Named for the famed diplomat and founder of the College, the four-story, T-shaped structure sits at the highest point on campus topographically and is the first building one encounters when walking up West 138th Street from Broadway. It was built with an entrance on Amsterdam Avenue and a second entrance from the quadrangle at the base of an ornamental clock tower. Terra cotta buttresses, rising three and four stories high, line its schist walls.
As originally built, Townsend Harris Hall contained an 800-seat assembly hall in the wing fronting on Amsterdam Avenue, with classrooms in the wings set back from – and parallel to – this thoroughfare. As the home of the pre-collegiate program, which was the precursor to Townsend Harris High School, the building was designed and operated as a self-contained academic unit. Following extensive renovations, the building today houses The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.