The Stone Pavilion Project

Learn More – History – Dedication

A Grand Celebration

On Monday, May 17, 1937, residents across Connecticut opened their morning newspaper, the Hartford Courant, to read a front-page story about a tiny hexagonal stone building on the campus of what was then Connecticut State College. Four years earlier, in 1933, the institution had been Connecticut Agricultural School. Two years later, in 1939, it would become the University of Connecticut. This article is the first of two known source documents describing the event. The other source document is an article published on May 18 in the campus newspaper, the Connecticut Campus, which is less detailed, provides no new information, and appears to have been written with the Hartford Courant article as a source.

"Shelter Has Stone From Every State" read the headline, which referred to a small, open-air pavilion no bigger than an expedition tent that rests above a foundation of quarried flagstones and below a slate roof.  The interior wall to the north --three segments of the hexagon-- contains an exhibit of beautiful specimen stones from all 48 of the nation's states at that time. To the south are three open archways between two  pillars that allow easy access to and from the viewing area.

Headline News

Newspaper Front Page.
Front Page of the Hartford Courant from May 17, 1937. Headline to lower left reads "Shelter Has Stone from Every State."

Link here to separate scans of Courant Front Page and Courant Page 2 of the May 17, 1937 Hartford Courant article. The other headline stories and advertisements provide a time capsule of Connecticut culture at the time.

Link here to a more readable Transcript of the text of the Courant created for research purposes.

The front-page story about the dedication of the Stone Pavilion coincides with other stories involving the national politics of the F.D. Roosevelt administration, a very British scandal about King George VI, and local crime.  On subsequent pages were advertisements, cartoons, and articles about state culture during the waning years of America's Great Depression. Stylish straw hats for $3.50. Luxury apartment rentals in Hartford for $55 per month. Sexist cartoons. The near-invisibility of non-European racial groups and ethnicities. Concerns over President Franklin D. Roosevelt's profligate spending on the Works Progress Administration. Catastrophic and record-breaking spring floods for our state's capitol city that was not yet protected by dikes. This flood of record was higher than any other before or since.

On the following day of May 18, the campus newspaper for Connecticut State College, The Connecticut Campus, headlined a much shorter follow-up story titled "Grange Gives College Unique Stone Shelter." Both articles describe the pavilion being dedicated as a "tribute to agriculture" to symbolize the "interwoven" history between what is now the University of Connecticut and the state chapter of the first successful national farming organization in the United States. Founded in 1867, and officially known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the grange remains today as a family- and community-based group, whose history in Connecticut is documented by Lida Skilton Ive's book, The Grange in Connecticut. (Winsted CT: Dowd Printing,  1953, p 108).  Establishment of the Storrs Agricultural School in 1881 was an outgrowth of that same national movement for agricultural reform. During these early years, the Connecticut Grange, founded in 1885, was the chief political advocate for UConn's institutional growth.

Quoting the anonymous Hartford Courant reporter: "a visitor could stand" in the sweet spot of the memorial, and "with a sweep of his hand touch a very solid part of every state." This was true at the time because the protective grille had not yet been built. Today, you can see the stones, but not touch them.

This article contains the only known descriptions of the stones.  Examples included: "silver-bearing ore from Montana, petrified honeycomb from Iowa, [and] a piece of petrified tree from Arizona." Also included are "eight or 10 varieties of marble in many beautiful shades," and a "choice selection of granites, "pale granite from Stone Mountain Georgia ... pink granite from Texas" and a "beautiful polished slab from deep in a Vermont hill." Unusual stones include one from Maine "on which had been carved a potato bearing the carved word "Aroostook," and one "from the State of Washington's new $17,000,000 tunnel." Such descriptions suggest that the person who collected them, Albert P. Marsh, was present, but this has not yet been verified.

Photo of bronze plaque.
Bronze plaque mounted at the top of the west wall of the Stone Pavilion. The plaque is one of two mentioned in 1937, and the only one to be installed. Strips for Alaska and Hawaii were added sometime after Hawaii statehood in 1959.  The numbers reference a state stone mortared into the northwest, north, and northeast segments of the interior wall.

