In 1886 William Albert Slater, the son of a wealthy Norwich industrialist, offered to memorialize his father, John Fox Slater, with a new building at the Norwich Free Academy. He chose noted Worcester, Massachusetts architect, Stephen C. Earle, to create a distinctive design. To many, the Slater Memorial was, and remains, Earle's finest work. Its design is Romanesque Revival in what has become known as the Richardsonian Romanesque after another noted 19th century American architect, Henry Hobson Richardson.
Scion of the same Slater family noted for industry in Rhode Island, William A. Slater was educated and successful. He appreciated travel, theater, music and art and during frequent visits to France with his wife Ellen, purchased contemporary art. He sponsored the construction of Norwich’s “Broadway Theater” and numerous performances in it. At the same time, his philanthropy provided for the expansion of educational opportunities and affordable access to the arts for Norwich’s citizens. His generosity touched every resident of the city in someway.