Farnam Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Farnam Hall on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1894. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

Farnam Hall in 2018:

For much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Yale campus was dominated by the Old Brick Row, a group of buildings than ran parallel to College Street between Chapel and Elm Streets. However, in 1870 the school began converting the campus into a quadrangle, surrounded by new buildings along the perimeter. The first of these new buildings was Farnam Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1870 near the northeastern corner of the campus. Like the older buildings, its exterior was constructed of brick, but it featured a Gothic-style design that was very different from the comparatively plan buildings of the Old Brick Row. It was the work of Russell Sturgis, a prominent architect who would go on to design the other nearby buildings, including the Battell Chapel, Durfee Hall, and Lawrance Hall.

The first photo was taken less than 25 years after its completion, but very little has changed since then. Farnam Hall is now the oldest dormitory in use at Yale, and it currently houses freshmen students of Jonathan Edwards College. The only noticeable difference between the two photos is the loss of the two cupolas on the roof, but otherwise the building has remained well-preserved. The adjacent buildings – Battell Chapel on the left and Lawrance Hall on the right – are also still standing, and together these they form the northeast corner of the quadrangle, which is now known as the Old Campus.

Durfee Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Durfee Hall, on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Durfee Hall in 2018:

As discussed in previous posts, the Yale campus underwent dramatic changes during the last three decades of the 19th century. The Old Brick Row, which had been the defining feature of the school since the late 18th century, was steadily replaced by new buildings that surrounded a central quadrangle. One of the first of the new buildings was Durfee Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1871. Its design was the work of noted architect Russell Sturgis, who also designed several other buildings at Yale, including the adjacent Battell Chapel and the nearby Farnam and Lawrance Halls.

The four-story Dufree Hall was built with 20 bedrooms and 10 common rooms on each floor, with all of the common rooms on this side of the building, facing the campus, and all of the bedrooms on the north side, facing Elm Street. This arrangement was similar to the older dormitories at Yale, but otherwise its design was a significant departure from tradition, with ornate Gothic-style architecture and a brownstone exterior that contrasted with the older, comparatively Old Brick Row.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. Durfee Hall is still standing, without any noticeable exterior alterations, and so is the Battell Chapel on the right side. Along with the other dormitories on the Old Campus, Durfee Hall is now used as freshman housing, with students living here for a year before moving into one of the residential colleges for the rest of their time at Yale. Over the years, its residents have included Anderson Cooper, who lived here during his freshman year, and it was even the home of the fictional Rory Gilmore in the television show Gilmore Girls.

City Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

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

The scene in 2018:

New Haven’s city hall was completed in 1862, on Church Street along the eastern side of the New Haven Green. It was designed by noted New Haven architect Henry Austin, and it was an early example of High Victorian Gothic architecture, which would become a popular style for public buildings in the United States during the 1860s and 1870s. The building’s exterior was constructed of brownstone from nearby Portland, Connecticut and from Nova Scotia, and it was laid in alternating bands of dark and light stone. Its asymmetrical design included a tower on the northwest corner, which was topped with a clock, bell, and observatory.

The first photo was taken shortly after its construction, showing the view of the building from the Green. A few years later, City Hall was joined by the architecturally-similar New Haven County Courthouse, which was completed in 1873 on the left side of the building. This courthouse would remain in use until 1914, when the current courthouse opened nearby, and the older building subsequently became an annex for City Hall.

Both City Hall and the old courthouse were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, but by this point they were both slated for demolition. The courthouse was demolished a year later, along with most of City Hall, but the New Haven Preservation Trust successfully lobbied to save the building’s facade. This was later incorporated into a new municipal building that was completed in the 1980s, and today Henry Austin’s original exterior design still faces the New Haven Green, even though the rest of the building is new.

St. Mary’s Church, New Haven, Connecticut

St. Mary’s Church, on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The church in 2018:

St. Mary’s Church is the oldest Catholic parish in New Haven, having been established in 1832. Its first permanent location was on York Street, but later moved to Church Street. However, in the early 1870s the growing parish began constructing a new building here on Hillhouse Avenue, in the midst of an upscale, largely Protestant neighborhood. The stone, Gothic-style church was dedicated in 1874, and it was the work Irish-born architect James Murphy, who specialized in designing Catholic churches across New England. Murphy’s other churches included the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich, which was constructed around the same time and features a design that is very similar to St. Mary’s here in New Haven.

