From the Cornerstone: Conservation of the Law School's History

From the Cornerstone: Conservation of the Law School's History
Sarah Galer
University of Chicago News Office
November 6, 2009

In March 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt helped celebrate the laying of the cornerstone at Stuart Hall, the Law School’s first long–term home. This fall, for only the second time since that momentous day 106 years ago, the Law School cornerstone was opened and its historical content revealed.

“We are in the relay–race business, in which we inherit not just buildings, but ideas, methods of instruction, and reputations,” said Saul Levmore, Dean of the Law School. “The cornerstone is a physical representation of that process, as we inspect items put there by our predecessors, and leave not instructions but mood pieces for our descendants.”

It has become a ritual for the Law School to open its cornerstone every half century to rediscover treasured items and add new ones. In 1958, as the Law School’s current building was being constructed, the old Stuart cornerstone was opened and a new one was laid south of the Midway.

This time, an exciting array of letters were found from the likes of Edward Teller, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and four other Supreme Court justices, the managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, the publisher of The New York Times, and other luminaries of 1958. At the request of then–Law School Dean Edward Levi, each had written to tell people 50 years hence what we should know about 1958. Several of the letters and a selection of other artifacts are now on display at the Law School. (See slideshow of contents.)

The Law School is in the process of gathering items that current law students would likely carry in their backpacks, to add to the cornerstone and to be opened again in 2059.

“Professors speak to one another across the ages with their written work; students are, we think, better understood through pictures and physical objects, and it is these we will now set in the cornerstone for the future,” explained Levmore.

iPhone, anyone?

Saul Levmore