Attempted Acquisition of Long Lane, 1956-7

by Scott Mayerwitz

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 massive changes to the University. Not only did he drastically change the makeup of the student body over his tenure but he also added vastly to the University’s assets. He made large increases to the endowment but also had a very ambitious policy toward acquiring new property and expanding on the currently own land.

As the University more than doubled its size, and diversified its student body, by gender race and geography it began to feel more and more pressed for resources. In addition an expansion of the curriculum and increase in departments created a demand for more space on campus. In order for Butterfield to accomplish what he wanted to do he needed to expand the University in all areas.

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.1 Butterfield also expanded the University’s physical assets by extraordinary amounts. During his first eight years there was not a large amount spend on the University’s facilities. The total cost of upgrades for those eight years was $700,000. After 1951 the spending increased dramatically and by the end of his administration Wesleyan had invested a total $36,800,000 in its facilities.2

Some of the buildings renovated during his tenure include; South College, the Chapel, Judd Hall, Fisk Hall, Olin Library, North College, Clark Hall, the steam plant and the President’s House.3 In 1955 the reconstruction of the John E. Andrus Public Affairs Center was completed. In addition major reconstruction, changes or development was done to the Davidson Art Center, John Wesley House4, Armstrong House5, Maintenance Shops and Vine Street electrical sub-station. In addition the treasurer’s office at 285 Court Street changed to English Department.6

The most impressive improvements during his time as president were the creation of several new buildings. Some of these include; the Center for Advanced Studies7, Foss Hill dormitories, finished in 1956 and 1962, McConaughy Dinning Hall, completed in 1962, Lawn Avenue dormitories (now the Butterfield dormitories) in 1965, the science center and Hall-Atwater laboratory complex and the addition of a skating arena.8

Overall the total amount of funds expended or committed for construction during Butterfield’s tenure came to $20,610,130. In addition $3,400,000 was spent on lab equipment, other types of equipment and library books.9 Besides making physical improvements to the campus, Butterfield was dedicated to actually increasing the physical size of the campus. During his time here $8.5 million was spent on making campus land usable and purchasing local neighborhood property and farmland.10

Willard M, Wallace, a former professor of history wrote about one of the larger land purchases that Butterfield made, in his unpublished book on Wesleyan’s history.

One of the most attractive campus land purchases as the south end of Mount Vernon Street which made possible the achievement of a physical unity of the campus from High Street on the east to Vine Street on the West. The neighborhood properties consisted of 198 individual purchases at an average of about $26,000 each. The farm lands were in seven parcels amounting to 311 acres at an average price of $2,970 an acre.11

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.

This was prior to the University acquiring the lad that is presently the Center for the Arts. The University needed land to grow and land that was close to campus. In subsequent years the Freeman Athletic Center and the playing fields have been built on that land and even after the construction of the CFA and the In-Town housing there was still a desire for more land around the center of campus.

In February of 1956 it appeared as if an opportunity to purchase the Long Lane School and its surrounding land might be a possibility. It appeared to Butterfield that the state might be willing to sell the land and relocate the school.

The school was originally founded in 1870 by New Haven Police Commissioner Charles Farbique as a private institution. In 1921 the state of Connecticut took over the land and the school was named the "Connecticut Industrial School for Girls." By 1956 the name had been changed to the Long Lane School, also sometimes referred to as the Walter G. Cady School. It taught girls who were referred there from the juvenile court system and educated them from third grade to post-high school levels.12

An article in the Wesleyan Argus at the time described the atmosphere at the school, which was also sometimes referred to as the "Long Lane School for Wayward Girls" and "The Farm."

…the emphasis is placed on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Ambitious vocational and cultural programs are undertaken, and during the summer the girls help out on the farm which makes up a large part of the school’s 215 acres.13

After hearing of an opportunity to acquire the land Butterfield held a joint Meeting of the Executive Committee, Finance Committee and Faculty and Curriculum Committee of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University held at the Century Club, New York City on February 21, 1956. He reported that an opportunity to purchase Long Land has come up and presented a rough draft of a letter to Abraham Ribicoff, governor of Connecticut. The group of board members authorized Butterfield to go ahead with the letter.14 The letter was not run through the entire board because there was an urgency to sending it out as soon as possible because it was believed that there was a very narrow window of opportunity to purchase the school.

