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Telluride House

Coordinates: 42°26′45″N 76°29′13″W / 42.44583°N 76.48694°W / 42.44583; -76.48694
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Telluride House
Cornell Branch of the Telluride Association
Named afterTelluride, Colorado
Established1910 (1910)
FounderLucien Lucius Nunn
TypeResidential student society
Cornell University undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty
AffiliationsTelluride Association
Telluride House
The orange brick façade of the Telluride House as seen from West Ave
The Telluride House, as seen from West Avenue
Location217 West Ave
(Cornell University West Campus)
Ithaca, New York
United States
Coordinates42°26′45″N 76°29′13″W / 42.44583°N 76.48694°W / 42.44583; -76.48694
Elevation712 feet (217 m)[1]
Built1910 (1910)
Restored byTelluride Association
ArchitectWilliam H. Lepper
Architectural style(s)Arts and Crafts (American Craftsman)
DesignatedFebruary 22, 2011
Reference no.11000042
Telluride House is located in New York
Telluride House
Location of the Telluride House
Telluride House is located in the United States
Telluride House
Telluride House (the United States)

The Telluride House, formally the Cornell Branch of the Telluride Association (CBTA),[3] and commonly referred to as just "Telluride",[4] is a highly selective residential community of Cornell University students and faculty. Founded in 1910 by American industrialist L. L. Nunn, the house grants room and board scholarships to a number of undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members affiliated with the university's various colleges and programs.[5] A fully residential intellectual society, the Telluride House takes as its pillars democratic self-governance, communal living and intellectual inquiry.[3][6] Students granted the house's scholarship are known as Telluride Scholars.

The Telluride House is considered the first program of the educational non-profit Telluride Association, which was founded a year after the house was built and was first led by the Smithsonian Institution’s fourth Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott.[7] Nunn went on to found Deep Springs College in 1917. The Telluride Association founded and maintained other branches thereafter, two of which—at Cornell University and at the University of Michigan—are still active.[8] The Association also runs free selective programs for high school students, including the Telluride Association Summer Program.

In its more than a century of operation, the house's membership has included some of Cornell's most notable alumni and faculty members. Located in the university's West Campus, the Telluride House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[9][10]


Lucien Lucius Nunn, Telluride House founder.

Lucien Lucius Nunn was an American industrialist and entrepreneur involved in the early electrification of the mining industry. To staff the power plants he built, including ones in Colorado and the Olmsted Station Powerhouse in Provo, Utah, Nunn created an early work study program, which he named 'Telluride Institute' after his city of residence of Telluride, Colorado. In the Institute, Nunn's students were trained in engineering and the liberal arts. Upon completion of their institute program, the student workers were sent to various academic institutions on a scholarship from Nunn to further their education. Many of these students went on to study at Cornell University's engineering programs. On Cornell University's campus in Ithaca, Nunn built the Telluride House as a scholarship residence "for bright young men", many of whom have passed through Nunn's Telluride Institute.[2][7]

The house's initial purpose, as described by Cornell historian Morris Bishop was "to grant [the students] release from all material concern, a background of culture, the responsibility of managing their own household, and the opportunity to live and learn from resident faculty members and eminent visitors [to the university]".[11] The house started electing members from disciplines outside engineering within years of its founding. With a solely male membership for its first half century of existence, the house would start electing female members to its residential scholarship in the 1960s, starting with U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins as a resident faculty fellow in 1960,[12] Laura Wolfowitz (the elder sister of American politician and academic Paul Wolfowitz, himself a house member) as a house member in 1962,[13] and literary theorist and postcolonial scholar Gayatri Spivak as a house member in 1963.[14]


The earliest known photograph of the Telluride House, taken in the year of its founding, 1910. Visible in the background are McGraw Tower, Uris Library and Barnes Hall.

The Telluride House is located on Cornell University's West Campus, directly downhill from Willard Straight Hall, and houses Telluride scholars as well as the Telluride Association's main office. It has been described as an "Arts and Crafts style mansion" outfitted with "expensive Mission style and Stickley furniture", with "high ceilings" and "large windows overlooking sloping lawns".[15] A 1980s project of the Telluride Association renovated the House and furnished it in accordance with its original architectural style.[2]

In 2010, the Telluride House building was recommended by New York's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, the United States government's official list of buildings deemed worthy of preservation.[10] A year later, it was placed on the register.[9]



Students and faculty members of Cornell University are invited to apply to the Telluride House in a yearly process known as 'preferment'.[5] Preferment, like other house matters, is decided on democratically by house members.[16][17] However, faculty members of the house cannot vote.[18] Telluride House members also contribute to the Association's work, through reading and evaluating applications for Telluride programs, such as the Telluride Association Summer Program.[16]

Notable members


Alumni of the Telluride House, both students and faculty members, include many notable academics, politicians and scientists. Among those are two World Bank presidents, two Nobel laureates in Physics, and a number of neoconservative scholars and politicians who co-resided in the Telluride House with House Faculty Fellow Allan Bloom in the 1960s.

