Yesteryear Archives: Who Is That Building Named For?

Since the mid-1990s, with UConn 2000 and 21st Century UConn, attention has turned to the infrastructure of the University.

There were also campus construction booms in the 1920s and the 1950s and 1960s, and many of those buildings bear the names of prominent people in the University's history.

Gulley Hall has been the administration building since the 1960s, after Homer Babbidge (president from 1962-1972) moved into what is now the president's office on the second floor. But the building originally was, as you can read in stone on the north side, Horticulture Hall. It was built in 1908 at a cost of $55,000. In its basement was a room to demonstrate and operate spray apparatus for plant cultivation and rooms to store spray materials and prepare vegetables for market. There were also cold rooms to store fruits and vegetables.

The first floor had a classroom that could accommodate 50 students, a laboratory and offices. The second floor had a lab for drawing and microscope work, a large room for the Museum of Natural History, and additional rooms for botanical work. There also once were greenhouses adjacent to the building.

The building is named for Albert Gurdon Gulley (1848-1917), a professor of horticulture at Connecticut Agricultural College from 1894 until his death. A 1917 editorial in the Connecticut Campus said he was "one of the most beloved faculty members." He was the campus landscape gardener as well as a professor, and was responsible for most of the ornamental plantings in the early days of the college.

It's still known as Hall Dorm, but it hasn't been a dormitory for nearly 40 years. Built in 1940, it was named for William Henry Hall (1867-1922), a state senator from West Willington who served nine terms in the state House and three terms in the state Senate. Several times, Hall was influential in getting funds appropriated by the General Assembly for Connecticut Agricultural College "to build much needed facilities such as a women's dormitory (Holcomb Hall) and other buildings," wrote Evan Hill in 1980.

During the 1911 legislative session, "the principal item requested was for a new dormitory for men. It seemed for a time as if the dormitory would be lost, but William Henry Hall stepped into the breach at the last minute and succeeded in getting it reinstated," wrote Walter Stemmons in his history of the college. That dorm became Koons Hall.

Hall also served briefly as a trustee of the college. Appointed in 1920, he served until his death two years later.

Some other buildings and who they are named for.

Atwater Laboratory, built in 1930 and added to in 1958, is named for Wilbur Olin Atwater (1844-1907), director of the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station from 1877 to 1902. He was influential in the creation of the first state agricultural station in the United States (in Middletown, where Atwater once taught at Wesleyan University) and in passage of the Hatch Act of 1877, which established an experiment station in each state.

Manchester Hall, built in 1940, is named for Harry Grant Manchester (1868-1957), an alumni trustee (1907-1942) and graduate of Storrs Agricultural School in 1891. He worked with four presidents while on the Board of Trustees and also served as chair. A year after graduation, he became president of the Alumni Association.

Wood Hall, also built in 1940, was first a dormitory, then converted to offices for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 1960s. It is named for Walter Childs Wood (1864-1953), an M.D. and representative in the General Assembly from 1923 to 1931. He was also a trustee from 1922 to 1942. A dairy farmer, Wood also helped organize the Connecticut Farm Bureau.

The eleven dormitories of North Campus were built in 1950 to accommodate the surge of students that came in the post-World War II years.

The nickname "The Jungle" came about "because they were over-crowded and noisy, originally housing male veterans going to school on the G.I. Bill," wrote Evan Hill in his unpublished history of the University.

Eight of the dorms in North Campus are named for the counties of Connecticut: Fairfield, New Haven, Litchfield, Middlesex, New London, Hartford, Tolland, and Windham. The other three are named for former Connecticut governors.

* Baldwin Hall is named for Raymond E. Baldwin, a Republican governor from 1939 to 1941 and 1943 to 1946. He was a U.S. senator from 1946 to 1949 and chief justice of the state Supreme Court from 1959 to 1963. It was Baldwin who, as governor, signed legislation in 1939 changing the name of Connecticut State College to the University of Connecticut.

* McConaughy Hall is named for James L. McConaughy, a Republican governor from 1947 until his death in 1948. He was president of Wesleyan University from 1925 to 1943 and lieutenant governor under Raymond Baldwin in 1939-1940.

* Hurley Hall is named for Robert A. Hurley, a Democratic governor from 1941 to 1943. As commissioner of the state Department of Public Works from 1937 to 1940, Hurley oversaw $5 million worth of construction on the Storrs campus, including the Wilbur Cross Building, the Design and Resource Management Building, and Manchester, Whitney, Sprague and Wood Halls.

The Northwest Quadrangle, known as The Frats, also was built in 1950. These units, which at one time housed 23 fraternities, are named for 19th-century Connecticut businessmen.

