our campus interweaves with the city itself, which means that many of our buildings have stories to tell. Here are a few of our favorites.
A Broadway Speakeasy
Rooms are modern in Brittany Hall, located on East 10th Street, but you’ll see the building’s history in its exterior. Constructed in 1929, its Gothic elements mirror the historic Grace Church across the street. It was originally an apartment building, and the 17th-floor penthouse doubled as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Later, reborn as a hotel, Adam Sandler, Jerry Garcia, Debbie Harry, Al Pacino, and many others stayed within its walls.
The Village Bachelor Pad
In 1879, most landlords preferred not to rent to single men. But Goddard Hall, on the east side of Washington Square Park, was an apartment building solely for bachelors. Known as the “Benedick,” referencing a character who was a confirmed bachelor in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the building housed many notable creative people, including painters George Maynard and Winslow Homer. NYU converted the Benedick into a residence hall in the late 1920s and renamed it in honor of benefactor and famed movie star Paulette Goddard. Today, in keeping with the building’s creative history, the ground floor houses the 80WSE art gallery, which exhibits graduate-student theses each spring.
Rock ’n’ Roll Roots
Just east of Union Square, Palladium Hall, which contains a residence hall, an athletic center, and the Wasserman Center for Career Development, opened in 2001. But before that, it was a 4,000-seat movie palace built during the golden age of North American moviegoing. However, as entertainment preferences changed, the hall shifted to a music venue, hosting big-name rock acts like Kiss and the Band. The Clash even featured a photo from their 1979 Palladium concert on the cover of their album London Calling. Then, in the 1980s, the creators of Studio 54 turned the Palladium into their next big night club, which remained open until 1997.
Activist HQ—and a Record Label
Weinstein Hall opened in 1963 on University Place as the first coed residence hall on NYU’s Washington Square campus. A decade later, when Greenwich Village was home to the world’s largest LGBTQ+ community, Weinstein’s residents established the hall’s history of activism. A year after the Stonewall Riots, the Gay Activists Alliance hosted dances in Weinstein’s basement. The hall continued its legacy of breaking new ground when, in 1983, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons founded Def Jam Recordings, one of the world’s most influential hip-hop labels, in Rubin’s Weinstein room.
A River Runs Through It
In the 1600s, Greenwich Village was a hamlet north of the City of New York. And Minetta Brook, a creek known for its abundant wildlife, flowed from Union Square to the Hudson. The city paved over it in the 1920s. Then, in the 1930s, the Holley Chambers Hotel at 33 Washington Square West tapped the brook’s subterranean waters to create a fountain in its lobby. This fountain featured a bronze sculpture of Pan by Gutzon Borglum, who later created Mount Rushmore. Later, the hotel became NYU’s Lipton Hall, which once featured a swimming pool where law students could unwind in between exams. Sadly, Minetta Brook no longer flows beneath the building. But Pan still resides in a room off of the lobby.
NYU’s Grand Ballroom
St. George Clark Hall, one of two NYU Tandon School of Engineering residence halls in Brooklyn, was originally a hotel. In fact, it was the St. George Hotel—which in the early 1930s was the world’s largest. With 2,632 rooms, it occupied an entire city block. It also boasted an Olympic-size saltwater pool—now a fitness center available to the hall’s residents—where the butterfly stroke was invented. Its world-renowned Colorama Ballroom, the largest in New York, accommodated up to 3,000 people. Illuminated with 1,000 multicolor bulbs, it represented the height of Jazz Age entertainment. The hotel drew celebrities from Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra to Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.