The distinguished “collegiate Gothic” style stone buildings of the former Hartford Seminary Foundation, this summer became the new home of the University of Connecticut School of Law after an eight-year wait.
The move, from the law school’s old campus at Trout Brook Drive and Asylum Avenue, West Hartford completes a project launched in 1976 when the Seminary’s property and buildings became available.
The actual move of books, office furniture, student tables and chairs, bookcases, files, computers, general equipment and people is being carried out in a three-phase $8,875,00 project.
These funds represent not only the costs of the property and buildings, but the extensive renovations necessary to accommodate the modern law school, as well as to meet the stringent safety and accessibility codes.
A bill authorizing the expenditure of State funds for the acquisition and renovation of the Seminary site for the School of Law was signed into law June 1, 1978 by the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso. At that time, the Starr Report, a publication of the law school, noted that with the proposed acquisition, the school would “inherit facilities steeped in the history and tradition of an outstanding theological institution.” The latter was established in 1834 as the Hartford Theological Institute.
Included as part of the new 20-acre campus are four stone structures designed by Allen and Collens architects of Boston. Charles Collens was the architect of the famed Riverside Church in New York City. The buildings, rich in religious history with their leaded, stained-glass windows and Connecticut Buckingham granite facades, were built by Barlett and Brainard of Hartford from 1922-1926.
A fifth building, however, is reserved for use by the State Attorney General, according to Peter Lane, associate dean of the law school.
Prof. Phillip I. Blumberg, who has just stepped down as dean of the law school, once told the Starr Report that he envisioned the possibility of the new campus becoming a Law Center.
It could house, he said, not only the law school, but headquarters for other law-related State agencies. He believed that the newly renovated facilities would encourage students and faculty to spend more time at the School. It also would give alumni a place with which they will be proud to identify.
The new law campus is located on a Girard Avenue hilltop in Hartford’s residential west end midway between Asylum Avenue and Farmington Avenue near the beautiful Elizabeth Park rose gardens and, except for the surrounding foliage, would afford a panoramic view of downtown Hartford.
The new dean of the law school, Dr. George Schatzki, called the structures “absolutely stunning.” He said the new campus is something “for which the entire State should be very proud.” He said the grounds and buildings “will serve as a home that will produce a much better law school for the state.”
Faculty, students and staff of the law school are moving into the elegant structures, some with slate floors and hand-carved woodwork, to alleviate, for the most part, overcrowding at the law school facilities at the Greater Hartford Campus.
While the law school was moving out of its Greater Hartford campus facilities in completion of Phase One of the project, it was being replaced by various University agencies in a highly coordinated operation. Administrative Services for the regional campus already has moved in to the old law school building. The Hartford Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program; the Institute for Public Service, the University’s Cooperative Extension and a combined UConn-Hartford library are in the process of replacing the law facilities in the vacated building, according to Dr. David Carter, associate vie president for academic affairs.
Probably the most extraordinary aspect of the entire operation was the transfer of equipment, books and other paraphernalia from the old law school library to the imposing “new” one here.
The law library project took eight days to complete, but now faculty and students have access to the spacious facilities in the gracious Avery Hall and Case memorial Library, the focal point of the new campus. The library now boasts over 200,000 volumes plus LEXIS and WESTLAW computerized storage systems of law-related information.
The library project was carried out with the help of the American Library Consultants.
Lane noted that just about every inch of available space in the new school complex will be pressed into service from basement to attic.
The major structures now occupied by the law school at the new site temporarily retain names they held while part of the Seminary. For instance, Hartranft (CQ) Hall, the new administration building, was named for Chester D. Hartranft, a one-time president of the theological institute. The new UConn law dean is housed here and the registrar, placement, business, financial aid and admissions offices and two large classrooms.
Hosmer Hall, named for James B. Hosmer, a Hartford banker and seminary trustee, will house law faculty offices, the communications center, a cafeteria, security offices, student lounges and lockers.
Knight Hall, where the new UConn bookstore, the Law School Foundation, seminar rooms and student organization offices are housed, was named in honor of Dr. Edward H. Knight, dean of the Seminary’s school of education.
The library bears two names, the Case Memorial Library and Avery Hall. It was named for Samuel P. Avery of Hartford, benefactor whose gifts made possible construction of the granite edifice. The library also houses the Law Review and some seminar rooms.
Moving lock, stock and barrel is nothing new for the UConn School of Law. In its 63-year-history, the school has moved eight times, including the latest.
Founded by George W. Lillard in 1921 as a private school with 50 students, the Hartford College of Law operated from various downtown locations until 1940 when it moved to 39 Woodland St. The college, which became UConn’s School of Law in 1943, remained at 39 Woodland Street until 1964 when it moved into new facilities at the Greater Hartford Campus.
From a modest school of 50 students, all of whom had to be associated with the insurance industry and show proof of a high school education, the UConn law school has grown to become one of the nation’s best.
There are now close to 700 students from about 175 different colleges and universities enrolled in the school. There also are more than 4,000 alumni from the school’s day and evening division programs