Wilbur Cross Reading Rooms Restored To Classic Style

The North and South Reading Rooms in Wilbur Cross have been restored to a classic academic look and upgraded with up-to-date technological capabilities.

A view of the renovated South Reading Room at the Wilbur Cross Building on Sept. 25, 2018. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

A view of the renovated South Reading Room at the Wilbur Cross Building on Sept. 25, 2018. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Wilbur Cross Building is one of the most iconic in Storrs, its distinctive gold cupola serving as a welcome sign to campus for students, faculty, staff, and visitors alike. Its long history is now being celebrated and enhanced with the recent restoration of its North and South Reading Rooms.

The South Reading Room is now exclusively devoted to quiet student study, year-round. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to midnight, Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday noon to midnight.

The North Reading Room will continue to be used for campus events and meetings. The first meeting in the new-look room was a meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 26.

The rooms, which measure approximately 5,000-square feet each, have tall windows that offer impressive views of the central campus and fill the room with natural light.

The remodeling of the two rooms, and the Great Hall that connects them, has also improved their functionality. As part of the project, study space was expanded and enhanced, audio-visual and information technology capabilities modernized, and deferred maintenance needs addressed. Outdated materials were removed, and updates were made to the mechanical and electrical systems.

The rooms now combine the classic academic look and feel that goes back to their origins, with modern technology capabilities.

Michaela Mitchell, a junior animal science major from New York City, frequently used the space for studying before the restoration, and continues to use the room between classes.

“It’s really awesome and everything looks a lot nicer,” she says. “I like having the long tables. Before, it was just all chairs, and it was hard to use things like a laptop.”

Construction of the original building began in 1938. It was named for Wilbur Lucius Cross – a Mansfield, Connecticut, native who served as Connecticut’s governor from 1931 to 1939. Among his accomplishments as governor was authorizing funding for the rebuilding of the Connecticut State College, which became the University of Connecticut in 1939 – Cross’s last year in office and the year the library opened.

The building continued to serve as the University’s library until 1978, when the current Homer Babbidge Library was opened.

Since that time, the Wilbur Cross Building has been the central location of key student services offices, such as the dean of students, the registrar, the bursar, career development, and financial aid.

When the library was located there, the two vast reading rooms of Wilbur Cross were lined with books, reference materials, long rows of tables, and clusters of comfortable chairs, serving as quiet student study space. Heavy use of the rooms continued over recent decades, leading to the need for restoration.

The University and the UConn Foundation will soon present naming opportunities for prospective benefactors.