Perhaps the most notable event here at this church came in 1882, when curate Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus. This organization, which served as a Catholic alternative to fraternal societies such as Freemasonry, was intended to provide support for the working-class immigrants of the parish, particularly for widows and orphans. It began here in the basement of the church, but it soon spread around the country, and today has a membership of nearly 2 million. However, the Knights of Columbus are still headquartered in New Haven, albeit in a much larger building, and Father McGivney’s remains are interred here in the church.

A century after the first photo was taken, St. Mary’s Church is still standing, and it is still an active Roman Catholic parish. Over the years, its surroundings have changed as Yale University steadily expanded its campus northward along Hillhouse Avenue, but the exterior of the church still looks much the same as it did when it was completed. The only significant difference is the spire at the top of the tower. Although designed with a spire, the church did not have one until 1986, when the Knights of Columbus donated one that matched Murphy’s original plans.

Yale Old Campus, New Haven, Connecticut

The Old Campus at Yale University, as seen looking north from the southeast corner of the quadrangle, around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The scene in 2018:

This view shows the north side of the Old Campus at Yale, taken from from near Connecticut Hall at the southeast corner of the quadrangle. The scene in the foreground was originally the site of the Old Brick Row, a row of seven late 18th and early 19th century buildings that ran perpendicular to the buildings in the distance. However, by the late 19th century, Yale began converting this block, bounded by College, Chapel, Elm, and High Streets, into a quadrangle, with Gothic-style buildings along the perimeter of the block. As a result, the Old Brick Row was eventually surrounded by new construction, and all of the old buildings were demolished by the turn of the 20th century except for Connecticut Hall, which still stands.

Two of the first buildings that were completed under this new plan were Durfee Hall, located in the right center of the photo, and the Battell Chapel, located on the far right. These were completed in 1871 and 1876, respectively, and both were designed by Russell Sturgis, a noted architect whose other works included the nearby Farnam and Lawrance Halls. By the time the first photo was taken around 1918, this scene also included Dwight Hall (1886) on the far left, and Wright Hall (1912) in the left center, which had replaced the earlier Alumni Hall on that site.

Although the Old Campus underwent dramatic changes in the 50 years before the first photo was taken, very little has changed in the century since then. The Battell Chapel is still standing, as are Durfee and Wright (now Lanman-Wright) Halls. Both of these – along with the other dormitories on the Old Campus – are now used to house freshman, who live here until moving into one of the school’s residential colleges at the start of their sophomore year. The only significant difference between these two photos is the loss of Dwight Hall, which was demolished in 1926 in order to provide greater visibility of the Harkness Tower from the Old Campus. However, the name lives on with the old library building, which was subsequently renamed Dwight Hall, and it is both the home and namesake of Dwight Hall at Yale, an organization that comprises a number of service-based groups on campus.

Alumni Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Alumni Hall on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1901. Image taken by William Henry Jackson, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

Alumni Hall was completed in 1853, at the northwest corner of Yale’s Old Campus. Its was designed by noted architect Alexander Jackson Davis, and its exterior featured Gothic Revival architecture that was similar to the nearby library building, which was completed a few years earlier. On the interior, the building had just a single large room on the first floor. It measured 98 feet long and 46 feet wide, with a 24-foot-high ceiling, providing ample open space for a variety of functions, including alumni meetings. It was also the site of the school’s entrance examinations, along with the biennial examinations that every student had to take at the end of his sophomore and senior years.

Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg, an 1869 Yale graduate, provides a lengthy account of these entrance exams in his 1871 book, Four Years at Yale, including the following description:

At nine o’clock of a summer’s morning, the “candidate for admission to Yale College” presents himself, with fear and trembling, at the door of Alumni Hall. Just within the entrance, he finds a long table behind which two or three officials are seated, and here he hands in his name and “character.” The envelope containing the latter – which is simply a recommendation of his general morality, signed by the principal of his preparatory school, a clergyman, or other responsible person – is laid aside for future examination, and the candidate is forthwith escorted to his seat. This is at a small octagonal table, the counterparts of which, to the number of a hundred or more, are grouped, in rows of four, at convenient intervals throughout the hall.

