In 1894, the Rev. Walter J. Shanley, rector of St. Joseph's Cathedral, organized a fraternity of Catholic young men known as the Cathedral Lyceum. The Lyceum's membership grew so rapidly that, by the following March, officials of the diocese decided the organization would need its own building.
A benefactor, William F. O'Neil, donated the land. John J. Dwyer, a prominent Hartford architect, drew on ancient Greek and Roman styles to craft a building with a reading room, gymnasium, and a two-story auditorium. Ground was broken in June 1895 and the building was constructed in less than a year, opening on April 13, 1896. The gymnasium was dedicated in O'Neil's honor and a series of lectures was established. Classes were given in drafting, drawing and vocal music.
Photo: DESCRIPTION. (Tod Bryant)
The building was sold in 1920 to the Hartford Box Co. In 1940, it became the home of the Lithuanian-American Citizens Club, which sponsored dances, art exhibits, political discussions and other activities, including a restaurant. Membership in the organization began to decline in the 1970s as the demographics of the neighborhood changed. In the 1980s and 90s, the building housed a punk rock dance club, a hot air balloon manufacturer, a roller skating business, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, an advertising agency, and Hartford Areas Rally Together (HART).
In 2003, the Melville Charitable Trust renovated the building to serve as a home for conferences, educational programs, discussions, and the exchange of ideas aimed at creating stronger communities. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The auditorium on the third floor is now the Lyceum Conference Center and features the original stage and two balconies, with seating for 150 people. The Resource Center includes gathering spaces and comfortable reading areas.
Fink, David. "Classical Revival." Hartford Courant. October 31, 2004.
"History." The Lyceum
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This is a five bay building which sits on a rusticated brownstone foundation. The center bay projects for the plane of the facade and it is entered through a wide Roman arch of rusticated brownstone in the center of the bay. Pairs of narrow belt courses of similar brownstone define the bases of the second and third stories.
A band of rectangular windows punctuates the second story, but windows on the third story are set into tall arched frames. A triangular pediment with decorative carving in the tympanum surmounts a cornice with a band of dentils.
The Lyceum is in a dense, mixed residential and commercial area of the city. It is surrounded by late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings.
Date(s): Built 1896 Style(s): Renaissance Revival Historic Use: Cultural organization Present Use: Cultural organization
Exterior visible from public road.
Interior accessible (during business hours).
The Irish experience has had a profound impact on Connecticut's past, and its narrative spans all periods of the state's history and touches every one of its eight counties and 169 towns.