* Batterson Hall is named for James G. Batterson (1823-1901), founder of The Travelers Insurance Company and a leading contractor in granite and stone works. One of his projects was the State Capitol in Hartford.

* Goodyear Hall is named for Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) of New Haven, inventor of a system of vulcanizing rubber.

* Hanks Hall is named for Benjamin and Rodney Hanks, inventors who lived on Hanks Hill in Mansfield. Benjamin (1755-1824) cast cannon for the Revolutionary war and patented a tower clock powered by wind. Rodney (1782-1846) invented machines for spinning silk with water power.

He built the nation's first silk mill in Mansfield, a structure now in the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

* Rogers Hall is named for three brothers who were pioneers in the silver industry. Simeon, Asa, and William Rogers were the first to use electroplating in the commercial production of silver-plated flatware.

* Russell Hall is named for Samuel Russell (1789-1862), a Middletown businessman who was involved in early trade with China.

* Terry Hall is named for Eli Terry (1772-1852), operator of a clock factory in Terryville, Connecticut. Terry, who started in business with Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley beginning in 1807, soon established his own company and patented about 10 improvements on clocks.

* Wright Hall is named for Benjamin Wright (1770-1842), a Wethersfield native who was designated the "father of American civil engineering" by the Society of American Civil Engineering. He was chief engineer in the construction of the Erie Canal, St. Lawrence Ship Canal, and the New York and Erie Railroads.

Over at Hilltop are the last new dormitories to be built before construction began last year on the new South Campus. Opened in 1971, the two dormitories and dining facility are named for three Connecticut men from the Revolutionary and Federal period.

* Ellsworth Hall is named after Oliver Ellsworth of Windsor, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He played a major role in bringing about the Connecticut Compromise, which provided for a bicameral Congress. He was a U.S. senator from 1789-96 and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1796-1800.

* Hale Hall is named for Nathan Hale (1755-76), an American patriot caught by the British and hanged as a spy. Born in Coventry, he graduated from Yale in 1773.

* Putnam Refectory is named for Israel Putnam (1717-1790), a captain in the French and Indian War and major general under George Washington during the Revolution. It is Putnam who is supposed to have said at Bunker Hill "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."

"Hang down your head, Tom Dooley."

That line is from the refrain of one of the most popular songs of the folk music era of the 1950s and early 1960s. What does it have to do with UConn.

The song was a hit for the folk group Kingston Trio, and Kingston House, one of the dormitories in the Towers Complex, is named for the group.

Or, rather, for a group of UConn students who called themselves the Kingston Club, after their music idols.

According to the unpublished history of the University written by Evan Hill, emeritus professor of journalism, the Kingston Club was a group of "about a dozen sophomore men at the Hartford campus in 1961."

When they transferred to Storrs, "they requested permission to live together and named their house the Kingston House - despite university administrators' desire to name all houses after famous Connecticut persons."

Hill adds that everyone in the newly-named Kingston House was placed on social probation for one semester because, during the first week the house was open, "a forbidden champagne party (was) discovered by officials when they saw dozens of champagne bottles in the house's trash barrels the following morning."

Most of the other dormitories in Towers, all of which opened in 1961, are named for Connecticut notables.

Allen House is named for Willard H. Allen (1894-1957), a 1916 graduate of Connecticut Agricultural College. He was an honor student and a member of the track and football teams, as well as the first student to major in animal husbandry.

A one-time president of the Alumni Association, he also was the recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award.

Colt House is named after Samuel Colt (1814-1862), the Hartford-born inventor who manufactured the first practical revolving firearm.

Fenwick House is named for Lady Alice Boteler Fenwick, wife of Col. George Fenwick, governor of the Saybrook settlement at the mouth of the Connecticut River from 1639 to 1644.

Lady Fenwick was the first noblewoman to settle in Connecticut. Saybrook was planned as a baronial center for aristocratic sympathizers of Oliver Cromwell.

Hamilton House is named for Dr. Alice Hamilton (1869 to 1970), a Haddam physician who is considered the founder of the profession of occupational medicine.

Her work recognized the occupational hazards of certain jobs, such as black lung disease among coal miners, and helped set safety standards for industry.

Keller House is named for Helen Keller (1880-1968), whose story as a blind and deaf child is well known through William Inge's play The Miracle Worker.

An internationally known and admired writer and lecturer, Keller was a resident of Westport, Conn., at the time of her death in 1968.

When the dormitory was named for her in 1961, it was a break in the tradition of naming buildings posthumously.

Morgan House is named for the Hartford-born multi-millionaire, financier J. Pierpont Morgan.

