Five Places to Explore on Columbia’s Manhattanville Campus, According to Uptown Aficionado Pat Lilly

Lilly shared her favorite public spaces on the Manhattanville campus.

Brandee Sanders
May 02, 2023

When Pat Lilly gazes up at the striking structures of Columbia’s Manhattanville campus, one of the first things that comes to mind is—hope.

“As the campus continues to grow and the buildings come to life, my hope is that the community will start to embrace what Columbia has to offer,” Lilly—who serves as Senior Program Manager in the Office of Community Partnerships at Columbia Business School and has worked at the university for nearly a decade—told Columbia Neighbors. “The spaces are beautiful and we have to let the community know that they are for everybody, not just today, but every day.”

Behind the glass and beyond the lecture halls are an array of historical, cultural, and artistic spaces that are designed and open for exploration. Whether you’re a gallery-goer looking to immerse yourself in local artistry or you’re simply in search of a Sunday afternoon spot to catch up with friends over chai lattes, here are some of the must-see public spaces on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus, according to Lilly.

History: Sheffield Farms, the Milk Industry, and the Public Good Exhibit at the Nash Building

560 W 133rd Street

A photo from the 'Sheffield Farms, the Milk Industry, and the Public Good' exhibit at the Nash Building.

From the iconic Highbridge Water Tower in Washington Heights to the 139-year-old Corn Exchange building that stands in East Harlem, Upper Manhattan is home to spaces that have shaped New York City’s landscape. Nestled inside the historic Nash Building along Broadway, the Sheffield Farms, the Milk Industry, and the Public Good exhibition explores Manhattanville’s storied past.

The project captures how the area was the epicenter of milk processing and distribution in New York City during the 1920s and served as the backdrop for the 50-year monumental milk reform movement geared to improving public health during the early 20th century.

“There’s so much history within the Nash Building,” said Lilly. “It stands out because it’s an older building in the midst of the new ones rising up. From the architectural elements on the exterior of the building to the legacy of it being an automobile dealership, it commemorates the history of the area.” 

Sheffield Farms, the Milk Industry, and the Public Good is open to the public by appointment only. You can make an appointment by emailing [email protected].

The Arts: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery

615 W 129th Street

If your weekends are reserved for gallery-hopping Uptown, Lilly says the Wallach Art Gallery is a must-visit. The gallery—which is inside the Lenfest Center for the Arts—serves as a cultural hub that celebrates the power of creative expression, locally and globally. It features a collection of thought-provoking, poignant exhibitions that amplify dynamic and diverse perspectives through visual art. 

If we’re talking art, this is the place to go,” Lilly shared. “One of my favorite past exhibitions was Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today. After being at the Wallach it was displayed in Paris in 2019 at the Musée d’Orsay. It was hugely popular. It was based on a 2013 dissertation for Columbia University’s department of art history and archaeology by Denise Murrell, Ph.D., Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar. Right now, the Columbia University School of the Arts' Visual Arts Program’s 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibition is there. The building is definitely a central place where our neighbors can experience the arts on campus.”

The Wallach also offers an array of art-driven activities for youth and discussions where creators dive into their artistic process. 

Local Eats: The Café at David Geffen Hall

645 W 130th Street

Treats from The Café located in the lobby of David Geffen Hall. Photo credit: Columbia University Facilities and Operations

Another hidden gem on Lilly’s list is a quaint and casual café tucked inside the lobby of Columbia Business School’s David Geffen Hall. The cozy eatery dishes up an array of fluffy, freshly baked pastries, gourmet pre-made sandwiches, savory soups, and a selection of caffeinated brews. 

This is a space where you can get a nice snack, sit there and truly enjoy the atmosphere,” she shared. “One of my favorite things to get from the café is their soup.”

Whether you’re in need of an afternoon pick-me-up or you want to grab a quick bite to eat on your way to The Square, the Café at David Geffen Hall should be a stop on your list of spots to check out.

Green Space: The Square

West 130th and 131st Streets

The Square outside of David Geffen Hall. Photo credit: Iwan Baan.

If you’re looking for serene green spaces Uptown, Lilly says visiting The Square is a must. The 40,000-square-foot space is the largest public green space on any of Columbia’s campuses. During the warmer months, it’s a go-to spot to bask in the sun and dive into a book. Aside from the sprawling green circular lawn lined with benches, the outdoor space includes a water sprinkler for the kids to make a splash and cool off during the summer months.

“One thing that stands out is the openness of the space. It’s so huge.” Lilly said. “Our office overlooks The Square so I love seeing people from the community utilizing the space, whether it’s someone running with their dog or little ones out there enjoying the sprinklers.”

Community: The Forum

601 W 125th Street

The Forum at Columbia University. Photo credit: Columbia University

The Forum is a community space that has emerged as the heart and soul of the Manhattanville campus. From live music concerts delivered by local favorites like the Sing Harlem Choir and The Harlem Chamber Players to wellness sessions with the Harlem Wellness Center, the space is rooted in community. 

My favorite space is The Forum because it is open to the community,” said Lilly. “It’s all about community engagement. The space is the gateway into the campus. I see people coming together in groups. I see families going in there on the weekends. It’s a central place for friends to meet before heading to local restaurants. We have neighbors who use it as a co-working space; I love that Columbia offers this to the community."

Join us at Manhattanville Community Day on May 20!

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