On February 28, 1956 Butterfield sent a letter off to Ribicoff. In it he expressed a desire to purchase Long Lane to establish a college for women. He also told the governor that Wesleyan would not need all of the property and that the Long Lane property in the South could be used by the state for a technical school.15 In the letter he described what type of women’s college would be established and a probable size.

We visualize a college of liberal arts and science, offering opportunities in teacher training, so that students who elected such a program much be certified to teach in the schools in Connecticut. The anticipated enrollment would initially probably not exceed 300 students.16

One month later the Executive Committee of the Broad of Trustees met and discussed the opportunity to acquire the property. They appointed an ad hoc committee of Trustees to conduct a study as to the advisability of acquiring all or any portion of the property. They were to look into using the land to create a separate women’s college as President Butterfield’s stated in his letter to Governor Ribicoff or to look into any other alternative purposes for the land, if it was advisable to purchase the land.17

Later that day at the general meeting of the entire Board, the chair explained why a letter had been sent to the governor without the whole Board’s approval. He said that in light of the political situation and statements of the governor, President Butterfield and the members of the Executive Committee thought that it was in Wesleyan’s best interests to express a formal interest to the Governor. They felt that it was necessary to do this immediately without the delay that would have been entailed in awaiting a meeting of the full Board. He emphasized, in addition, that no commitment has been made.18

Butterfield then addressed the Broad on the issue. The minutes from that meeting talk about what Butterfield said.

He believed there would be no debate as to the desirability of acquiring the land for purposes of long-range expansion, and the only real questions are as to the form such expansion should take and as to the best possible use of the property. He said that he had not, and was not now, making any final recommendation in regard to those questions, although he considers the proposed college for women as being the vest of the options yet discussed.19

The immediate response from most of the faculty was in support of the plan. The Wesleyan Argus did an informal poll of faculty early in March and found most to be in favor of a coordinate college. The one concern that was raised was what the caliber of the students would be like. Most felt that the school could attract girls of comparable intellect to the men at Wesleyan or equal to girls at schools at Vassar. The Argus also referenced that there were many women who were rejected from these top women’s college each year because of a lack of space and that Wesleyan would be able to fill that void.20

In one such letter Butterfield explained some of the other uses for the land including overflow athletic space and to create faculty housing close to campus.

One of the losses of the present-day Wesleyan is the necessary drift of faculty away from the campus with the loss of hospitality in their homes to students… With the increased industrial growth of Middletown, this area is in fact the only available undeveloped tract near the college.21

The Alumni were the one group from Wesleyan that was probably the most opposed to the purchase of the school. One of the most vocal opponents was "The Committee of One Hundred to Preserve the Wesleyan Heritage." The group was formed in the spring of 1955 according to the Argus "to combat what it considered a trend under the present administration away from Wesleyan’s Christian and fraternity traditions and an underemphasis of ‘the important factors of integrity and strong character’ in admissions policy."22

The committee sent a letter to all of alumni voicing concerns of the proposed acquisition. They asked the alumni to return an enclosed card that shows their disapproval and threatens not to donate money to Wesleyan.23

In a letter to the editor of the Argus the committee wrote, "Obviously, if the women’s teachers college is to be financed in any degree by the present funds of the university, to the extent that funds are so diverted they will not be applied for the benefit of the present student body."24

On March 12, 1956 the public relations office of Wesleyan released a letter to all Wesleyan Alumni taking about the proposal and reprinted the February 28, 1956 letter from President Butterfield to the governor.25 Butterfield received several letters in response for concerned alumni.

Herbert Connelly ’09 Secretary-Treasurer of the Alumni Association wrote a letter to the Alumni to ease some of their concerns on April 10, 1956. In it he said that if the Long Lane property does become available, it would be two years before it can be used.26 He then expressed the alumni’s support for this attempt at acquiring the land, but left it open as to what the land would be used for.

"It was regularly moved, seconded and carried that the Alumni council record itself as favoring the acquisition of the Long Lane property, its use to be determined subsequently by the Board of Trustees of Wesleyan University."27

An interesting side note to this whole situation is that the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Long Lane School, was a professor at Wesleyan. Professor E. E. Schattschneider, chairman of the Government Department, who was appointed to the Board in 1938 resigned in March of 1956 because of potential conflicts between his roles at Long Lane and Wesleyan.28 Schattschneider expressed the potential conflict but never said if there were any other reasons for this resignation nor what his role had been in Wesleyan gaining an understanding that the property might be up for sale, an understanding that would later come back to haunt them.