Morgan in 1907 averted a widespread U.S. financial collapse after a Wall Street panic, by mobilizing the banking strength of New York City.

Vinton House is named for Annie Vinton (1871-1961), a long-time resident of Mansfield with an abiding interest in education.

Vinton was Mansfield's state representative in the General Assembly from 1923 to 1927 and served on the appropriations committee.

She also was one of the first two women on the UConn Board of Trustees.

The Annie E. Vinton elementary school in Mansfield on Route 32 also was named for her.

Wade House is named after Susanna Wade, one of the original property owners in Mansfield.

Wade inherited land in Mansfield from her husband before the division of Windham and Mansfield in 1702.

In 1709 and 1710 she acquired four other pieces of property in Mansfield, according to town records, at a time when land ownership by women was rare.

Little more is known about Wade, however.

Although most of the names of the Towers dormitories recall local dignitaries, there is another musical connection - one that brings to mind the Fourth of July fireworks of a Sousa march.

Sousa House is named for John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), a composer and bandmaster who led the U.S. Marine Band for 12 years, then formed his own marching band in 1892 and conducted it for 40 years.

Sousa invented the sousaphone and composed such memorable marches as "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Washington Post March."

Home to many marching band members when it was named, in the 1960s the dormitory was one of a few serving weekend meals.

Although they were built nearly 50 years apart, the first and last dormitories built in East Campus have a connection through their names.

When it was built in 1922, the first dormitory in East Campus was known simply as "the Women's Building." It was built to replace Grove Cottage, the first women's dorm, which burned down on July 8, 1919.

The destruction of the wooden structure was "a severe blow. Registration in home economics was increasing rapidly and the fire left the instituion without laboratories or housing accommodations for young women," wrote Walter Stemmons in his early history of the University.

The proposal to build a new women's dorm actually came before the Grove Cottage burned - It was part of an appropriations bill that included several campus buildings and projects. And in an odd twist of history, the dormitory came to be named for the governor who vetoed that appropriations bill.

Gov. Marcus H. Holcomb (1844-1932) used his veto power because he believed the legislation appropriating funds for the dormitory was illegal. Later, "the bill was reintroduced legally, passed, and (was) signed," says Evan Hill in his manuscript centennial history. Holcomb, a lawyer, had also served as a judge, state attorney general (1906-1907) and was governor from 1917 to 1921.

Holcomb was the first dormitory along Route 195 in what is now called East Campus. It has an attic that once served as the practice area for the women's archery team, which won more than a dozen national championships in the 1940s and 1950s.

Whitney Hall, built in 1939, is named for Edwina Whitney, whose story was told in an earlier article in this series. She was librarian from 1900 to 1934, and was the first woman to receive an honorary degree (master of letters) from Connecticut State College in the year she retired.

Sprague Hall was added in 1942, and was named for M. Estella Sprague, dean of the Division of Home Economics (now known as the School of Family Studies) and dean of women from 1920 to 1926. Sprague (1870-1940) had been a professor of home economics since 1917. The first woman extension worker in Connecticut, she served during World War I as the state director of home economics for the Federal Food Administration.

Grange and Hicks Halls, both built in 1950, were originally built as dormitories for agriculture students. Grange Hall is named for the Connecticut State Grange - a strong supporter of the University, especially in its early years. Originally an organization for farm families, the Grange expanded its membership and continued to grow until the 1950s. More recently, local chapters in Connecticut have folded, as membership has waned.

Hicks Hall is named for Elizabeth Hicks (1894-1974), a painter, philanthropist, and friend of the University. She served as a consultant on the establishment of the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture, which - like the Ratcliffe Hicks Building - is named for her father (1843-1906). The Tolland-born lawyer and industrialist left a quarter of his estate to create an agriculture school.

Shippee Hall is named for Lester E. Shippee (born in 1894), a banker who was chairman of the board of Connecticut Bank and Trust in the 1960s. He was a member of the UConn Board of Trustees from 1946 to 1959, serving as chair from 1953 to 1959. Shippee also was the first president of the UConn Foundation.

The last dormitory of East Campus, Buckley Hall, built in 1969, has a direct tie to the first dorm of the campus complex, Holcomb. It is named for John Buckley (1885-1959), a trustee of the University from 1926 to 1940, who was a U.S. District Attorney in Connecticut from 1924 to 1927. Buckley served as executive secretary to Gov. Holcomb from 1917 to 1921.

Mark J. Roy

Sources: Unpublished manuscript, Evan Hill, 1980. Connecticut Agricultural College: A History, Walter Stemmons, 1931.