Morningside Heights was one of the last neighborhoods in New York to be developed in the late 19th century.
Farms still predominated the landscape when the newly-chartered Teachers College purchased the block on West 120th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Columbia University, Barnard College, Union Theological Seminary, Bank Street College of Education, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Manhattan School of Music would all follow lending a unique academic character to the Heights.
Two red brick buildings trimmed in sandstone were erected. The Main building housed offices, lectures halls, recitation rooms, the library and a museum. The adjoining Macy Manual Arts Building was devoted to art education and instruction in the manual arts. The Bryson Library was located in a 40 x 60 foot room that spanned the third floor of the Main building.
Fanny Given Ford described the new quarters in a July 1895 article for The Library Journal
The room is plain in architecture, as the object has not been to make it imposing, but simply artistic and comfortable. Tables and chairs are here and there, palms and ivies rest the eyes; while the large, old-fashioned fire place, with andirons and logs of wood, suggests all the comforts of the ingleside, and in the recessed windows, with their cushioned seats, a very haven of rest is found....
The library welcomed teachers from the city schools as well as the college students, the high school pupils, and the student-teachers. The collection had grown from the original 1,000 to 6,000 volumes, including books and periodicals in in English, French and German. All of the books were cataloged by author and subject using the card method and arranged on open shelves by subject according to the Dewey classification scheme. In addition to books, the collection included a fully-cataloged photograph collection covering art, geography and history.