From the Archives: Russell Sage Laboratory Marks 110 Years

Collection of old photographs

In 1907, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage gave Rensselaer $1 million as a memorial to her husband, Russell Sage, a New York financier, who, for 10 years prior to his death, was a trustee of the Institute. Of this amount, $300,000 was contributed toward erecting and equipping a laboratory for the use of newly established courses in mechanical and electrical engineering. The balance was laid aside as an endowment for the two new departments. The Sage gift more than doubled the value of the Institute. (With a total enrollment of 485 students, Rensselaer’s annual budget in 1906 was $100,000.) The first bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering were awarded in June 1911 (three mechanical engineers and nine electrical engineers). 

The Russell Sage Laboratory, built and equipped at a final cost of $405,000, was designed by Lawlor & Haase and constructed of Harvard brick with limestone trimmings. There were three principal sections of the building: the west wing devoted to Mechanical Engineering, the east wing for Electrical Engineering, and the central section used by both departments. The central portion contained a lecture room seating 400 persons, a large drawing room, and a laboratory with machines for materials testing. The building was opened for use in 1909. 

Department of Mechanical Engineering facilities in the upper stories of the building’s west wing included classrooms, drafting rooms, and faculty offices. The sub-basement floor contained three laboratories: a steam laboratory, hydraulic laboratory, and internal combustion engine and refrigeration laboratory. 

Growing student enrollment necessitated an addition to the Sage Laboratory that was built to the north and east of the existing building. The four-story addition was finished in 1923 at a cost of $235,000. 

Russell Sage Laboratory was completely renovated in 1985 and today houses the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.