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Summit Campus

The Summit Campus. Photo credit: Trinity College

Trinity's current campus is called the Summit campus, due to the Long Walk's prominent location on Summit Street in Hartford, overlooking the Connecticut valley. The campus has also been referred to as the Rocky Hill, Rocky Ridge, or Gallows Hill Campus.

History and Geology

The Summit campus sits on a tall ridge of exposed, west-facing trap (basalt) rock. Trinity's trap rock is an igneous rock formed by a gentle lava flow, and can be identified by its gray-green color (due to the iron-magnesian content), dense consistency, and appearance of small bubbles or holes. The lava was released sometime in the late Triassic or early Jurassic period when Pangaea began to pull apart, forming the Atlantic Ocean. The Connecticut River Valley was also pulled apart during this process, and though it did not stretch enough to form an ocean, it did open vents in the earth from which lava was released and cooled to form ridges. Trap ridges formed this way, facing west and angled upward like Trinity's, can be found throughout the state, including the Metacomet Ridge.

Beneath the layer of trap rock, at the base of the cliffs, is shale and sandstone formed by ancient streams and rivers. The wet mud and sand compressed over tens of thousands of years into reddish sedimentary rock. Unlike the trap rock above it, the sedimentary is more vulnerable to weathering and the elements. Sedimentary levels can be identified by their thin, horizontal strata.

The land was, for millions of years more, shaped by glaciation and other forces.

Jackson, Burges, and Kimball

In 1866, Hartford began competing with New Haven to be named the Capital city of Connecticut. As a token of showmanship, Hartford wanted to erect a new, handsome state capitol building, as well as acquire “the most desirable site in the city”–the Trinity campus–to house the new building. Hartford originally offered $374,375 to Trinity for the site, but raised the price to $600,000 during negotiations. On March 21, 1872, the Trinity trustees accepted the offer, and immediately began looking for a new site for the university. At the same time, President Abner Jackson was sent to England to confer with an architect to design the new campus.

Jackson was introduced to yet-unknown architect William Burges, who seemed to be a good fit for the envisioned Anglican, gothic campus. Jackson toured Oxford University and made notes on specific areas he found interesting: Brasenose, Pembroke, All Souls, Jesus, and Keble Colleges, the Bodleian Library, and Sheldonian Theatre. Then, he visited Scotland, where he observed the architecture at Trinity College, Glenalmond, a closed quadrangle with a “long walk” façade.

With Jackson's inspiration and general ideas, Burges designed an elaborate, four-quadrangle plan for the new campus in September 1872, and Jackson returned home. A few short months later, the Trustees purchased the Summit campus for $225,000.

After commencement 1873, Jackson returned to England to meet with Burges and finalize the plans. He brought back to Hartford in September 1873 “the most elaborate plan which had ever been designed for an American College campus.” The architectural style was described in several ways: Victorian Gothic, Early English, French Gothic, and English Secular Gothic. The original plans included four quadrangles, a chapel, library, museum, art building, dining hall, theatre, towers and spires, an astronomical observatory, professors' apartments, student quarters, and was to be “the most imposing edifice in the United States” besides the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Burges Plan, Scheme 3, “Four Quads in Line.” Photo credit: Trinity College Archives

The Trustees were enthusiastic about Burges' plan, and planned to begin construction in April 1874. They enlisted Hartford architect Francis H. Kimball to superintend the construction. Kimball left for London in December 1873 to meet with Burges, and it was decided the ambitious four-quadrangle plan should be reduced to three quadrangles in order to cut costs.

On Sunday, April 19, 1874, however, President Jackson suddenly died, just as plans for the groundbreaking were being made. Jackson had planned to meet Kimball and Burges in England. Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Class of 1841, was elected Trinity's new president, and plans for construction moved forward. On July 1, 1875, following commencement on the old campus, students, faculty, and staff processed to the new campus for a groundbreaking ceremony. Immediately afterward, excavation and construction officially began on the Long Walk buildings.

The Move to the New Campus

Trinity students, alumni, and faculty were not happy when the Trustees decided to sell their idyllic and desirable “College Hill” campus to Hartford to use for its opulent State Capitol Building, particularly when the decision was made to purchase the “Rocky Hill” site, which the students felt was decidedly inferior. They were dismayed that the new site would be far from downtown Hartford and, in their opinion, a neighborhood that was “not of the kind to induce people of wealth and culture to build there.” The South and East ends of Hartford were less affluent than downtown, and home to minorities and immigrants.

