Third Congregational Church, New Haven, Connecticut

Third Congregational Church, on Church Street in New Haven, around 1863-1869. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

New Haven’s Third Congregational Church was established in 1826, and was originally comprised of 29 members from the city’s two other congregational churches. They worshiped in temporary quarters on Orange Street for several years, before moving into a new church building in 1829, at the corner of Church and Union Streets. However, less than a decade the congregation lost this building due to financial difficulties, but subsequently built a new one on Court Street in 1841.

Third Congregational moved again in 1856, to this prominent site on Church Street, where it faced the other two congregational churches from across the New Haven Green. It stood directly adjacent to the Exchange Building, a brick, four-story commercial block that is partially visible on the right side of the photo. The Romanesque-style design of the church was the work of noted local architect Sidney Mason Stone, and it was constructed at a total cost of $53,000, which included $16,000 for the land.

This building was used by the church until 1884, when the congregation merged with the United Church on the other side of the Green. Then, in 1890, the former Third Congregational building was converted into the first long-term home of the New Haven Free Public Library, which had previously been housed in the second floor of a building on Chapel Street. Here, the library became an early example of an open stacks layout, where patrons could freely browse through the books. However, this was not necessarily done for philosophical reasons, but rather out of practicality, as the building proved inadequate as a library.

It did not take long for the library to outgrow this building, and in 1906 the city received a gift of $300,000 from Mary E. Ives to build a new library. Construction began in 1908, and it was completed in 1911, at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets. The old church-turned-library was demolished soon after, in order to build the eight-story Second National Bank of New Haven. This building was completed in 1913, and it is still standing today, in the center of the 2018 photo. However, the only building that has survived from the first photo is the Exchange Building, which has remained relatively unchanged on the right side of the scene, at the corner of Church and Chapel Streets.

Exchange Building, New Haven, Connecticut

The Exchange Building, at the northeast corner of Church and Chapel Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1912. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Herbert Randall Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The building in 2018:

The Exchange Building was completed in 1832, as one of the first major commercial blocks in downtown New Haven. The brick, Greek Revival-style building stands four stories tall, and it is topped with a large cupola. It has a roughly square footprint, with 18 window bays here along Church Street, plus 17 window bays around the corner along Chapel Street. Over the years, it has housed a variety of businesses and offices. Perhaps most notably, attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin had his law offices here during his work on the 1841 Amistad case. Baldwin successfully defended the Africans who had been illegally sold into slavery, and he subsequently became governor of Connecticut from 1844 to 1846, and a U. S. Senator from 1847 to 1851.

By the time the first photo was taken around the turn of the 20th century, the ground floor tenants included the F. S. Butterworth & Co. investment broker, the O’Neill-Shortell millinery shop, Alfred T. Ostermann’s florist shop, and Riker’s Wholesale Drug Store, which occupied the corner storefront on the right side of the building. Many of the upper floor windows are lettered with the names of the professional offices that were located there, although most of these are not legible in this photo. On the far left side of the photo, the Exchange Building abutted the 1856 Third Congregational Church, which had been converted into the New Haven Free Public Library in 1890.

At some point during the 20th century, the distinctive cupola was removed, and the building featured a large billboard that overlooked the corner of Church and Chapel Streets. However, the exterior was renovated in the early 1990s, including the addition of a new cupola and a restoration of the storefronts, and today the Exchange Building looks much the same as it did over a century ago when the first photo was taken. As a result, the only significant difference between the two photos – aside from the skyscraper in the distance, is on the left side, where the church-turned-library once stood. It was demolished around 1912, and was replaced by the eight-story Second National Bank of New Haven building, which still stands on the left side of the scene today.

New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut (3)

Looking east on the New Haven Green, from near the corner of Temple and Chapel Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo was taken from about the same spot – and presumably on the same day – as the one in the previous post, although this one shows the view looking toward Church Street on the eastern edge of the New Haven Green. Like the scene in the previous post, this view underwent dramatic changes within about a decade after the first photo was taken. The city saw rapid growth at the turn of the 20th century, with the population more than doubling between 1880 and 1910, and this helped to spur several major redevelopment projects that replaced older buildings here along the Green.

Beginning on the left side of the first photo is City Hall, an ornate High Victorian Gothic-style building that was completed in 1861. To the right of it, at the corner of Court Street, was a three-story building that housed Heublein’s Cafe. This restaurant was owned by Gilbert Heublein, a prominent food and beverage distributor who later built the Heublein Tower in Simsbury. Further to the right, in the center of the photo, was the Tontine Hotel, which was built in the 1820s, and on the far right side was the former Third Congregational Church. Built in 1856, it served as a church until 1884, when its congregation merged with the United Church. In 1890, it became the home of the New Haven Free Public Library, and it was used until the current library building opened in 1911.