Further in his account, Bagg explains how only a few candidates finished on the first day. The rest worked until around 6:30 or 7:00, and then returned to Alumni Hall at 8:00 the following morning in order to finish working. Upon completion, students would receive their results. Some would receive a white piece of paper, which indicated that he was accepted into the school, while others would receive a blue paper, which offered only a conditional acceptance. These latter students would then need to retake certain portions of the exam before he could be be admitted into the freshman class.

While the first floor of Alumni Hall had just a single open room, the upper floor was divided into three different rooms. These were originally intended for use by the school’s three major literary and debating societies: the Linonian Society, the Brothers in Unity, and the Calliopean Society. Each contributed toward the $27,000 construction costs of the building, and upon completion the Linonian Society moved into one of the rooms, and the Brothers of the Unity into another. In between these was a third room, which had originally been intended for the Calliopean Society. However, this organization, which had already been struggling to survive, ended up dissolving before the building was completed, and its share of the construction costs was ultimately returned to its donors.

The other two societies remained active throughout the 1850s and 1860s, but they dissolved in 1870, and their sizable libraries were donated to Yale. The college also took over their former meeting spaces, and the three large rooms were subdivided into recitation rooms. By the time the first photo was taken around 1901, Alumni Hall was not yet 50 years old, but it was already one of the oldest buildings at Yale, following the large-scale campus redevelopments of the late 19th century. Nearly all of the old buildings were demolished in order to construct a quadrangle surrounded by new dormitories, which included Durfee Hall on the far right side of the scene. Alumni Hall survived longer than most, but it was was ultimately demolished in 1911 in order to make room for Wright Hall, the dormitory that now stands on the site.

Unlike the nearby Connecticut Hall, whose threatened demolition a decade earlier had provoked a significant outcry, there was little call for the preservation of Alumni Hall. Some of this may have been due to changing architectural tastes, as this style had largely fallen out of favor by the early 20th century. It also may have been due to the building’s long association with grueling exams, as discussed by Clarence Deming in his 1915 book Yale Yesterday. Reflecting on the building’s demolition, Deming wrote about the impression that it made on students:

And as the same mediæval stronghold had its identity with dungeon, rack and thumbscrew, the undergraduate, less in love with the Hall, could readily span the void of fancy and fir the academic castle to the mental tortures of examination – especially the hated and dreaded “biennials,” covering two full years of the curriculum of the time and on which so many an undergraduate bark went to wreck.

Several pages later, he continued on this medieval theme by writing:

. . . [F]ifty years ago, and for three decades after that, each class, for the awful biennials or not much less awesome annuals, was hived in Alumni Hall under conditions of scrutiny which, if reports of the graduate greybeards are true, rivalled the watch and ward of the cardinals at a papal election. It used to be a tradition, probably untrue, that the octagonal tables, originally square, were sawed off as to their corners and octagonized so that the corners might not cover the hidden “crib.” However that may be, it is certain that the examination agonies and glooms of those college times centered in the Hall where the portraits of the college benefactors looking down from the walls seemed redolent of the Spanish Inquisition and Torquemada. With its dull-hued panellings and massive effects, the Hall has indeed offered little æsthetic and visual relief to the chief of its solemn functions.

Today, the only surviving remnants from Alumni Hall are the two towers, which were salvaged when the building was demolished. They were incorporated into Weir Hall, which is located a block away from here at Jonathan Edwards College, and they are partially visible on the right side of the 2018 photo in this earlier post. Otherwise, the only remaining feature from the first photo is Durfee Hall on the right side. It is now used as a freshman dormitory, as is Wright Hall in the center of the present-day scene. It was completed in 1912, a year after Alumni Hall was demolished, and it was renamed Lanman-Wright Hall in 1993, following a renovation of the building.