However, plans for the campus move were cemented. Between 1875 and 1878, Seabury and Jarvis Halls were constructed and completed. The final commencement ceremony on the old campus took place in July 1878, and demolition began on the old campus buildings immediately following.

The Long Walk Buildings (Seabury, far right; Jarvis, left) before the construction of Northam Towers (center). Photo credit: Trinity College Archives

On Friday, May 17, 1878, the first instruction was given on the New Campus by Dr. H. Carrington Bolton, the newly engaged Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science, who gave a lecture on Chemistry to the Seniors in the new Chemistry Room, and by Bishop Williams, who lectured on History to the Juniors. In June, the class ivies were transplanted in positions along the new structures, and on the 27th of that month, the last Commencement which centered about the Old Campus ended with the President's Reception being held in the Portrait Gallery in New Seabury Hall. 1)

The New Jarvis Hall contained dormitories, and the New Seabury Hall contained classrooms, laboratory, cabinet, faculty offices, commons, chapel, and library and dining facilities (which also served as “Commons” and portrait gallery) in the basement.

Both buildings were ready for occupancy in the fall of 1878, and so the semester opened that year officially on the new campus.

Though its foundation was completed in 1878, Northam Towers, the “gateway” between Seabury and Jarvis Halls, could not be constructed due to lack of funds. In its place, a wooden structure was erected which served as kitchen rooms for stewards and servants. In 1881, however, Colonel Charles H. Northam presented the College with funding to finish the Towers according to Kimball's designs. Northam Towers was completed in 1883.

In the original plans for Trinity's campus, William Burges envisioned four quadrangles of related buildings. President Thomas Pynchon, working with Francis Kimball, adapted this plan to the Summit Campus land with three quadrangles. However, only one side of one quadrangle was ever completed. This “side” was three conjoined buildings that made up the Long Walk. Due to the expense, construction on subsequent buildings according to Kimball's plans did not continue. This greatly dismayed Trinity students, who hoped “to see these Burges plans materialize in stone.” So, too, did alumni feel that the completion of the Burges plan was “necessary to the realization of the College's destiny.” The Board of Trustees and Administration, however, had to see to more pressing and immediate needs of the College.

Despite student and alumni pleas, Alumni Hall Gymnasium (1887), Jarvis Scientific Laboratory (1888), and Boardman Hall of Natural History (1900) were built discordant to the Kimball Plan. The Trinity Tablet seethed that the campus was becoming “a heterogeneous collection of buildings of different architectural style” scattered in incongruous sites. “The College must build not only for the present,” it said, “but for the future as well.” During Boardman Hall's groundbreaking ceremony, the program stated that “the procession will be re-formed and will return to the Great Quadrangle.” 2)

The next major addition to the Long Walk, Williams Memorial (1914), which served as the College Library, was built perpendicular to Seabury Hall, as the Burges plan intended. During its dedication, architect Benjamin Wistar Morris, Class of 1893, spoke of the need to develop the Trinity campus “according to a regular plan.” Though he agreed Burges' vision was too ambitious for an institution of Trinity's size, he urged the creation of a permanent committee on Grounds and Buildings which would develop a general campus plan “broad in its principles and elastic enough to meet the requirements of the future which none can predict” in order to save the College from “irreparable blunders and enduring regrets.” 3)

The Trowbridge Master Plan

Trowbridge Master Plan (1923). Photo credit: Trinity College Archives

During his inaugural address in April 1921, President Remsen B. Ogilby spoke in great detail about Trinity's architecture, which “has the combination of solidity and grace” and “the note of expectancy, through indications of a noble plan no less nobly begun: everything about the college buildings suggested a promise of greater things in store.” Ogilby also stated that he believed the architecture should be the self-expression of “the culmination of the ideals of a church college.”

Continuing along this theme, Ogilby and the Trustees arranged for Samuel B.P. Trowbridge, Class of 1883, of the architectural firm Trowbridge & Livingston, to prepare a master plan for the development of future campus buildings in conjunction with the College's Centennial Fund drive, which raised $1,000,000 by June 1923.

The Trowbridge Master Plan followed the original Burges Plans where possible and included a partially open quadrangle system; his drawing shows a chapel, a clock tower, athletic facilities, and more. Trowbridge died in 1924 before his vision was realized, but Trinity continued to work with Trowbridge & Livingston, along with Howard T. Greenley, Class of 1894, Hon. M.A. 1934.

