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April 16, 1880

Vassar Brothers Laboratory was dedicated. Since joining the faculty in 1874 as professor of chemistry, LeRoy C. Cooley had voiced his concern about the poor lighting and ventilation in the chemistry laboratory, Room C on the “basment” [first] floor of Main Building, urging that it was not only inadequate but also dangerous. When an accidental fire in the chemistry laboratory of the monumental Pardee Hall at Lafayette College leveled the $300,000 building on June 4, 1879, Cooley’s concerns were acted upon. By the following spring, a completely up-to-date laboratory building was available to him and his students.

Speaking at the building’s dedication, Cooley compared Room C—“a little room, never intended for such purpose, supplied with narrow tables which had already seen service in some shop or counting room,” containing a “little shelf room for chemicals, and in proportion still less floor room for the crowded students”—to the splendid new hall. Containing “Good light, good air, and the most convenient arrangement of funiture and apparatus for the use of students,” he said, the new facility supplied, “the prime necessitites in a working laboratory…a new laboratory…opened primarily for the undergraduate instruction of women in the regular course in Arts.”

The building’s architect, Benjamin Silliman, Jr., the son and namesake of a pioneer in American science, had followed his father both as chemistry professor at Yale and as an independent researcher, becoming in the 1850’s the first petroleum geologist in the United States. Silliman, Jr., was also a principal, with James M. Farnsworth, in Silliman & Farnsworth, a New York architectural firm.

The first separate laboratory building at a college for women and the gift of Matthew Vassar, Jr. and John Guy Vassar, charter trustees and nephews of the Founder, the $10,000 building was dedicated on April 16, 1880.

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