Campus Architecture & History

           Curiosity killed the cat. But satisfaction brought him back.

Not surprising, a series of events held on campus including the Annual Alumni Day has drawn an abundance of questions from former Law School deans and faculty, the alumni, and clusters of the inquisitive. The campus’ architecture and history are a mystery to some. With that in mind, THE STARR REPORT offers the following brief description of the new campus of the UConn Law School.

            In 1912, the Hartford Theological Seminary purchased 31 acres of the James J. Goodwin estate for $85,000. This land, to be used for the new Seminary campus, was located midway between Farmington and Asylum Avenues and had a frontage of 1320 feet on Girard Avenue. The property sloped in an eastwardly direction from Girard Avenue to the Park River affording a splendid view of the entire city of Hartford.

            Construction of the new campus did not begin until 1922. The 10-year delay between purchase and construction was due to rising building costs, the need to sell the old Seminary residence on Broad Street, and World War I. During these ten years, the architectural firm of Allen and Collens of Boston and the construction firm of Bartlett and Brainard of Hartford were engaged. All the buildings on the campus were to be “Collegiate Gothic” in style. They would be configured in a quadrangle grouping to mirror the layout design of England’s large universities. The buildings would be oriented toward the north [Elizabeth Street].

            Ground-breaking for construction of the first building of the new campus was held June 14, 1922. MacKenzie Hall, the women’s dormitory, was constructed on the southeast corner of the Girard Avenue property with the intent that later the men’s dormitory, Hosmer Hall, would be built on the northwest corner. All of the buildings on campus were built with Connecticut Buckingham granite. Completed in 1924 at a cost of $218,000, MacKenzie Hall accommodated 60 women in single and double suites. This dormitory was financed largely through donations from Hartford citizens. It was named for William Douglas MacKenzie, President of the Seminary during the entire building and moving project. Once renovated, MacKenzie Hall will house the Connecticut Attorney General’s offices.

            Knight Hall was the second building to be constructed. Completed in 1924, Knight Hall was used by the Seminary’s School of Religious Education for classrooms and offices. The building was named for Edward H. Knight, who had been Dean of the School of Education for 23 years and had donated $75,000 towards the erection of the building. The full cost of Knight Hall was $105,000. Knight Hall now houses classrooms, seminar rooms, the bookstore, student organization offices, a duplicating center and student lounges.

            The architectural center of the Seminary campus, now the Law School, is the Library housed in Avery Hall. Avery Hall was completed in 1926 at a total cost of $238,000. Originally, the main driveway from Elizabeth Street passed through the Library tower which rises 120 feet from the ground. Inside, along the main corridor, are a series of statuary pieces. These represent the stages of bookmaking spanning thousands of years from the days of carved stone tablets to the current century represented by the likeness of Samuel P. Avery, bearing on his shoulder the form of the Library building. The building was named in honor of Avery who monetary gifts made its construction possible. Formerly it housed the Case Memorial Library of the Seminary. The ceiling in the main reading room is finished with a plaster mould in a Queen Anne design. This mould was made by hand and shipped in sections from Boston in 1926. It took all summer to move the Seminary’s library of 150,000 volumes from Broad Street to the new campus in 1926. In the summer of 1984 the UConn School of Law Library completed its move in eight days including 170,000 volumes, 50,000 microfilm volume equivalents, and furniture. In 1955, the Gillett building was added to the right side of the arch to house the Kennedy School of Missions. The addition derives its name from Arthur Lincoln Gillett, a professor at the Seminary for 40 years. The Gillett addition also was designed and built by the same architectural firms as the other Seminary buildings. Stone from the same Connecticut quarry was used. Gillett now houses library rooms, the Law Review office, and maintenance.

            Hosmer Hall was completed in 1926. The large L-shaped building with its five separate entrances was the men’s dormitory. Named to honor James B. Hosmer of Hartford it cost $275,000 to construct. Hosmer, the President of Society for Savings for 28 years and a trustee of the Seminary for 37 years, had donated the original Broad Street residence to the Seminary. Hosmer Hall now houses faculty offices, the Legal Clinic, the Janet M. Blumberg Hall, the Communications Center, the cafeteria, and security offices.

            Hartranft Hall was also completed in 1926 at a cost of $109,000 and served as the Seminary’s Administration building. It was named for Chester D. Hartranft, a longtime President of the Seminary who was credited with making many changes at the school, including expansions of curriculum and the admission of women. Hartranft houses the Law School’s administrative offices and classrooms.

            In 1976, the Seminary Foundation offered for sale 20 acres of the campus and its five buildings. A bill authorizing the expenditure of state funds for the acquisition and renovation of the Seminary site for the UConn School of Law was signed into law Jun 1, 1978 by the late Governor Ella T. Grasso. Extensive construction and renovation work were necessary to accommodate the Law School, as well as to meet stringent safety and accessibility codes.

            In its 63-year history, the Law School has moved eight times, including its recent relocation. Founded by George W. Lillard in 1921 as the Hartford College of Law, the private school with 44 students operated from various downtown Hartford locations until 1940, when it was moved to 39 Woodland Street. The college, which became The University of Connecticut School of Law in 1943, remained at Woodland Street until 1964 when it moved to the Greater Hartford Campus on Asylum Avenue and Trout Brook Drive in West Hartford.

            Until 1956, the faculty remained at five members including the Dean. At that time, additional faculty and staff were hires. The school now has a total teaching staff of more than seventy, including thirty-eight full-time faculty members. From a modest school of 44 students --- all of whom had to be associated with the insurance industry and show proof of high school education --- the enrollment has grown to over 650 students in the day and evening division programs. Today, there are more than 4,000 alumni from the school.