Watkinson Library

Trinity History

Founded in the spring of 1823 as Washington College (the name was changed in 1845), Trinity was only the second college in Connecticut.  Although its earliest heritage was Episcopalian, its principal founder and first president having been the Rt. Rev. Thomas Brownell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, its charter prohibits the imposition of religious standards on any student, faculty members or other members of the college, consistent with the forces of religious diversity and toleration in force at the time.

A year after opening, Trinity moved to its first campus, which consisted of two Greek Revival-style buildings, one housing a chapel, library, and lecture rooms and the other a dormitory.  Within a few years the student body grew to nearly one hundred, a size that was rarely exceeded until the 20th century.  In 1872 an important step toward the future was taken when the trustees sold the "College Hill" campus to the City of Hartford as the site for a new State Capitol.  Six years later, the College moved to its present 100 acres location.

The buildings that surround the main quad are generally viewed as American’s earliest examples of “collegiate Gothic” architecture and, together with the imposing Gothic chapel completed in 1932, are a compelling reminder of the medieval origins of collegiate institutions.

The late 19th and early 20th century was a formative period for Trinity.  The industrialization of the American economy began to creep into curricula and institutional practices of the College.  During this period, changes at Trinity included an increase in the proportion of Ph.D.s on the faculty, the introduction of more electives into the curriculum, the addition of a program in biology, the strengthening of the other natural sciences, and the doubling of the number of library holdings.  As the model of the modern university began to evolve, Trinity reaffirmed its commitment to remain a liberal arts college, to support expansion from a Hartford-area college to a regional institution, and increase enrollment to an optimum of five hundred students.

 

Recent History

In 1968 Trinity made a commitment to the admission, with financial aid as needed, of a substantially larger number of African-American and other minority students.  Less than a year later, the Trustees voted to admit women as undergraduates for the first time in the College's history.  Over the course of the next twenty years, the College grew enrollment to 1,800 and increased faculty to over 200.  Coincident with these developments, the College has acted to increase the number of women and minority group members on the faculty and in the administration.

The College began in 1995 to devote increased attention to the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods, working to ease many of the social and economic problems so common to American cities.  Central to that initiative is the "Learning Corridor," which includes a public, Montessori-style elementary school, a neighborhood middle school, a math, science, and art high school resource center to serve suburban as well as Hartford students and teachers, a center for families and child care, the first Boys & Girls Club in the country to be located at a college, and a health and technology center.  Trinity students have numerous opportunities to engage in volunteer work, internships, and research projects in conjunction with these institutions and other elements of the neighborhood initiative, as do members of the faculty.

Amid continuing change, our commitment to liberal education remains steadfast.  By maintaining a rigorous curriculum grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, the College can most effectively help its students discover their strengths, develop their individual potential, and prepare themselves for lives that are both personally satisfying and valuable to others.  With this mission clearly in view, Trinity moves confidently into the future as one of the nation’s leading independent liberal arts colleges.

For further reading, the following books are available online via the Digital Repository, or in print in the library:

Trinity College in the Twentieth Century: A History by Peter J. Knapp and Anne H. Knapp
The History of Trinity College by Glenn Weaver