Stone Portraits Adorning Campus Buildings Tell the Story of Trinity’s Past

Corbels and Other Ornamental Carvings Commemorate People and Events

​Hartford, Connecticut, July 28, 2016 – While Trinity College’s campus features some of the grandest architecture of college campuses across the world, it might be easy for the smaller details to go overlooked.

To watch a video featuring the stone portraits found throughout Trinity’s campus, scroll down to the bottom of this page, or click here.

Stone Portraits at Trinity CollegeThe tympana above the Jarvis Hall entry doors are the oldest sculptures integrated into the Long Walk buildings. In addition to these stone plaques celebrating Trinity’s history, sculptural ornaments — projecting corbels that are carved as likenesses of students and faculty members or are representative of a figure or monumental moment — adorn buildings. Most of these ornaments commemorate a benefactor of the College or have been gifted to the College by a class.

The most recent example is an ornament depicting two heads, one male and one female, representing the establishment of coeducation at Trinity in 1969. Another example can be found outside the Trinity College Chapel side corridor, where two sculptures sit above the side doorway of the Chapel cloisters. According to historical documentation on the building of the Chapel, one of the sculptures represents Henry Wright (Class of 1861), and the other represents Robert Shutz (class year unknown); both men are believed to have been major contributors to the construction of the Chapel.

John Zito III is intimately familiar with the stonework at Trinity. “It is very common to leave blank areas on architecturally historic buildings,” said Zito, of Beij, Williams and Zito Monuments, Inc., founded in Hartford in 1870. “You see that less and less these days, but the Trinity campus, in many ways, left blank spaces for ornamental sculptures or decorative work. Trinity College has several areas like this, which has resulted in the addition, over the years, of some very beautiful Gothic ornaments.”

Zito’s ties to the campus run deep. His father, the late John Zito, Jr., had a hand in producing many of Trinity’s ornamental carvings. Zito, Jr., handcrafted three of Trinity’s Gothic sculptures and many other decorative elements on campus, including hand-carved lettering. In the years since his father’s passing in 2003, Zito III has done lettering work on campus, including dates, cornerstones, and building names. He’s worked on spaces along the Long Walk and in the Chapel, the Raether Library and Information Center, and the Roy Nutt Mathematics, Engineering & Computer Science Center, among others.

“These works were carved with a mallet and chisel in soft Indiana limestone,” Zito III said about the Gothic ornaments on campus. “The nice thing about working at Trinity is that there is a great deal of soft stone, which is ideal for carving.”

In 1994, Zito, Jr., who studied at Hartford Art School and in Florence, Italy, sat on a scaffold on the Long Walk at the entry to Seabury Hall and chiseled the male and female carving commemorating 25 years of coeducation at Trinity. The piece was designed by a Trinity student* as a clay model, which Zito translated to an existing piece of stone through meticulous carving over a three-week period, resulting in another iconic piece of Trinity College history.

Soon after finishing that sculpture, Zito, Jr., began work on carved figures in the Chapel of Chaplain Alan Tull, his books, and his cat. While working on the project, Zito, Jr., began to lose his eyesight, and his son came in to assist him. Zito, Jr., passed away before completing work on a wall of names in the Chapel cloister. Zito III stepped in to complete the wall and recalls that J. Wendell Berger was the last name his father had carved.

The sculptures live on, silently telling the story of Trinity’s past.

If you have more information about these sculptures or their history, we invite you to join the conversation at www.Facebook.com/TrinityCollege/Videos under the video titled “Stone Portraits video.”


*If you know the name of the Trinity alumna/alumnus who designed this clay model, please contact the Office of Communications at communications-office@trincoll.edu.