Window of the World

by Benjamin Waldman ’08GS/JTS
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The building outlasted the paper, but not by much. On January 7, 1953, the city approved a plan to expand the Manhattan approaches to the Brooklyn Bridge. Pulitzer’s temple was slated for demolition, along with twenty other buildings that stood in the way of progress. By 1954, the World Building was vacant and in disrepair. The furniture, doors, and chandeliers were removed. A collector offered $3,000 for the window, but the city had already bought the building in a condemnation proceeding. It would be up to the city to decide the window’s fate.

At Columbia, John Hohenberg ’27CC, a journalism professor and the president of the journalism school’s alumni association, was determined to rescue the window. Hohenberg, with Herbert Bayard Swope, the former executive editor of the World, negotiated with the administration of Mayor Robert Wagner. A deal was struck. On March 9, 1954, the window was dismantled and carted away to its new home at a cost of $8,000, paid for, in large part, by journalism-school alumni.

On the morning of April 23, 1954, Mayor Wagner, Joseph Pulitzer (grandson of the World’s founder), journalism-school dean Carl W. Ackerman, Columbia president Grayson Kirk, and other dignitaries gathered in Morningside Heights to rededicate the window in a place where it might feel at home: the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. At the ceremony in room 305, Kirk called the window an “enduring memento of the life and work of Joseph Pulitzer and of the friendly and efficient collaboration between Columbia and the city.”

The window stands sentinel in room 305 today — what is known as the World Room. Displayed in a heavy wooden frame inscribed with a dedication to Swope, the colorful glass panel is backlit and aglow at all hours, and serves as a backdrop for many events, including an annual spring ritual in which writers and composers receive one of the world’s most exalted awards: the Pulitzer Prize.

Read how the J-school is honoring Pulitzer as part of its centennial in article The Writing on the Wall.

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