Notable residents include theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson,[19] British Jamaican artist and art historian Petrine Archer-Straw, classicist Martin Bernal,[20] physicist Carl M. Bender, philosopher and classicist Allan Bloom,[21] Nobel laureate in Physics Sir William Lawrence Bragg who resided in the house as a visiting professor,[22] former United States Congressman and President of the World Bank Barber Conable,[17] Nigerian academic Michael Echeruo, theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics Richard Feynman,[23] political scientist and political economist Francis Fukuyama,[24] American political theorist William Galston, multiple Tony- winning director and producer and founding artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum Gordon Davidson, British philosopher Paul Grice,[25] UCLA philosopher Barbara Herman,[25] author and diplomat William vanden Heuvel,[26] conservative politician and diplomat Alan Keyes,[21] Ukrainian writer Sana Krasikov,[27] European intellectual historian Dominick LaCapra,[28] former New York City Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy, University of Maryland, College Park president Wallace Loh,[29] NYU philosopher Thomas Nagel,[30] chemist, peace activist and Nobel Chemistry and Peace Prize laureate Linus Pauling,[31] American classical musician Martin Pearlman, United States Secretary of Labor and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet Frances Perkins,[15] historian Kenneth Pomeranz,[32] Cornell philosopher, dean and vice-president George Holland Sabine, gender and queer studies theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick,[33] American anthropologist Clare Selgin Wolfowitz,[34] political scientist Stephen Sestanovich,[21] political scientist Abram Shulsky,[24] political theorist Joseph M. Schwartz,[35] literary theorist and postcolonial and gender studies scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,[14] lawyer, legal scholar and former Dean of Stanford Law School Kathleen Sullivan,[36] Czech economist and politician Jan Švejnar,[37] theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics Steven Weinberg,[4] Former United States Deputy Secretary of Defense, World Bank president, diplomat and academic Paul Wolfowitz,[21] journalist and writer William T. Vollmann,[38] and biophysicist and virologist Robley C. Williams.


House membership in the fall of 1960. Among those pictured are Frances Perkins (the House's first female resident), Abram Shulsky, George Sabine, Carl M. Bender, and Robley Williams.

The Telluride House has been variously described as an organization "so peculiar in purpose and practice",[39] an "unusually rich and intense academic experience",[3] and an "intellectual non-fraternity",[33] where residents gather "over dinner to discuss popular culture, history, civil life, or scientific advances."[15] James Atlas, New York Times Magazine editor, described the House in the early 1970s as a "commune for philosophy students" and dubbed Allan Bloom the House's "resident Socrates".[40] That the house was home to so many neoconservatives in the 1970s has led to it being dubbed "a designated breeding ground for conservative intellectuals in their larval state".[41]

Frances Perkins, the longest serving U.S. Secretary of Labor and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet, was elected to the house in 1960, where she resided until her death in 1965.[12] Her time at the house was dubbed by one of her biographers as "the happiest phase of her life".[15][42] Perkins reportedly described her happiness at her invitation to the house to her friends saying, "I felt like a bride on my wedding night."[18][43] She was heavily involved in the house's self-governance process, attended weekly house meetings, tended the house garden, and befriended fellow house faculty member Allan Bloom.[15][18]

Richard Feynman likewise held a favorable view of the house and of his tenure as Telluride House Faculty Fellow. In an interview he described the House as "a group of boys that have been specially selected because of their scholarship, because of their cleverness or whatever it is, to be given free board and lodging and so on, because of their brains". Feynman lived at Telluride for much of his tenure at Cornell. He enjoyed the house's convenience and said that "it’s there that I did the fundamental work" for which he won the Nobel Prize.[23] In a correspondence with a fellow Telluride associate congratulating him on the Nobel Prize, Feynman said, "It was at Telluride that I did do all that stuff for which I got the prize, so I look back at those days with nostalgia."[44]

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick met her husband Hal Sedgwick at the Telluride House. In her time at Cornell, women had only recently been allowed to join the Telluride House and it still had a predominantly male membership. As a result, the Telluride House was reportedly "a strongly masculine environment", and "proved a rich vein of experience for Sedgwick to mine in her explorations of homosociality",[33] a term she popularized.

