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Building History

Columbia University currently leases four floors of space in the six-story building at 615 W. 131 St., which was constructed in 1923 as a state-of-the-art Studebaker automobile finishing facility. The original purpose of the building – to put the final touches on newly manufactured cars before shipping to east-coast dealers – is evident in its dimensions and solid, all-concrete structure. The Studebaker logo that was used on car models between 1912-34 is still visible on the top of the building exterior.

After Studebaker moved out in the late 1930s, the building became a Borden milk processing plant. Later, a variety of small businesses occupied office space in Studebaker including the Madame Alexander Doll Company, which painted interior floors and columns an eye-catching pink to match the color of their famous doll boxes; the company still occupies part of the second floor. Columbia University staff members have been working in Studebaker for about 20 years in departments from data processing to printing. Another recent building occupant was the Museum of Natural History, which housed part of its Polynesian antiquities collection on the first floor; the collection was relocated before renovations began on upper floors.