The Most Famous Classroom In New York City

If you believe Hollywood, every single college lecture hall in New York City looks like the one below:


Rows of individual wooden desks and tiered seating…


…an enormous wood-framed green chalkboard with sliding panels for additional writing space…


…a wood-paneled front desk for the lecturer…


…and even one of those little doors that swings back and forth!


In reality, however, there is just one lecture hall in New York like this, and everyone shoots there: Room 309 in Havemeyer Hall at Columbia University.


There simply isn’t anything comparable in New York City. Peter Parker sat here in all three Spider-man movies. It was also featured in dozens of other movies and TV shows, including Kinsey and Mona Lisa Smile. Note the gold rails at the top, gold seat numbers, and planked floors.


The room, which features a domed ceiling (sadly, those windows no longer have much of a view), was designed by Charles McKim (of McKim, Mead, and White) and built between 1896 and 1898.


Room 309 is located in Havemeyer Hall (pictured above), one of the six original buildings on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, and is primarily used for chemistry. In fact, six individuals who researched in Havemeyer went on to win the Nobel Prize. Of course, you probably know Havemeyer best from one particular film…

GB001 - Columbia

…in which Havemeyer Hall below…

GB004b - Weaver

…was transformed into Weaver Hall, Department of Psychology (and parapsychology, of course!):

GB004a - Weaver

Though I went to Columbia as an undergrad, I only discovered the lecture hall years later while scouting. Of course, this makes sense when you examine the chalkboard left from a previous class, and consider that I was, er, a film studies major…


If you ever visit in person, watch out for radioactive spiders!


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  1. Is that the one where Indiana Jones taught, too?

  2. There’s one in Pupin that’s similar, if not quite so snazzy–has the sliding boards and the wooden amphitheater seats (but not a domed ceiling or the balcony seating). At least, that’s what my hazy confused memories of Physics for Poets tell me.

  3. How did you major in film studies as an undergrad at Columbia? When I was an undergrad there, you couldn’t major in film studies. I did take Sarris’s film class, though, and for a time had a work-study job in the Dean’s office at the School of the Arts (back when Schuyler Chapin was Dean).

  4. Ah, Scout, even though I know you have a personal connection to Columbia, I always feel your Morningside Heights posts are especially for me. (I work at Columbia.)
    This is indeed the Platonic ideal of university lecture halls. Though it wasn’t used as an actual location during the heyday of the studio system, pretty much every lecture hall in classic Hollywood films looked like this as well. It’s iconic!

  5. The problem is that there’s no middle ground when it comes to scouting classrooms/lecture halls. It’s either this, or some anonymous, smallish totally white room (with whiteboards and long white tables). They tend to look like a meeting room in practically any Airport Hilton you can find anywhere in the country.

    With all of the schools in and around the city, you’d think finding a classroom would offer a million options, only to discover there are really only a few “looks”.

  6. i took chem 1403 and bio 2401 (thanks again for crushing my soul, moshowitz) in this classroom. spent more time drooling over the sliding chalkboards than listening to the lectures. the location of the entrances ensures that a late arrival to class will be noisy and noticed by everyone.

  7. Ah, yes. I took Physics for Poets in 309 Havemeyer. (I was an English major–can you tell?)

  8. Wait–film majors didn’t have to fulfill a science/math requirement? That’s the only reason I landed in Physics for Poets (that’s the only reason Physics for Poets *existed*). You graduated in what, 2004? I only graduated the year before that. Huh.

  9. I obviously watched too many films during adolescence …. I was totally disappointed when I went off to college and my classrooms looked much like the ones in high school.

    I pictured all university classrooms would be like this one 🙂

  10. They should check out the new lecture hall at the John Jaqua center in Eugene Oregon. Its the lecture hall of the future.

  11. Was this hall also used in Good Will Hunting?

  12. Scout, could you show an exterior shot where those closed windows on the curved wall go?

  13. fascinating? I know someone already asked, but is it the room from Good Will Hunting?

  14. I took Chemistry in that class and realized being pre-med was not in my future.

    So now I work in television.

    Damn you Havemeyer!

  15. Harvard still has classrooms like this, and MIT as well, so I’d imagine they filmed Good Will Hunting closer to home.

  16. Two corrections: The railings and seat numbers are brass (not gold). The equivalent rooms in Pupin had the same desks and blackboards, however they are not stadium (in the round) seating. They are straight tiered rows of seats (like behind first or third base at a baseball stadium).

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