Not until we began our investigation in Fall 2022 did we realize the the article contains mistakes, whether from an original document not yet discovered,  from the reporting, or from some combination of both.. The stone from North Dakota, for example, is not a "solid" part of the Earth because it was dragged south from Canada by the ice sheet, perhaps from near Hudson Bay. The stone from Mississippi is likely an error  because there are no source rocks from which it could have been derived as part of the crust in that state.  The "honeycomb" is wrong because flowering plants and pollinating insects had not yet evolved. Instead it's a fossil coral from a group called favosites that went extinct in the Paleozoic Era. The marbles are misidentified, because none were found.  These likely refer to milky quartz from igneous and metamorphic veins.  Some of the granites are granite-like, but are not granites, instead being monzonites and granodiorites.

The most accurately located stone is from Stone Mountain, Georgia's because that name is carved on the stone. This is Georgia's largest and most beautiful mountain and a very popular tourist destination. In 1965 it became America's largest confederate memorial, the so-called Mount Rushmore of the confederacy. Debates are ongoing about whether the statues of President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and  Stonewall Jackson remain appropriate symbols.

Ironically, the featured stone from Connecticut, the so-called Land of Steady Habits, is arguably the most complex and dynamic. It is a seismically shattered and a hydrothermally recrystallized specimen of barite ore that was collected more than 200 feet below the surface from a deep, abandoned shaft of a  mine in Cheshire, New England's deepest and most extensive underground mine.

Presiding over the dedication ceremony on May 16, 1937. was the national grange master, Louis J. Taber of Columbus Ohio.  His presence symbolized the national significance of the pavilion.  In pointedly political remarks, he dedicated "yonder structure representing in a tangible form every one of the 48 states in our American Union," as an "enduring tribute to agriculture and to the tillers of the soil." Master of the State Grange, Frank H. Peet remarked that the stones were "cemented together to furnish a single building symbolic of the fact" that "cooperation spells success." Accepting the gift on behalf of the college was President Albert N. Jorgensen, "not only as a tribute to Connecticut agriculture but to Connecticut Youth."  Quoting the article: "The college president then said that the stone structure has not been completed but eventually will have a bench, a bronze protective grill to save the collected stones incorporated in one wall, and two bronze tablets, one noting the positions of the stones from the various states, and the other stating the fact that the building is a tribute to Connecticut agriculture." The  bench was created, but is now rotting away, a grill was mounted, though it was made of rusted iron rather than bronze.  The second bronze tablet describing the pavilion's purpose was likely center mounted on the northern segment of the exhibit wall because there's a prominent gap between the specimen stones of rows 3 and 4. And in that gap are holes drilled with a square spacing identical the other plaque.  The absence of this signage helps explain why the pavilion is so little known.

Photo of Drill holes.
Closeup of stones in gap for Rows 3 and 4 showing four drill holes identified in yellow. A bronze plaque identical in size to the one listing the states was likely mounted here. The hole in the quartz stone is filled with concrete, suggesting the plaque was missing when Alaska and Hawaii were added.

Prior to the dedication, an estimated 3,000 grangers, collegians, and politicians had assembled for a Sunday morning church service in the nearby Storrs Congregational Church and on its lawn. This was followed by a picnic luncheon, with background music provided by esteemed botany Professor G. Safford Torrey on the church bells (carillon) and a concert by the Grange Band from Plymouth, CT. After the dedication ceremony, the music continued with "songs by the Grange Chorus," vocal and instrumental solos, a violin obligato, and accordion music, all broadcast by radio across campus.

The final paragraph of the article describes the Connecticut specimen stone as "one of the most beautiful stones, showing many beautiful colors in a single block less than a foot square," was taken from a pit 200 feet below the surface, nearly beneath the Cheshire Reformatory where many decades ago there was a barite mine." This is all true, except for the word "pit," which likely refers to a mine shaft.

At the time, Alaska and Hawaii were still territories. Their stones were added later, and include: a quartz vein from Alaska with what appears to be a glint of gold, and a recently-cooled lava flow from an active volcano in Hawaii.

The end result was a permanent outdoor exhibit of specimen stones that was variously called a stone: structure, building, monument, memorial, shelter, and pavilion by the reporters, editors, and photographers associated with the dedication. Of these, the name "stone pavilion" is the best one going forward because this is the word the gift-giving grange used. The term shelter was used by the anonymous reporters.

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