Attempted Acquisition of Long Lane, 1956-7

by Scott Mayerwitz '00

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Wesleyan faces a unique problem of being a spread out rural campus that is located in a city where the amount of land available is anything but rural. Middletown is now quite an urban area, but it has industrial plants, local businesses and 50,000 residents all of which make large tracts of land in the downtown area rare.

Wesleyan's original campus suited the University's needs fine until the 1950s when the student body started to grow and the idea of co-education was being debated in high education. When President Victor Butterfield took office in 1943 the University was on the brink of going through some major changes, one of which was the acquisition of more land to handle the growing needs of the school.

Over his 23 years at Wesleyan, Butterfield made large increases to the endowment but also had a very ambitious policy toward acquiring new property and expanding on the currently own land. On July 1, 1943 the University's net assets totaled $13.7 million. By June 30, 1967, the date of Butterfield's retirement, that number was up to $145.5 million." Overall the total amount of funds expended or committed for construction during Butterfield's tenure came to $20,610,130 and $8.5 million was spent on making campus land usable and purchasing local neighborhood property and farmland.

With all of this desire to expand the University in every possible manner, it is not surprising that in 1956 Butterfield decided to try an acquire the 165 acre property of the Walter G. Cady, or Long Lane School. The property was a short walk from the center of campus, less than a mile away and seemed a likely place to expand and in February it appeared as if the state might be willing to sell the land and relocate the school.

Butterfield never said what he would use the new land for, but said that most likely it would be used to set up a coordinate college for women, that might focus on preparing women to be teachers in Connecticut. If anything, Butterfield said that acquiring the land would be beneficial for the school and any type of future expansion. Most faculty and students were in favor of a coordinate college, but the alumni were vehemently opposed to such a plan.

After much delay and bureaucratic red tape, a commission set up by the governor decided that it would not be in the state's best interests to sell the school to Wesleyan except at a cost that would be too high for the University. By early 1957 the idea of acquiring the land was no longer a reality. The Long Lane School would eventually become co-ed and Wesleyan expanded in different directions. It would not be until President Bennet came into office in 1995 that Wesleyan would revisit with the State the possibility of acquiring the land, this time successfully. At this time, the State and Wesleyan have settled on an agreement for the land and just need to iron out the final details and build a new school. To this date, Bennet has yet to disclose what the land will be used for.