The Long Walk
Comprised of Seabury and Jarvis Halls (1878) and Northam Towers (1883), the oldest buildings on the Summit Campus, the Long Walk is considered the finest example of High Victorian Collegiate Gothic architecture in America.
In 1872, Trinity Trustees agreed to sell the desirable old campus property to the City of Hartford for its new Capitol building. The Trustees had yet to find a new location, but President Abner Jackson wanted to be prepared with a plan. That summer, Jackson traveled to England seeking an architect to design buildings for Trinity's new campus that would be distinctively collegiate and in keeping with his vision for Trinity.
Soon after arriving in London, Jackson visited many educational and ecclesiastical centers including Eton College, Oxford, Stratford-on-Avon, the monastery of the Cowley Fathers, the Parliament House at Westminster, and the British Museum. Jackson met an architectural historian named John Henry Parker in Oxford, who recommended two architects for the mission, one of whom was William Burges (1827-1881). While today Burges is considered one of England’s most distinguished architects and a practitioner of the High Victorian Gothic style, he was relatively little-known at the time Jackson introduced himself. Following his first meeting with Burges, Jackson offered him the opportunity to design Trinity’s new buildings. The College thus became the only commission Burges undertook in the United States.
Jackson and Burges toured Oxford together “to examine the Colleges” and Jackson took notes on Brasenose (Jackson spelled it “Braez Noze”), Pembroke, All Souls, Jesus and Keble Colleges, the Bodleian Library, and the Sheldonian Theatre. He then set off for Scotland while Burges began drawing initial plans for a college to include residence quarters, a dining hall, chapel, library, and theatre. Jackson was especially inspired by Trinity College, Glenalmond, a Scottish Episcopal secondary school for boys. This Trinity College had a closed quadrangle campus with a “Long Walk” façade of Victorian gothic buildings. As was customary in Anglican institutions, Trinity was designed as a series of quadrangles inspired by varied other institutions Jackson had noted.
Jackson returned to Hartford in September 1872 with Burges’ initial sketches, and, working with a Trustee committee, examined several possibilities for a new campus. In February 1873, Jackson prepared a report on the committee’s behalf recommending the purchase of a tract of land at Rocky Ridge, south of Hartford’s commercial center. The Trustees accepted the proposal for what would later be known as the Summit Campus. In the summer, Jackson again conferred with Burges in London. In October, the Trustees engaged Francis Hatch Kimball (1845-1919), an American architect based in Hartford, to supervise construction. They also authorized him to work with Burges in London and become conversant with the design for Trinity.
President Jackson died suddenly in April 1874, but the project moved forward. Kimball returned in October with the completed drawings and began working with Trinity’s new president, the Rev. Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Class of 1841, to adapt Burges’ plans to the Rocky Ridge site. Kimball recommended reducing four quadrangles to three, and with advice from the landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), Kimball and Pynchon decided to situate the Long Walk on the ridge line. The Trustees were enthusiastic about this plan, but agreed that the entire campus should not begin construction all at once. The Long Walk was part of the “first stage” of construction which included the Library, Dining Hall, a block of lecture rooms, and dormitories.
Groundbreaking for the Long Walk took place on Commencement Day, July 1, 1875. After the ceremony, which took place on the old campus, there was a procession to the Summit Campus where, near where Jarvis Hall stands today, “Bishop Williams read the Lord's Prayer and a collect and then the President, the Chancellor, and Professor Jim turned the first sod.” After a flag-raising and more hymns and celebration, the procession returned to the old campus for a reception. Excavation and construction on the first two buildings began in earnest.
During the winter of 1877-1878, the final touches were put on the new buildings. The northern building, which the Trustees named Jarvis Hall, turned out to be a dormitory of even greater comfort and splendor than anyone had ever imagined. Seabury Hall, the southern building, contained classrooms, laboratory, cabinet, faculty offices, commons, and chapel. And these quarters were splendidly executed…Located on the second floor of Seabury, [the chapel's] exposed beams and trefoil windows with colored glass added a “churchly” touch that had been lacking in the old Chapel. And the chapel pews, arranged in choir (or collegiate) form were as Anglican as anything that Abner Jackson had seen at Oxford or Cambridge. The Commons, which the Trustees had reluctantly provided, was located in the basement of the north-end of Seabury. The Commons was also designated as the “Picture Gallery” where were hung the portraits of the college presidents, and as the Picture Gallery the room was usually known.1)
The final commencement on the old campus took place in July 1878, and in the fall of 1878, the semester opened for the first time on the new campus.
Although the foundation for the tower linking Seabury and Jarvis was built, it was not until 1881 that work began on Northam, named in memory of its donor, Charles Harvey Northam, Hartford businessman, philanthropist, and Trinity trustee. Completed in 1883, Northam has been known from that time as Northam Towers, a reflection of the four square turrets that help form its roofline.
Prior to its construction, “between Jarvis and Seabury, where the tower gateway was to be placed, was a wooden structure to contain the kitchen and rooms for the steward and servants.”
August 2008 marked the completion of a 14-month project to restore Trinity’s famed Long Walk buildings. The project included stabilizing and reinforcing some 88 stone dormers, restoring or replacing 1,200 windows, installing an entirely new roof consisting of some 123,000 slate roof tiles, and carrying out a full-scale renovation of interior spaces.
Today, the Long Walk still stands and other structures have been added over the years to continue Burges, Kimball, and Abner Jackson's vision for Trinity. Williams Memorial, Downes Clock Tower, and Trinity College Chapel were built on the North side of the Long Walk, and Cook Hall along with Goodwin-Woodward Hall and Clement Chemistry Building were built to the South, completing three sides of the “Long Walk Quad.”
They Should Stand for Ages (2008) by Peter Knapp.
Trinity College in the Twentieth Century (2000) by Peter and Anne Knapp, pp. 506-507.
The History of Trinity College (1967) by Glenn Weaver, pp. 178-185.