The Dolan DNA Learning Center on Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor was the first building dedicated to the educational outreach programs of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), and serves as home-base to DNALC West and the Harlem DNA Lab locations.
The building was an excessed, neo-Georgian style elementary school located about a mile from CSHL's main campus. CSHL entered a lease/option to buy the building from the Cold Spring Harbor School system. Beautiful on the outside, it had been subdivided into a warren of temporary offices and it charmingly retained all of the original features from its construction in 1925 – including pint-sized toilets and a multipurpose auditorium with proscenium stage and two basketball hoops.
In the fall of 1987, we began to renovate the building. Emblematic of our goal to be a "hands-on" science center, a 32-seat lab was the first space renovated, and in the spring of 1988 we conducted the first lab field trips during which students cut and separated viral DNA or inserted an antibiotic resistance gene into bacteria. We installed an exhibit, The Search for Life, borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. The exhibit's intricate system of aluminum trusses and theatrical lights occupied the entire front hall, gym/auditorium, and two of four original classrooms. The official opening/dedication of the DNA Learning Center was on September 18, 1988.
A two-storey addition, completed in spring 2001, more than doubled the size of the DNALC. Currently the DNALC features three laboratory classrooms, a computer laboratory, 104-seat auditorium, nearly 2,000 square feet of exhibition galleries, visitor lunchroom, office space for more than 25 staff members, prep lab, video studio, conference room, and staff lounge.