Unlike Perkins and Feynman, writer William T. Vollmann had an unfavourable view of house life and his experiences there in the early 1980s. He described house culture as "elitist", "inbred" and "vanguardist", and criticized house members' use of ingroup jargon, such as "III" or "Informal Intellectual Interchange".[38]

See also



  1. ^ "GNIS Feature Detail Report for: Telluride House". Geographic Names Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "History of the Telluride Association". Telluride Association. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Cornell Branch (CBTA)". Telluride Association. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Telluride". The Cornellian. 84. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University: 105. 1952. hdl:2027/coo.31924055195469.
  5. ^ a b "Applying to the Telluride House". Telluride House at Cornell University. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  6. ^ "About". Telluride House at Cornell University.
  7. ^ a b "About the Pinhead Institute". Pinhead Institute. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  8. ^ Litman, Joseph (November 14, 2002). "Change of scenery: A2's alternative housing options uncovered". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Asset Details". National Park Service. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Larrabee, Eileen; Keefe, Dan (22 June 2010). "State Board Recommends 35 Properties and Districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places". Press Releases - NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  11. ^ Bishop, Morris (1962). A History of Cornell. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 410. ISBN 9780801455377.
  12. ^ a b Pasachoff, Naomi (2000). Frances Perkins: Champion of the New Deal. Oxford University Press. p. 144. ISBN 9780190284039.
  13. ^ Dudley, David (August 2004). "Paul's Choice". Cornell Alumni Magazine. 107 (1). Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  14. ^ a b Sanders, Mark (2006). Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: Live Theory. A&C Black. pp. 4–5. ISBN 9780826463180.
  15. ^ a b c d e Downey, Kristin (2010). The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Minimum Wage. Anchor Books. pp. 383–387. ISBN 9781400078561.
  16. ^ a b "Ithaca: 1967 to 1971". Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  17. ^ a b Fleming, James S (2004). Window on Congress: A Congressional Biography of Barber B. Conable, Jr. University of Rochester Press. pp. 34–36. ISBN 9781580461283.
  18. ^ a b c Brooks, David (April 2015). The Road to Character. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780679645030.
  19. ^ Aaronson, Scott (Dec 5, 2017). "Quickies". Shtetl-Optimized. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  20. ^ Cohen, Walter; Bernal, Martin (1993). "An Interview with Martin Bernal". Social Text. 35 (35): 1–24. doi:10.2307/466441. JSTOR 466441.
  21. ^ a b c d Mann, James (2004). Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet. Penguin. ISBN 9781101100158.
  22. ^ "Prof Bragg Here on Way to Cornell". New York Times. February 6, 1934. p. 23. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  23. ^ a b Feynman, Richard; Weiner, Charles (2015-01-27). "Oral Histories: Richard Feynman - Session III". American Institute of Physics. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  24. ^ a b Hirst, Aggie (2013). Leo Strauss and the Invasion of Iraq: Encountering the Abyss. Routledge. p. 59. ISBN 9781135043698.
  25. ^ a b Unknown (1965), English: Photograph of Telluride House membership in 1964-1965. Image from The Cornellian Yearbook, 1965. Digitized on the Hathi Trust and released in the public domain (Hathi Trust: coo.31924078965880)., retrieved 2017-08-13
  26. ^ "Telluride Association and American friends: letters from William vanden Heuvel". The National Archives. Oxford University: Lincoln College Archives. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  27. ^ "Telluride Association Newsletter" (PDF). 103 (1). May 2017: 13. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  28. ^ Robcis, Camille (Spring 2013). "Cornell University History Department Newsletter" (PDF). Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 4, 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  29. ^ "Telluride Association Newsletter" (PDF). 104 (1). May 2018: 1. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  30. ^ "Telluride Association Newsletter" (PDF). 48 (1). August 1961: 1. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  31. ^ Pauling, Linus (1960). The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals: An Introduction to Modern Structural Chemistry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. xii. ISBN 9780801403330.
  32. ^ Merkel-Hess, Kate (2014). "Kenneth Pomeranz Biography". American Historical Association. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  33. ^ a b c Glaser, Linda B. "The College Years of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a Founder of Queer Theory". Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences. Cornell University. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  34. ^ O'Driscoll, Sean (21 April 2007). "Caught with his pants down". The Irish Times. p. C5. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  35. ^ "Joseph M. Schwartz". Temple University. Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  36. ^ "Kathleen M. Sullivan, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP". Practising Law Institute. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  37. ^ Svejnar, Jan. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  38. ^ a b Bell, Madison Smartt (Fall 2000). "William T. Vollmann, The Art of Fiction No. 163". The Paris Review. No. 156. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  39. ^ "People ex rel. Walcott v. Parker et al., City Assessors (Supreme Court, Special Term, Tompkins County)". The New York Supplement. 146: 760. March 1914.
  40. ^ Atlas, James (22 October 1989). "What Is Fukuyama Saying? And to Whom Is He Saying It?". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  41. ^ Meaney, Thomas (5 October 2011). "Getting to Denmark: On Francis Fukuyama". The Nation. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  42. ^ "Discovering Frances Perkins". ILR School. February 24, 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  43. ^ Cohen, Adam Seth (2009). Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America. Penguin. p. 310. ISBN 9781594201967.
  44. ^ Feynman, Richard P. (2008). Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman. Basic Books. p. 191. ISBN 9780786722426.