What's Happening at the Iconic Low Library Steps? 6 Photos Tell the Restoration Story

This summer, significant restoration projects are happening on the Morningside campus. Here are six photos to give you the inside scoop.

Kelly Moffitt-Hawasly and Jennifer Pellerito
July 11, 2022

If you've been on campus after Commencement, you've definitely noticed the hubbub around Low Library this summer. What's happening to this spot at the center of all things on the Morningside Heights campus?

This summer, Columbia Facilities and Operations is restoring a portion of the more than 100-year-old granite steps and pathways leading up to Low Library. This project will keep the area behind Alma Mater looking as elegant as ever, while also addressing some waterproofing and structural conditions underneath the steps themselves. Construction is taking place from May 23 to late August 2022, from 7:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cracks, uneven settling gaps between steps, and water damage to the rooms below the steps — be gone! All granite steps have been removed, cataloged, and cleaned or replaced, and the Facilities team is in the process of repairing the underlying structure, repairing steel below the steps, installing waterproofing, and adding new bronze handrails. Notably, right now, the brick pathway nearest to the front of Low is being reconstructed as a more level and water-draining surface, which has rerouted traffic in front of the building as a whole. 

You can keep up-to-date with the work that Facilities and Operations is doing here, but scroll through the photos below to get a closer look at what is happening. 

Construction workers strip Low Library steps and walkway.

Low Steps and the pathway in front of the building were stripped to restore, flatten, and install waterproofing and drainage. 

A small red crane replaces granite blocks behind the Alma Mater statue.

The granite steps were removed for cataloging before being cleaned and restored for reinstallation.

Construction workers strip Low Steps down to bricks as they prepare to replace new steps.

New waterproofing will protect the basement underneath Low Steps. The structural steel is also being repaired.

Workers pave the undergirding for Low Library steps with tar and sheeting.

Another layer of waterproofing is being added before the replacement of Low Steps. 

Granite steps are laid out on the lawn in front of Lewisohn Hall for placement

The lawn in front of Lewisohn Hall is being used as a project staging area for equipment and temporary storage of granite steps as they are cataloged and repaired. 

You can view all construction updates for the project here. We can't wait to see the finished Low Beach project this August, just in time for the start of fall semester!