One of the first major problems with the proposal to buy the land came late in March when the Long Lane School Trustees decided to postpone any action, "either positive or negative, on the sale of their property to Wesleyan University."29

John W. Patton, Wesleyan’s Public Relations Director immediately responded saying that the Long Lane Board’s first responsibility was to the girls and that they could not make nay move until the school was assured that a new location would answer present problems. He also was quoted in the Argus saying that "They are anxious to sell."30

At the next Finance Committee of the Broad of Trustees on April 24, 1956, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee set up to study the purchase of Long Lane, Mr. J Warren Kinsman ‘16, made his first report. He said that the committee was not only exploring the advisability of establishing a coordinate women’s college, but also various possible alternatives, among which was the possible expansion of Wesleyan as a men’s college.31

He reported that the committee planed to continue its "investigation" during the summer and to submit a more detailed updated report in the fall. The minutes from the meeting conveyed his feelings.

Such report, however, will not be definitive, he said, since the question of the state’s willingness to sell the property cannot be resolved before the 1957 session of the Legislature and possibly not even then. Meanwhile, Governor Ribicoff has appointed a commission in inquire with dispatch into the statue and possible relocation of the Long Lane…32

The first real signs of trouble for Wesleyan came at the Executive Committee meeting of the Broad of Trustees on October 19, 1956. Kinsman said that the prospects of acquiring the property had not improved since he last reported to the Broad. He said that because of "political factors," he was personally doubtful whether the property will be available. He then said that no definitive report could be made by the committee for at least six months and possibly a year.33

In the general Board meeting the next week Butterfield said that

The commission which had been appointed by the Governor in connection with the possible relocation of the Walter G. Cady has not been proceeding very quickly, and that the matter may not reach the Legislature until its 1959 session.34

At the same meeting Kinsman refereed to a conversation with Alfred Davidson, another trustee, in which Davidson had called attention to a statement on page 28 of the President’s Annual Report that said that the proposal to purchase the Long Lane property and to establish a coordinate college for women was made "by the board." Davidson said that the Broad itself had never made such a proposal or approved anything related to it.

The debate went on for a while and it turned out that the Executive Committee, rather than the Board had made the decision. There was then a debate as to if the whole Board has ratified the Executive Committee’s decision. It turned out that they did not, but only approved the minutes from their meeting, which does not count as a ratification, like some board member thought it had.35

In that report, the President’s Annual Report, Butterfield described his plans for Long Lane.

By all odds the most exciting proposal of the year, and the one most relevant to plans for the future of Wesleyan, was the proposal made by the Board in February to Governor Ribicoff that we purchase from the State the property of The Walter G Cady School at Long Lane to establish a coordinate college for women, if after careful study by the Board, this sill seemed the wisest use of this property should we be able to procure it…

Meanwhile it should be clear to the Trustees and to interested alumni and other this it is by no means certain we shall be able to procure this property… The governor appointed a Commission to study the problems of the Cady School and particularly the problem of the need for relocation. If the commission advises against a change of location, the matter is probably ended….

If the property should become available, there would be a great many problems to be resolved by the ad hoc committee and the Board itself. The basic issue is whether the University can really afford such a contemplated expansion and still procure the gains in education quality for Wesleyan that we have long envisaged.36

Arthur T. Vanderbilt , Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and a trustee, then spoke in reference to a letter he had written to Kinsman. The minutes from that meeting read that,

Judge Vanderbilt said that its main point was to recommend that serious consideration be given to the possibility of establishing an institute for advanced study rather than a coordinate college for women. He said that in his opinion such an institute would be bound to have a stimulation effect upon the undergraduate college and could make Wesleyan a university of outstanding national significance.37

By the beginning of the next year the deal started to fall apart. In a joint meeting of the Executive Committee and Finance of the Broad on January 10, 1957 Kinsman made what would turn out to be his final report.

He stated that in view of the position taken by the Long Lane Board and other circumstances, it appeared that the property will not be available, except possibly at a cost which would be "prohibitive." He then recommended to the Board members that the Ad Hoc Committee be dismantled. The Board agreed and did so.38

As it turned out the University did continue to expand and acquire more land, but not the Long Lane property. It would not be for four more decades until the idea of the University acquiring the land surfaced again. By the 1990s Long Lane had become a co-education juvenile correctional facility, the only facility in the state for juvenile offenders. The facilities were falling apart and the State wanted to upgrade the facilities and increase the security of the complex. Part of that expansion called for 14 foot tall vinyl fences that for all basic purposes looked like wall, in addition to guard towers around the perimeter. Wesleyan’s new Freeman Athletic Center was bordering the complex that would look like a real prison in a few short years.

