In 1872, Trinity College, at the time known as Washington College, was offered $600,000 by Hartford for its campus. The president at the time was Rev. Abner Jackson, who sought out an architect to design the campus. Jackson ventured to London in search of an architect, where he sought after William Burges to devise architectural plans for the campus. Burges accepted the proposal, making his plans for Trinity College his only undertaking in the United States. William Burges composed four sets of plans for the campus over the course of its construction. The majority of his proposed designs were not implemented in the actual construction of Trinity College. A larger part of Burges’ desired plans for the school were extremely elaborate, making construction tasks too difficult and costly. There is no record of the first set of design plans from Burges for Trinity, as Jackson rejected them.
The first recorded original design plan brought forward by Burges consisted of four-quadrangles, including a chapel and observatory. The chapel was ideally intended to create a separation in the central two quadrangles, and the observatory was intended to sit at the northwest corner of campus. These plans incorporated aspects of the prominent Early Gothic French architectural styles of Burges, resulting in an estimated cost of nearly one million dollars, a total not to the liking of the Trustees. As Burges was residing in London at the time, he collaborated with American architect Francis H. Kimball, who essentially acted as a supervisor in carrying out the plans brought forward by Burges. In 1874, Burges devised a seventeen page plan of drawings for Kimball to bring to the committee. Burges did not actually intend for his designs to be entirely completed, he created the plans with the room for the technical work of the buildings, including materials, to be altered to fit the particular needs of architecture in the United States at the time. It was the job of Kimball to decide on the materials and preparing specifications for the actual construction to be undergone at Trinity with his local knowledge. The third design plan of four concocted by Burges is known as “The Original Plans of Trinity College”, and currently hangs framed at the college. Burges approached this specific plan in a more simplistic manner, with a vast amount of reductions to previous plans. The third plan included three quadrangles with symmetrical size.
Despite the substantial amount of designs drawn up by Burges, only a portion of the third plan was actually constructed for the campus of Trinity College. This portion includes solely the west side of the center quadrangles, measuring six hundred feet in length. These six hundred feet are composed of the Seabury Dormitory on the southern side and Jarvis Hall on the northern side, met in the middle by a seventy-foot square known as Northam Tower. Seabury was originally intended to function as a block of lecture rooms, with Jarvis and Northam Tower acting as housing for the students. Both Seabury and Jarvis are 286 feet long, 35 feet wide, and three stories tall. Northam Tower is divides the two, with a tower four stories tall crowned by a double peaked roof. Jarvis is split symmetrically seven ways, each of which is separated by solid walls. The entrances facing east open into hallways measure eight feet wide. The doors are constructed in Ohio Sandstone, with doorjambs mimicking the style of English country church architecture. The cream colored Ohio Sandstone used in a variety of ornate details is contrasted by the usage of dark Ashlar brownstone, as requested by Burges. All buildings constructed contain aspects that reflect the medieval architectural styles of Burges.
Trinity College, Hartford, CT
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