New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut

Looking south on the New Haven Green from near the corner of Elm and Church Streets, around 1900-1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The New Haven Green dates back to 1638, when it was established as one of the first town commons in the English colonies. Over the years, it would serve as the focal point of the community, and many of New Haven’s most important churches, businesses, educational institutions, government buildings, and houses have been located around – and in some cases on – the Green. These two photos show the view looking toward the southeast corner of the Green, with Church Street in the far left and Chapel Street running across the scene in the distance.

At the turn of the 20th century, this section of Chapel Street was the home of two of New Haven’s most important department stores. On the left side of the block was Gamble-Desmond, which occupied the ornate six-story, Second Empire-style building in the center of the first photo. Known as the Insurance Building, it was completed in 1871, and originally housed the offices of the American National Life and Trust Company. Other tenants included F. M. Brown & Co., a dry goods store that was purchased by David S. Gamble and John D. Desmond in 1898. Together they formed the Gamble-Desmond Company, and this department store became an important fixture in downtown New Haven throughout the first half of the 20th century.

On the right side of the block, the other major department store in this scene was the Edward Malley Company. It was founded in 1852, and during its early years it operated out of a two-story building at the corner of Chapel and Temple Streets. This building is partially visible in the distance of the first photo, a little to the right of the flagpole, but by the turn of the century the Malley Company had significantly expanded to include much of the block. The most recent addition in the first photo was the eight-story building just to the right of the Gamble-Desmond building, which was completed in 1899.

Along with Gamble-Desmond, Malley’s would also remain here at its Chapel Street location for many decades. However, as was the case in cities across the country, these once-thriving department stores began to suffer by the mid-20th century, as suburban shopping centers began to displace traditional downtown business districts. Gamble-Desmond closed in 1952, and the building was demolished several years later. Then, in 1962, Malley’s relocated to a new building two blocks to the south of here, and the old building was demolished to construct the Chapel Square Mall, which occupied the entire block along Chapel Street between Church and Temple Streets. The complex also included a hotel, along with an office tower, which is visible in the center of the present-day photo.

The mall was completed in 1967, and was successful for the first decade or two. However, the new Malley’s location, which served as one of its anchor stores, closed in 1982, and the mall began to decline. This was the case for many downtown indoor malls, which tend to combine the disadvantages of both downtown shopping and mall shopping, while offering few of the advantages of either. Both the office tower and the hotel are still here, but the mall ultimately closed in 2002, and its indoor space has since been converted into apartments.

Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut

Looking west on the New Haven Green, toward Trinity Church on the Green, with the Old Campus of Yale University in the distance, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The New Haven Green is home to three historic churches on the west side of Temple Street, all of which were constructed between 1812 and 1816. The two oldest, Center Church (1814) and United Church (1815) both feature Federal-style architecture that was common for churches of this period, and Center Church is particularly notable for having been designed by prominent architects Asher Benjamin and Ithiel Town. Town subsequently designed the last of these three churches, Trinity Church, which was completed in 1816 on the corner of Temple and Chapel Streets. However, its design was a vast departure from his work on Center Church, and it is generally regarded as one of the first – if not the first – Gothic-style church building in the country, as Gothic Revival architecture would not gain widespread popularity for several more decades.

Trinity Church was established in 1723, and was a rare Anglican parish in a colony that was otherwise predominantly Congregationalist. The first permanent church building was completed in 1753, and stood a block away from here on the southeast corner of Chapel and Church Streets. As time went on, though, this building proved too small for the growing parish, and in 1814 construction began on a new church here on the Green. The exterior was built of locally-quarried trap rock from East Rock, giving the church its distinctive multicolor appearance. This, along with the Gothic architecture, provided a significant contrast to the more conventional brick churches just to the north of here. The new church was consecrated in 1816, an event that coincided with the installation of a new rector, the noted journalist, author, and clergyman Harry Croswell.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, Trinity Church was already nearly 100 years old, and had undergone some changes since its completion. The top of the tower was originally constructed of wood, but this portion was rebuilt of stone in 1871. The church had also been built with crenelated wood balustrades along the roofline, although these rotted and were eventually removed as part of the 1871 renovations. Other 19th century changes included the installation of stained glass windows, and the addition of a pyramidal spire atop the tower, which can be seen in the first photo.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, the interior of the church has undergone some changes, but this view of the exterior has remained largely unaltered, with the only noticeable difference being the removal of the pyramid on the tower. Trinity Church is still an active Episcopalian parish, and the church building is now part of the New Haven Green Historic District, which includes the other two early 19th century churches nearby. Aside from the church itself, there have not been many other changes to the scene from the first photo. The New Haven Green still functions as a park in the center of the city, and the Old Campus of Yale University still stands in the distance, on the other side of College Street. The only significant difference in this view of the campus is the loss of Osborn Hall. Visible just to the right of the church, it was demolished in 1926 and replaced by Bingham Hall, which now stands on the site.