Numerous buildings were constructed in agreement with Ogilby and Trowbridge's vision. These were:

Originally intended as an addition to Williams Memorial, the construction of the Library building on the main quad (1952) was consistent with Trowbridge's open quadrangle concept, while the addition of Downes Memorial Clock Tower was a part of the original plans, along with the buildings comprising the Mather Quadrangle (Gates Quad).

However, as the College entered the mid-century, it began to regularly rely on the architectural firm O'Connor and Kilham, headed by Robert O'Connor, Class of 1916. The firm designed buildings including the Trinity Library, Mather Hall, Austin Arts Center, North Dormitory, South Dormitories, and McCook Mathematics-Physics Center. In the early 1960s, the Senate prepared a 78-page evaluation of the College, including the physical plant, in which they stated that several of the O'Connor and Kilham buildings “were seen as departures from previous standards” and “would imperil 'the architectural harmony which gives Trinity its traditional character and makes it one of the most distinctive small college campuses.'” 4)

The Pilot Plan

In 1961, “the Trustee Committee on Buildings and Grounds directed the College to form a committee to survey the physical requirements of the College and to make recommendations concerning them to the Committee” to “be used as the basis for a Pilot Plan for the College.” 5)

The Trustees engaged landscape architects Robert Zion and Harold Breen, of New York City, to develop a “Master Plan of Site Development.” The firm's completed “Pilot Plan for Development” was submitted to the College in January 1965. The Plan “intended to bring to newly developed areas of the campus the qualities of dignity and scale which make the original quadrangle one of the outstanding building complexes in the country” and that “all future buildings should be related to present structures by as many means as possible including–but not necessarily limited to–material, color, fenestration, height, mass, etc…QUALITY of design, NOT adherence to an architectural style, should be the prime consideration.” The Plan called for the arrangement of “outdoor rooms” formed by campus buildings, walkways, and trees: “South Campus is an illustration of the Plan's principal method for achieving the effects of dignity and orderliness; arranging buildings so that they form 'minor campuses'” and creating “a pleasant sequence of spaces which are interesting to walk through.” Geoffrey Walton, a former Trinity student writing for the Trinity Tripod, stated that “the College, in its most recent choices of architects seems to have rejected the mediocre for the original. There is little question that the South Campus, Life Sciences and athletic buildings embody the best original designs for this campus since it was bought.” 6)

Along with the “minor campuses,” Zion and Breen recommended that the College “remove the automobile from the interior of the campus for reasons of safety as well as aesthetics,” and that “the College take over Vernon Street as a private road.” Vernon Street would front the College as main entrance, and a road would replace the footpath from the President's House to Alumni Hall. “Certainly, there is no pleasanter way to approach the College than to drive up Vernon Street when the trees have their leaves, especially in the fall,” wrote Walton. “It is interesting to remember that a century ago, the main approach to the College was along this same route; the footpath [installed during the 1930s] covers the former driveway.”

In May 1964, President Albert C. Jacobs announced a campaign for Trinity's 150th anniversary to include the construction of the Jacobs Life Sciences Center, increase the library's holdings by 100,000, increase enrollment by 25 percent, build a new gymnasium to replace the 77-year-old Alumni Hall, and construct new dormitories for the anticipated growth in student population.

In keeping with the forward-looking nature of the 150th Anniversary program, Dr. Jacobs announced that the College will further its aims to inculcate in its students “a curiosity of mind, a responsiveness of spirit, an obligation to society, and a strength of body.” New methods of independent study and honors work will become an integral part of the academic program, and the opportunity to earn the Bachelor's degree in three years, or both the Bachelor's and Master's degrees in four years, will be encouraged. 7)

Under Jacobs, numerous buildings were constructed in agreement with his 150th anniversary vision, though they were often incongruent with the Trowbridge Plan. These were:

The next major building campaign would not come for another 30 years.

A Millennial Master Plan

By the 1990s, it was clear that a new plan needed to be created for development that integrated the needs of a modern college campus and the College's relationship to Hartford.

President Evan Dobelle created a Master Plan Task Force in 1996 consisting of faculty members and administrators for the purposes of creating a new Master Plan. In January 1997, Trinity announced its partnership with Cooper, Robertson & Partners (now Cooper, Robertson Ltd.) of New York as prime consultants; William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc. of Boston as architectural advisors; and Berridge, Lewinberg, Greenberg, Dark, and Gabor (Urban Strategies, Inc.) of Toronto as master planners and urban design experts.

