Front elevation of Cabell Hall (Academical Building)
Front elevation of Cabell Hall (Academical Building), 1898 McKim, Mead & White, architects; signed by A.R. Ross, draftsman Diazotype print and wash on linen, 30 1/4 x 90 1/4 in. University Archives (RG-31/1/2:2.872)
Named after former University Rector Joseph C. Cabell and on axis with the Rotunda, Cabell Hall is the most impressive of White’s three academic buildings and the only building on grounds with sculptures in its pediment. Representatives from a local bordello supposedly modeled for the classical figures set above the frieze inscription “Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free.”
Photograph of Cabell Hall auditorium
Photograph of Cabell Hall auditorium, 1914 Rufus W. Holsinger, photographer The Holsinger Studio Collection (MSS 9862)

Cabell Hall also replaced one of the most important spaces lost in the destruction of the Annex: a large auditorium. The 1,500-seat lecture hall featured a balcony with railings identical to those in White’s Rotunda reading room. White arranged the auditorium so that a seated audience faced north towards the Rotunda. George W. Breck painted a copy of Raphael’s “School of Athens” above the stage so that Plato and Aristotle seem to be walking down the Lawn towards the audience. The Palladian window skylight in the auditorium’s ceiling has since been enclosed to accommodate modern lighting equipment.

Design for Cabell Hall auditorium seat
Design for Cabell Hall auditorium seat, ca. 1896 Stanford White, architect; design by the architect Pencil and crayon on paper, 35 ¾ x 22 ¾ in. University Archives (RG-31/1/2:2.872)
Guastavino vaulting in Cabell Hall<br /><br />
Photograph of the Guastavino vaulting in the basement of Cabell Hall, 1897 Avery Library, Columbia University [only thumbnail size available]
Like the Rotunda and White’s other buildings at the University, the basement of Cabell Hall was constructed using Guastavino vaulting. This new building technology provided fireproofing and was able to span larger spaces with stronger, thinner vaults.
Photograph of the boiler house behind Cabell Hall
Photograph of the boiler house behind Cabell Hall, ca. 1898-1920 University Archives (RG-30/1/3.813)
While White’s north portico for the Rotunda provided a new front door to the University and his quadrangle terminated the Lawn, the three academic buildings also impeded views southward from the Academical Village. As dictated by the Board of Visitors, this blocked the African-American neighborhood of Canada, founded by freed slaves in the early 1800s. The new construction also hid the McKim, Mead & White-designed boiler house that powered the academic buildings and their sophisticated new technology. The boiler house was later demolished to make way for New Cabell Hall.