Trinity College’s Long Walk underwent a $32.9 million restoration and renovation that began in Summer 2007 and was completed in Fall 2008.

The 925-foot Long Walk is comprised of Seabury HallJarvis Hall (both 1878) and Northam Towers (1883), which are the oldest buildings constructed on the Summit Street campus.

In 2005, during routine repairs, workers uncovered significant signs of aging, particularly around the 88 dormers that line the roofs. Some of the fixtures and roofs dated back to 1875 and had never been replaced. It quickly became apparent that it was necessary to undertake a massive restoration of the 925-foot-long complex.

The architects for the 81,389-square-foot project were Smith Edwards of Hartford [now QA+M Architecture] and the renovations were undertaken by Consigli Construction Company. The carefully planned and executed project was made easier thanks to the original building plans that had been located several years prior in Trinity’s archives by College Archivist Peter Knapp, Class of 1965.

The project included restoring stone masonry, replacing steel windows, leaded glass, slate roofing and copper flashings, copper gutter systems and stone ornamentation, reconstructing original entry and suite layouts, renovating interiors to provide code-compliant exit ways and fire stairs, new bathroom facilities, restored finishes, and new furnishings. The restoration also upgraded heating and cooling systems, wiring and networks, telecommunications, and fire alarms and sprinklers. Of the project, Director of Facilities Sally Katz said: “As a recognizable symbol of Trinity College, the Long Walk should be restored in a way that befits its stature. We are the curators of a living museum and we have a responsibility to preserve it for future generations.”

Some students were annoyed by the College’s quick decision to begin the renovation. In particular, students living in Jarvis Hall were frustrated by the lack of entry and exit ways. Students living in the dorm questioned the lottery system as well, questioning if the College’s renovation would be factored into their numbers. Parking was another issue, with 50 faculty spots lost to the project.

To celebrate the completion of the renovation and restoration project, an exhibit by College Archivist Peter Knapp was held at the Watkinson Library from September 2008 to January 2009.

Text from the exhibition by Peter Knapp

August 2008 marks the completion of a 14-month project to restore Trinity’s famed Long Walk buildings, considered the finest examples in America of High Victorian Collegiate Gothic architecture. The project has included stabilizing and reinforcing some 88 stone dormers, restoring or replacing 1,200 windows, installing an entirely new roof consisting of some 123,000 slate roof tiles, and carrying out a full-scale renovation of interior spaces. Comprising Seabury and Jarvis Halls (1878) and Northam Towers (1883), the Long Walk buildings are the oldest structures on the Trinity campus and the hallmark of the College’s presence on Rocky Ridge. Celebrating the completion of the Long Walk project, the exhibition in the Watkinson Library draws from the College Archives and consists of a selection of architectural drawings and other original material related to the buildings. Founded in 1823 as Washington College and designated Trinity College in 1845 to prevent confusion with four other institutions of higher education bearing the name “Washington,” the College was originally located on the site of the present State Capitol. Trinity had remained modest in size from its inception, but in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Rev. Abner Jackson (1811-1874), the College’s new, forward looking president, believed a larger campus was necessary to accommodate future growth. The City of Hartford opportunely offered to purchase Trinity’s campus as the site for a state capitol building.

For some time Hartford and New Haven had been vying to become the permanent capital of the State, sessions of the Legislature alternating between the two cities. In 1872, Hartford offered $600,000 for the campus. Despite some opposition from alumni, Jackson convinced Trinity’s Board of Trustees to accept the offer and to relocate the College to a spacious setting elsewhere in the Hartford area. In the summer of 1872, Jackson travelled to England seeking an architect to design buildings that would be distinctively collegiate and in keeping with his vision of Trinity. Soon after arriving in London, Jackson visited William Burges (1827-1881), one of England’s most distinguished architects and a practitioner of the High Victorian Gothic style. Although Burges’s practice was broadly based, his principal client in the 1870s was the Marquess of Bute for whom he carried out restoration work on Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch, both in Wales. Following his first meeting with Burges, Jackson offered him the opportunity to design Trinity’s new buildings. The College thus became the only commission Burges undertook in the United States. Burges proposed that the College buildings be arranged in quadrangles, based on English collegiate practice. Jackson returned to Hartford with Burges’s initial sketches, and working with a Trustee committee examined several possibilities for a new campus. In February 1873, he prepared a report on the committee’s behalf recommending the purchase of a tract of land at Rocky Ridge, south of Hartford’s commercial center. The Trustees accepted the proposal for what would later be known as the Summit Campus. In the summer, Jackson again conferred with Burges in London. In October, the Trustees engaged Francis Hatch Kimball (1845-1919), an American architect based in Hartford, to supervise construction. They also authorized him to work with Burges in London and become conversant with the design for Trinity. Burges’s proposals culminated in a series of buildings in four immense quadrangles arranged in a linear configuration. President Jackson died suddenly in April 1874, but the project moved forward. Kimball returned in October with the completed drawings and began working with Trinity’s new president, the Rev. Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (1823-1904), to adapt Burges’s plans to the Rocky Ridge site. From this evolved three structures that became known collectively as the Long Walk.

With advice from the landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), Kimball and Pynchon situated the Long Walk on the ridge line. Ground-breaking took place in July 1875, and construction of Seabury and Jarvis Halls was completed during the summer of 1878, just in time for the beginning of the fall semester. Although the foundation for the tower linking Seabury and Jarvis was built, it was not until 1881 that work began on Northam, named in memory of its donor, Charles Harvey Northam, Hartford businessman, philanthropist, and Trinity trustee. Completed in 1883, Northam has been known from that time as Northam Towers, a reflection of the four square turrets that help form its roofline.

Planned and described by Peter J. Knapp, Special Collections Librarian and College Archivist, the Watkinson exhibition portrays how the design of the Long Walk evolved and how Burges and Kimball worked together in adapting the 1874 design to the site. A broad range of material related to the Long Walk is maintained in the College Archives, including separate and extensive sets of architectural drawings by Burges and Kimball. A selection of the drawings is displayed in the exhibition. Thanks are extended to Anne H. Knapp, Professor of Political Science, University of Hartford, for consulting on the material displayed and for reviewing the text of the exhibition catalog and caption cards. Thanks go also to Darrin M. VonStein, architectural historian; Dr. Jeffrey H. Kaimowitz, Head Librarian of the Watkinson Library; and Sally S. Dickinson, Special Collections Librarian, for their assistance and for critiquing the catalog; to Dr. Richard S. Ross, College Librarian, for his assistance and support; and to Rita K. Law, Manager of Creative Services in the College’s Communications Office, for designing the catalog and poster. In addition, the support of the Watkinson Library / Trinity College Library Associates is gratefully acknowledged for making publication of the catalog possible.