The most significant change to this scene came soon after the first photo was taken. In the early 1910s, both the Tontine Hotel and the former Third Congregational Church were demolished to make way for two new buildings. On the left side, the Tontine Hotel was replaced with a new post office and federal courthouse, which was constructed between 1913 and 1919. Just to the right of it, the site of the church became the Second National Bank of New Haven, with an eight-story building that was completed in 1913. Today, both of these are still standing, but the only surviving buildings from the first photo are City Hall on the far left, and the Exchange Building, which is partially visible on the extreme right side of both photos.

New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

Looking northeast on the New Haven Green, from near the corner of Temple and Chapel Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The New Haven Green has served as the political, commercial, social, and cultural center of New Haven since 1638, when it was established as one of the first town commons in the English colonies. Just out of view to the left are three historic churches that stand on the Green, and behind them was the site of New Haven’s old state house and, further to the left, the Old Campus of Yale University. On the far right, also just out of view, is City Hall, which is located on the east side of the Green. The south side of the Green, located directly behind the photographer, was the site of several major department stores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This particular scene faces the north side of the Green, which is bounded by Elm Street. This section of Elm Street was once known as Quality Row, because of the many elegant mansions that lined the street opposite the Green. Three of these are visible in the first photo, in the center of the scene just to the left of the flagpole. Probably the most significant of these was the light-colored home in the center. This elegant Federal-style mansion was built in the late 1810s, and was the work of noted architect David Hoadley. The original owner was Nathan Smith, a lawyer and politician who later went on to serve in the U. S. Senate.

All three of these houses were demolished within about a decade after the first photo was taken. As New Haven grew, the previously residential area on the north side of the Green was eyed as the site of several different public buildings. The first of these was the main branch of the New Haven Public Library, which was built between 1908 and 1911 on the left side of the scene, at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets. This was followed in 1914 by the New Haven County Courthouse, which stands on the right side of the block at the corner of Elm and Church Streets. Today, these two buildings are now more than a century old, and they still stand on the north side of the Green as two important architectural and historic landmarks in downtown New Haven.

State House, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The Connecticut State House on the New Haven Green, viewed from the southwest around 1875. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Connecticut at one time had two capital cities, with legislative sessions alternating between Hartford and New Haven. Each city had its own capitol building, and over the years New Haven had several different ones that were all located on the Green. The last of these, which is shown in the first photo, was completed in 1831. It featured a Greek Revival design, with columned porticoes on both the north and south ends of the building, and it was the work of Ithiel Town, a noted architect who was also responsible for the nearby Center Church and Trinity Church.

The dual capital arrangement lasted until the 1870s, when it became clear that the state no longer needed two capital cities that were just 35 miles apart. Both Hartford and New Haven wanted to become the sole capital, but the decision was left to the voters of Connecticut, who chose Hartford in a statewide referendum. The New Haven State House was used for the last time in 1874, and starting the following year the legislature met exclusively in Hartford’s Old State House. A new state house, located in Bushnell Park in Hartford, was completed in 1878, and it has remained in use ever since.

In the meantime, the now-vacant state house here in New Haven was the subject of several redevelopment plans, including preserving the it and turning it into a library. However, the fate of the building polarized many New Haven residents, with some admiring it for its architectural and historical significance, while others saw it as a daily reminder of the city’s defeat in the race for the state capital. Notwithstanding an 1887 referendum, in which city voters appropriated $30,000 to restore the building, the city council chose to demolish it two years later instead. This portion of the Green has remained undeveloped ever since, and today the only surviving remnant from the first photo is the iron fence in the foreground.

Nicholas Callahan House, New Haven, Connecticut

The house at at 175 Elm Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

The building in 2018:

This house was built sometime between 1762 and 1776, was one of the many upscale homes that were built along Elm Street on the north side of the New Haven Green. It was originally owned by Nicholas Callahan, a loyalist who used the house as a meeting place for like-minded individuals during the American Revolution. Known as the Tory Tavern, it was eventually confiscated by the town in 1781, near the end of the Revolution.

In the years that followed, the house was owned by the Mix family, and then by physicians Dr. Nathan B. Ives and Dr. William H. Carmalt. Then, in 1911, it was sold to the Elihu, one of the many secret societies at Yale. Founded in 1903 and named after the school’s namesake, Elihu Yale, the society was significantly newer than some of the more established ones, such as the Skull and Bones. However, theacquisition of this house gave the Elihu a meeting hall that was substantially older than those of the other societies, and it is nearly as old as the oldest surviving building on the Yale campus.

By the time the first photo was taken, the old house had been expanded far beyond its original size, and had several major additions to the rear. It was also flanked by newer, larger buildings, with the First Methodist Church on the left and Hendrie Hall on the right. Today, though, remarkably little has changed in this scene, about 80 years after the first photo was taken. All three of these buildings are still standing, and the house continues to be used by the Elihu.