Benton Coffee Shop Renamed ‘The Beanery’

The Beanery logo

The William Benton Museum of Art is renaming its coffee shop “The Beanery.”

A new neon sign and a weeklong schedule of events April 15-22 have been designed to draw attention to the new coffee shop, formerly Café Muse.

The Benton, the University’s art museum, is located at 245 Glenbrook Road on the Storrs campus. The Beanery hours will be Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.

<p>A view of the exterior of the Dining Hall, popularly known as The Beanery, in the spring of 1921. Provided by Diane Lewis-Benton Museum</p>
An exterior view of the Dining Hall in 1921. The building now houses the William Benton Museum of Art. Photos supplied by Diane Lewis, Benton Museum

The new name harks back to the spring of 1920 when the building that now houses the Benton opened as the Dining Hall, but soon became popularly known on campus as “The Beanery.” It served as the main dining facility for students and faculty until the mid-1950s.

The 1920 college catalogue described the then state-of-the-art dining hall: “The kitchens, ovens, cookers, potato peelers, bread mixers, dish washers, and other similar equipment are installed on the lower floor. Cooking is done chiefly with steam from the central heating plant. Storage capacity is provided for a year’s supply of staple foods. The refrigerating system is modern and ample. On the cafeteria plan, some four hundred persons can be served.”

Archival photographs from the 1920s and 1950s will be on display in the new Beanery.

Homer Babbidge, president of the University from 1962 to 1972, saw potential in the building that was used in the 1960s as storage space, saying, “The minute I saw the interior, I visualized it as an art gallery.” The large commons room was converted into exhibition space for the distinguished collection of former college president Charles Lewis Beach. Balconies were added on each end of the building to provide studios and wall space for print exhibitions.

<p>President and Mrs. Beach preside at the head table of the Junior Class Banquet in the Dining Hall known as the Beanery, in early 1921. Provided by Diane Lewis-Benton Museum</p>
President and Mrs. Beach preside over the Junior Class Banquet in the Dining Hall known as the Beanery, in 1921.

The museum opened in November 1966 and was later named in honor of prominent Connecticut senator and University trustee William Benton. His family generously donated to the Museum some of his sizable collection of Reginald Marsh paintings and works by other important 20th century American artists.

In 2004, the Benton was expanded with the addition of the Evelyn Simon Gilman Gallery, new and refurbished galleries, The Store, and Cafe Muse – now The Beanery. In the past year, the original exterior has been re-pointed and much of the interior replastered.

In its 44-year history, the Benton has acquired through purchases and gifts an exceptionally fine collection of more than 5,500 works, including paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, photographs, and sculptures.