The Campus Master Plan (1997), “Planning the Future,” included Phases I (2002), II (2010) and III (2020) and focused not only on the specific placement of college buildings, but on improving upon and expanding existing facilities as well as envisioning the college's needs and growth. It also placed importance on developing a close and linked relationship with the nearby Hartford community by way of linking the campus to the neighborhood and creating new entrances. In 1998, Trinity College’s Campus Master Plan won a national award for planning for the firm of Cooper Robertson of New York.

The Campus Master Plan (1997), projecting the College as it would appear in 2020. Photo credit: Trinity College Archives
Campus changes over time, from the Campus Master Plan (1997). Photo credit: Trinity College Archives

The First Phase of the Master Plan (to be completed by 2002) was the most extensive and included renovating the library and merging it with the computing center, expanding Austin Arts, constructing a new dormitory on Summit Street, constructing an admissions/administration building on the site of former Alumni Hall northeast of the Chapel, constructing a studio arts facility on New Britain Avenue, and creating entrances to campus via Crescent Street and Vernon Street's eastern end.

Phase II and III intended to renovate Seabury, Jarvis, and Williams Memorial Halls, demolishing Hallden Hall and replacing it with a new academic building, constructing two new dormitories, relocating and reorganizing the playing fields, new road configurations, and landscaping.

A number of the Master Plan's goals, specifically in Phase I, were achieved while others were altered or disregarded, partly due to the change in administration from Dobelle (who left Trinity in 2001) to James F. Jones, Jr. (2004-2014). As a result, the campus as it was projected to appear in 2020 did not come to full fruition.

In 2016, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts Alden Gordon wrote in an op-ed to the Tripod:

Trinity was to have an attractive and visible face to the neighborhood which would encourage small businesses to locate along New Britain Avenue and to be frequented by the Trinity and Hartford Hospital communities…Crescent Street and New Britain Avenue should have become a main point of entry to the campus with safe roads and walkways, good signage, landscaping, on-street parking on a two-way street giving easy access for off-campus visitors coming to Cinestudio, the Library, athletic events and campus cultural events in the Austin Arts Center.

Gordon offered other specific examples of buildings or additions that were constructed in incorrect places or initiatives that were not carried out. For instance, the bookstore and other student services were intended to move out of Mather Hall to the corner of New Britain Avenue and Crescent Street. The addition to Austin Arts Center was constructed to the East, rather than North, where it would have connected to the Library. The Ferris roadway, which runs along the South side of Ferris Athletic Center, was originally to have been constructed at the North end and connect to Crescent Street in front of the Library. Crescent Street and Vernon street were also intended to be main entrances to the College.

In 2017, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney published Summit, the College's Bicentennial Strategic Plan. In it are plans to “renew Trinity’s historic campus and plan a physical environment that fosters community and learning both inside and outside of the classroom,” primarily focusing on “green space planning” and needed facilities maintenance in order to revitalize existing buildings.

Trinity has not created a new Master Plan.


Explore CT Geology

Public Art CT: 1997 Master Plan

"The College that Forgot it Had a Plan," The Trinity Tripod (2016) by Alden Gordon.

Trinity College in the Twentieth Century (2000) by Peter and Anne Knapp, pp. 71-75, 507-508.

Trinity College Campus Master Plan (1997) by Cooper, Robertson Ltd., William Rawn Associates, Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg Dark Gabor Ltd.

Trinity Reporter, February 1997.

The History of Trinity College (1967) by Glenn Weaver, pp. 186, 294-305.

The Trinity Tripod, 11/09/1965.

Trinity College Bulletin: Report of the President 1960-1961, p. 14.

Trinity College Bulletin: The Geology of the Trinity Campus (1937) by Edward Leffingwell Troxell, Professor of Geology.

Trinity College Bulletin, April 1921, Inauguration Number.

Weaver, p. 186
Weaver, p. 278
Weaver, p. 279
Knapp, p. 271
Trinity College Bulletin, Report of the President, 1960-1961
Trinity Tripod, 11/09/1965
Trinity Alumni Magazine, July 1964
summit_campus.txt · Last modified: 2023/10/31 13:56 by bant05