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In 1853, the site was acquired for the state's first agricultural college.
The college - on 440 acres of farmland in the town of Ovid, "the geographical centre and Eden of the Empire State" - opened in December 1860, but it didn't last long. Within months, its president and most of the teachers and students marched off to fight in the Civil War, and the college never reopened. It was superseded by the new state university, established in Ithaca on land donated by state Senator Ezra Cornell.