Wesleyan was in the process of starting a new marketing campaign and was trying everything to improve its overall standing in the nation. Wesleyan’s president, Douglas Bennet, decided to make the State an offer for the land. After several years of long, drawn out battles, mostly over where to relocate the school to, Wesleyan was able to purchase the land, but not without cost.

The University ended up paying $15 million dollars for the land, but also alienated many residents in town after a long drawn out debate as to where to relocate the land. In the end the city and state decided to move the school to some available land near Connecticut Valley Hospital, a state-run mental facility, at the other end of town. Many residents of town, already mad about town-gown relations and a lack of direct student input into the local economy, expressed disappointment in Wesleyan. Residents felt that the University was using it financial might to muscle the state to remove a prison from its backyard.

At no point during the negations or immediately after did Bennet disclose what he and the University planned to do with the land, except to get the school away from Wesleyan and to create room for future expansion. There were one or two brief references in a master plan for the University by Philip Parson’s for uses of the land, such as extra library storage space and expanded athletic field use. Beyond that all the other uses were just rumors, such as Wesleyan building a hotel-conference center in the land, less than a mile from the center of campus. As of December 1999, the State and Wesleyan are still ironing out the details of the deal and the move of the school. To this date Wesleyan has still not disclosed what, if anything, it plans to use the land for.

Works Cited

1. Wallace, Willard M., Wesleyan University 1831-1978; Part II 1887-1978, Unpublished, Wesleyan University Special Collections and Archives, Middletown, pg. 163.

2. Ibid., 172.

3. Ibid., 172.

4. Currently Malcolm X House

5. Currently 356 Washington Street.

6. Wallace, Willard M., Wesleyan University 1831-1978; Part II 1887-1978, Unpublished, Wesleyan University Special Collections and Archives, Middletown, pg. 173.

7. Currently the Center for the Humanities

8. Wallace, Willard M., Wesleyan University 1831-1978; Part II 1887-1978, Unpublished, Wesleyan University Special Collections and Archives, Middletown, pages 173-4.

9. Ibid., 174

10. Ibid., 174

11. Ibid., 174

12. Fiske, Ted, "Commission Will Recommend On Long Lane Proposal Soon," The Wesleyan Argus, December 14, 1956, Middletown, Pg. 1.

13. Ibid.

14. Minutes of a Joint Meeting of the Executive Committee, Finance Committee and Faculty and Curriculum Committee of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University held at the Century Club, New York City, February 21, 1956

15. Letter to Abraham Ribicoff, governor of Connecticut from President February 28, 1956

16. Ibid.

17. Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University March 29, 1956

18. Minutes of the General Meeting of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University March 29, 1956

19. Ibid.

20. Amsterdam, Ezra, "Approval Of New Girls’ College Exhibited By Group Of Faculty," The Wesleyan Argus, March 9, 1956, Middletown, Pg. 3.

21. Letter to John Foster from the President Victor Butterfield, March 23, 1956

22. Austin, Bill, "Committee of 100 Opposes Coordinate College," The Wesleyan Argus, March 20, 1956, Middletown, Pg. 1.

23. Ibid.

24. "The ‘One Hundred’ Speak", Letters To The Editor, The Wesleyan Argus, March 30, 1956, Middletown, Pg. 2.

25. Letter to Wesleyan Alumni from the public relation office, March 12, 1956

26. Letter to Wesleyan Alumni from the Alumni Association — Herbert Connelly ’09 Secretary-Treasurer of the Alumni Association, April 10, 1956.

27. Ibid.

28. "E. Schattschneider, Long Lane Director, Resigns High Office," The Wesleyan Argus, March 9, 1956, Middletown, Pg. 1.

29. "Lone Lane Decides To Postpone Action On Proposed Sale," The Wesleyan Argus, March 20, 1956, Middletown, Pg. 1.

30. Ibid.

31. Minutes of the Finance Committee of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University April 24, 1956

32. Ibid.

33. Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University October 19, 1956

34. Minutes of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University October 27, 1956

35. Ibid.

36. Butterfield, Victor, President’s Annual Report, 1995-1956.

37. Ibid.

38. Minutes of a Joint Meeting of the Executive Committee and Finance of the Broad of Trustees of Wesleyan University, January 10, 1957


Back to Long Lane index.