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The University Library building, later renamed Uris Library, opened on October 7, 1891, precisely twenty-three years after classes began at Cornell University. The architect, William Henry Miller, was Cornell’s first student of architecture, remembered through his many buildings on campus and portrait, which hangs in the Uris Library lobby. In addition to the library, with its iconic tower, he designed Barnes Hall, Stimson Hall, Boardman Hall, and Risley Hall, two fraternities, the A. D. White House, the Central Avenue Bridge, and Eddy Gate. Miller also designed numerous residential, business, and church buildings in and around Ithaca.

Miller designed the library in the Richardsonian-Romanesque style, as a cross-shaped structure—a “cruciform basilica” that features a large reading room—a “nave”—with natural lighting from 29 windows and 20 clerestory windows. For a university famously founded as a non-sectarian institution, the new library building was Andrew Dickson White’s “secular cathedral” devoted to books and learning.

As the building was dedicated on that October afternoon, Cornell President Charles Kendall Adams noted: “To-day…we come together with glad hearts to celebrate the completion of what must for all time be the most important structure on these grounds.