It existed only
four years - a small part of the 125-year-plus history of the
University. But for the more than 5,000 students who attended the
Fort Trumbull campus as freshmen and sophomores, it was half of
their UConn experience.
From its opening on Sept. 16, 1946,
to its closing in June 1950, Fort Trumbull held the distinction -
one it still holds - of being the only residential branch campus of
With the end of the second world
war, tens of thousands of veterans returning home found higher
education a better alternative than trying to land a scarce job.
And with the G.I. Bill of Rights offering them a subsidized college
education, the sheer number of veterans presented a problem for all
the nation's colleges and universities.
More than 8,000 students were
enrolled in the University of Connecticut in the 1946-47 academic
year, four times the number registered in the period shortly
preceding the war. And of those 8,000 students, more than half were
Anticipating the approaching
enrollment crunch, UConn President Albert N. Jorgensen received
trustee approval on May 17, 1945 to begin looking at the former
U.S. Maritime Training School at Fort Trumbull in New London as a
campus for returning soldiers and sailors.
At the July 17, 1946
meeting of the trustees, he reported that an agreement had been
reached to open the facility as a UConn campus in the coming fall
Fort Trumbull wasn't the only
measure for handling the influx of returning G.I.s: 11 temporary
barracks were built in Storrs on the site of a former agronomy
garden along Route 195 (now the site of the fine arts complex).
Because of its location far from the center of the then smaller
main campus, it was dubbed "Siberia." Also in the summer
of 1946, the University took over part of a federal housing project
in Willimantic - built for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft workers
during the war - to house 100 married G.I.s and their
The conversion of Fort Trumbull from
a war training site to college campus was rapid - two months after
receiving federal approval to use the facilities, students began
moving in and taking classes.
During the two months of
preparation, about 70 staff were recruited, including the late Max
B. Thatcher, who headed the political science department (then
called the department of government), and English professor Marion
Starkey, who would later teach at the Hartford campus.
Courses, including art through
zoology, were offered by the College of Agriculture, College of
Arts & Sciences, School of Business and School of Engineering.
As at other UConn regional campuses, students took freshmen and
sophomore-level courses and moved to the Storrs campus for their
junior and senior years.
One of the problems facing
University staff was the lack of beds or bedding in some of the
eight three-story dormitories. Clarence A. Weber, a professor of
education who was director of the Fort Trumbull campus during its
entire existence, reported that just as students were moving in,
mattresses and pillows were being sent out for sterilization,
causing some confusion.
A student would "make up his
bed only to return to his room later to find his blankets neatly
rolled up and his mattress gone," wrote Weber in a 1947
There also were no locks on many of
the dormitory rooms - and for those rooms and buildings for which
there were locks, Weber and his staff found "bushels and
bushels of keys with no identifying tags." Finding the right
keys for the right locks, changing locks and cutting new keys kept
Students settled in pretty quickly
however, and soon there were more than 20 student clubs and a
student council, as well as campus football, basketball and
baseball teams and intramural sports.
On Oct. 17, 1946, the first issue of
a weekly campus newspaper, The Trumbull Tide, was published. The
paper continued its run through May 1950, including an annual April
Fool's issue, The Trum Bull.
Other aspects of student life were
similar to that of the main campus at Storrs: a bookstore, dining
hall and coffee shop, dormitories, classrooms, laboratories and
There was even a student radio station,
WRUM, which first broadcast over the campus public address system
with four hours of programming Monday through Thursday.
broadcasting at 640 on the AM dial, the station expanded to an
all-day schedule of music, campus talent shows, and special
There were also some facilities for
students at Fort Trumbull not found in Storrs: a student union
(Storrs did not have one until 1953); two bowling alleys; and a
small fleet of boats, both for rowing and sailing.
For the first year, six of the eight
dormitories housed single men and two were for married students and
their families. Dorm names took a nautical theme: Lightning, Comet,
Tradewinds, Dreadnaught, Rainbow, Flying Cloud, Typhoon and Red
A major event in the short life of
the campus was a dormitory fire on Jan. 24, 1948. The Norwich
Bulletin reported that the fire started in the afternoon "a
few minutes after the advent of a driving snowstorm, which along
with temperatures reading 10 degrees above zero, hindered
Four hundred students were evacuated
from their rooms but, despite the fierce winter weather, only two
dormitories were lost: Typhoon was destroyed and Red Jacket was
declared uninhabitable due to water damage.
The displaced students
were housed in the gymnasium, infirmary, and in space available in
The original agreement for the use
of the Fort Trumbull facilities was for five years and - with the
lease nearing an end and total post-war enrollment leveling off (it
would remain around 7,500 from 1950 to 1956) - administrators
decided to close the campus.
In fact, it had always been intended
to be temporary, until construction at Storrs could catch up with
enrollment demand. In 1949 and 1950, three dormitory complexes
opened on the Storrs campus: North Campus, Northwest, and Hicks and
Grange near the new College of Agriculture Building.
Students knew the end was coming.
The theme of the final May Frolic - an annual spring weekend of
dances and outdoors activities - was "Shipwreck,"
pertaining, according to the 1950 Nutmeg Yearbook, "to the
sinking of the Trumbull ship."
Said the Nutmeg: "The 1950 May
Frolic Weekend was an appropriate climax to the other Frolics and
to all the other social affairs held by the branch." And to
the end of UConn's only residential regional campus.
A coda appeared in the 1953 Nutmeg,
which noted that in that year's graduating class were the last
of the students who had been enrolled at Fort Trumbull. Six pages
of the yearbook were devoted to the former campus.
"Perhaps few schools have
achieved the spirit - unanimity, spontaneity and fraternity - of
this closely organized unit," wrote the editors. "Some
students report they had the time of their lives at
Mark J. Roy