Columbia University is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, bordering Harlem to the north and east and Upper West Side to the south.
The "Columbia 250" banners indicate the 250th anniversary of the school's founding. Columbia was originally founded in 1754 as King's College, under the English royal charter, assuming its current name and form in the wake of the American independence a few decades later.
The McKim, Meade, and White architectural team designed the current campus in the late 1890s, replacing older campuses further downtown. Although located in the northern remoteness at the time, it soon was connected to the rest of the city via New York's first subway line in 1904 (the Broadway IRT line, currently Line 1, stopping at 110th Street and 116th Street - Columbia University stations).
The campus is centered by this structure, Low Library, named in honor of President Seth Low who masterminded the creation of the unified Columbia campus in Morningside Heights. Low Library is no longer an active library, however; the role was taken over by the much larger Butler Library behind my back in the 1930s, as well as numerous departmental libraries throughout the campus. (Today, Low is an administration building.)
At Columbia, the name "Alma Mater" refers to the statue in front of Low Library, and many legends are associated with it.
Columbia University is one of the eight members of the prestigious Ivy League; the other seven, all in the Northeastern US, are Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, and Pennsylvania. Until 1983, the liberal arts undergraduate division, Columbia College, was one of the last remaining all-male colleges in the US; women had to go to Columbia's next-door neighbor and affiliate Barnard College. (Technically, Harvard still uses such an arrangement, running Radcliffe College as its women's division, although every Harvard graduate, male and female, gets a "Harvard-Radcliffe" diploma, and Radcliffe does not have a separate physical campus, whereas Columbia and Barnard diplomas, although both issued by Columbia, are different, and Barnard maintains a separate campus and culture.)