In September of 1968, with its new building not yet ready for occupancy, a new college of Fordham University, called "The Liberal Arts College" at Fordham's new Lincoln Center campus, began classes in the Fordham Law School building. This is the beginning of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, but it was far from Fordham's first college in Manhattan.
In 1841, John Hughes, the Catholic bishop of New York, opened a college at Rose Hill in the village of Fordham in what was then part of Westchester County (later, The Bronx), N.Y. By 1846 Hughes had convinced a group of Jesuits working in Kentucky to move to New York and staff his new school. But part of the agreement between Hughes and the Jesuits was that they could also open a school in the city proper, and they lost little time in doing so. In September of 1847 the first school of Fordham in Manhattan opened its doors on the lower east side of the city, on Elizabeth and Walker Streets, across the street from the border of the notorious "Five Points" neighborhood. A devastating fire five months later forced the new school to move to the basement of St. James Catholic Church to finish its first year of operation. From 1848 to 1850 the school operated out of rented space on Third Avenue in the East Village, until its first permanent home was constructed on West 15th Street, just off of Sixth Avenue. In 1861 this school, now called the College of St. Francis Xavier, was granted its own charter and became an independent institution, although many ties remained between the Jesuits of Fordham and those of Xavier.
In 1912 the decision was made to close the College of St. Francis Xavier--leaving the Jesuit Xavier High School intact--and Fordham, now a University, began opening schools in Manhattan once again, at the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan, the tallest building in the world at the time. Due to the ornate lobby of this skyscraper, the students soon began referring to it as the "marble campus" of Fordham in contrast to the rural nature of the Rose Hill campus. Various colleges flourished at the Woolworth Building over the years, including Fordham College–Manhattan Division, the College of Business Administration, and the Undergraduate School of Education. In the midst of World War II, Fordham moved its schools to a new location a few blocks north of City Hall at 302 Broadway. In the years following World War II, Fordham in Manhattan flourished, and the University was soon looking for a larger space to house its Manhattan schools.
Fordham's great opportunity came in the mid-1950s. Fordham was invited to be part of the Lincoln Square Renewal Project which sought to replace substandard housing on the city's west side with a new performing arts complex that would become known as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Fordham was the first of the city's institutions involved in the project to fully sign on to the project, purchasing most of the property from West 60th Street to West 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. Part of the opening sequence of the movie West Side Story (the story was set in our neighborhood) was filmed on Fordham's property before construction began, and in 1961 Fordham's Law School was the first building to open in the Lincoln Square Renewal Project. Later the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, and the Juilliard School would join Fordham in the neighborhood. As work on Fordham's Leon Lowenstein Building progressed, the University decided to phase out the various undergraduate colleges it conducted at 302 Broadway and replace them with a new school, "The Liberal Arts College." In January of 1969, its second semester of operation, the new college moved into its permanent home in the Lowenstein Building at the Lincoln Center campus.
Since its opening in 1968, the school's name has changed from "The Liberal Arts College" to "The College at Lincoln Center" and, in 1996, to "Fordham College at Lincoln Center." In 1993 a twenty-story 850-bed residence hall was added to the campus, along with other campus improvements. Over the last forty-five years the college has had a remarkable record of achievement, including alumni who have gone on to outstanding careers as stars of stage and screen, as writers and producers, as financial and business leaders, as practitioners of law and medicine and as political and civic leaders. In 2014 a new 22-story building will open that will add space for an additional 435 undergraduate residents and make possible the expansion of academic and student life facilities. And the story of Fordham College at Lincoln Center has only just begun.