This week, The Daily Campus will look at one of the oldest continually inhabited residence halls at the University of Connecticut: The Edwina Whitney Residence Hall.
According to an archived blog by UConn student Shaine Scarminach, Edwina Whitney was the daughter of schoolteacher Edwin Whitney, who created the first building on what would become Storrs campus in 1864 as an orphanage for the children of Civil War soldiers. She was born in 1868, months after her father’s death.
Scarminach’s blog tells the rest of Whitney’s life until her death in 1970. Whitney left Connecticut and earned a degree at Oberlin College before returning to UConn, then known as the Connecticut Agricultural College. She became the school’s librarian in 1900 and worked there for 34 years. She consistently fought to improve the situation of the library, which in its early years was nothing more than two wooden shacks with gas lamps for lighting. She also taught American literature, and worked in her spare time as a historian for the town of Storrs. In 1934, she retired, but stayed in Storrs to continue her historical interests.
In 1939, UConn President Albert Jorgensen sought to improve much of the college’s infrastructure to deserve the title of the University of Connecticut, a name change that occurred in 1935. Jorgensen, according to the book “Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits,” wanted to build a large number of dormitories to serve the growing student population, including a second women’s dorm building, to be named after the influential librarian in UConn’s early history, Edwina Whitney. The female student population soared, as other well-known Connecticut universities such as Yale, Trinity and Wesleyan had only one women’s residence building.
Besides its neighbor Holcomb Hall, Whitney Residential Hall is the second-oldest residence hall still in usage. Whitney, like most dorms, is now co-ed, though the arch above its doorway still bears the date of construction. Most recently the building has had its dining hall renovated in fall 2019, 80 years after it was completed. Her father’s building, known as Whitney Hall, still stands on Mirror Lake, though as a reconstruction.
Samuel Katz is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at email@example.com.