Sheffield Scientific School, New Haven, Connecticut

Looking south on Prospect Street toward Grove Street, with the Sheffield Scientific School on the left side of the street, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Sheffield Scientific School was founded in 1847 as the Yale Scientific School, and was intended to provide an alternative to the  traditional liberal arts focus of Yale itself. In 1860, the school moved into the former Yale School of Medicine building, which was located in the distance at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets. The building had been extensively renovated by railroad executive and philanthropist Joseph E. Sheffield, and the school was subsequently renamed in his honor.

In the following decades, the Sheffield Scientific School steadily expanded, with new buildings that were constructed here along the east side of Prospect Street. The first of these was North Sheffield Hall, which was built in 1873. It stands in the center of the first photo, and it was followed in 1893 by Winchester Hall, which stands just beyond it with the turret on the corner. Two years later, the Sheffield Chemical Laboratory was completed on the other side of North Sheffield, and it stands in the foreground of both photos. All three of these buildings featured similar Romanesque architecture, and they were the work of noted architect J. Cleaveland Cady, who was responsible for designing a number of college and other institutional buildings across the northeast.

New buildings continued to be constructed for the Sheffield Scientific School throughout the early 20th century, including Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, which replaced the original school building at the corner of Grove Street in 1932. These three buildings remained in use for many more years, though, even after the school was fully merged with Yale University in 1956. However, both North Sheffield and Winchester Halls were demolished in 1968 in order to make room for the Becton Laboratories, the large Brutalist-syle building in the distant center of the 2018 photo.

Today, only the Sheffield Chemical Laboratory still stands from the first photo. It was significantly renovated in 1986 for use by the computer science department, and it was renamed Arthur K. Watson Hall, in honor of the former IBM president and U. S. Ambassador to France. In 1993, the building was targeted by the Unabomber, and one of his mail bombs detonated here in the office of Professor David Gelertner, badly injuring him. The building itself sustained little damage, though, and it continues to be used as the home of the computer science department, with few noticeable exterior changes from the first photo.

Connecticut Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Connecticut Hall on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1905-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This area has been part of the Yale University campus since 1718, when the school’s first permanent building in New Haven was constructed just to the south of where this photo was taken. It was named College Hall, and during the early years it was the school’s only building. However, as Yale grew, the campus came to include other buildings, including Connecticut Hall, which was completed in 1752. It received its name because it was built using funds provided by the colony of Connecticut, and its Georgian-style architecture was based on the 1720 Massachusetts Hall at Harvard University.

Connecticut Hall originally served many different purposes, and included space for a dining room, library, recitation hall, and a chapel, in addition to dormitory rooms. The southeast corner of the building, seen closest to the foreground in this view, also housed the campus buttery, where students could purchase such necessities as cider, beer, sugar, pipes, tobacco, books, and fresh fruit. Over time, as new buildings were constructed on the campus, Connecticut Hall eventually became exclusively a dormitory, although the buttery remained here for many years, serving as a popular gathering place for Yale students until it finally closed in 1817.

By the turn of the 19th century, Connecticut Hall had been joined by several other brick buildings, including the First Chapel and Union Hall to the south of it, and the Lyceum and Berkeley Hall to the north. Around this time, Connecticut Hall itself was altered to match architectural tastes of the era. The original gambrel roof was removed, and it was replaced by a gabled roof that matched the other buildings. Two more buildings were added in the early 1820s, with the completion of North College and the Second Chapel, giving the school a total of seven buildings in a line running parallel to College Street. Several of the building names were changed by this point, including Union Hall, which became South College; Berkeley Hall, which became North Middle College; and Connecticut Hall, which became South Middle College. Collectively, this group came to be known as the Old Brick Row, and it was a defining feature of the Yale campus throughout most of the 19th century.

Throughout its many years as a dormitory, Connecticut Hall housed a number of notable Yale students. These included Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale; dictionary publisher Noah Webster; inventor Eli Whitney; U. S. Senators Jeremiah Mason and Simeon Olcott; diplomats Joel Barlow, David Humphreys, and Silas Deane; prominent pastors Lyman Beecher, Horace Bushnell, Manasseh Cutler, and Nathanael Emmons; poet Edward Rowland Sill; and novelist James Fenimore Cooper. With the exceptions of Bushnell and Sill, all of these men attended Yale during the late 18th or early 19th centuries, and likely would have spent a significant amount of time here at the buttery in the corner of the building.

Starting in 1870, the school began shifting toward a new campus plan. Rather than the Old Brick Row, which had been set back from College Street, the new plan called for buildings along the perimeter of the campus, with an open quadrangle in the center. The Old Brick Row stood in the midst of this planned quadrangle, and its comparatively modest Federal-style buildings stood in sharp contrast to the far more ornate Gothic-style buildings that were rising around them. Demolition began in 1893, when South College and the Atheneum – formerly known as the First Chapel – gave way to Vanderbilt Hall. Four more buildings would be demolished between 1896 and 1901, leaving only Connecticut Hall, which was then known as Old South Middle.

Connecticut Hall had been the first of the Old Brick Row to be built, and it ultimately outlasted all of the other buildings that followed it. However, it too was slated for demolition at the turn of the 20th century, but this proposal sparked a significant outcry, particularly among older alumni who lamented the impending loss of the only remaining vestige of the school’s distant past. Professor Henry W. Farnam – who was himself a Yale graduate as well – was quoted in the Kansas City Star in 1903, praising its humble architectural style and remarking that “It is the one building which the wealth of the multi-millionaire cannot duplicate. Not only is South Middle our one example of colonial architecture, but it is the only example of a recognized architectural style owned by the college. I do not disparage the beautiful new and costly modern buildings, but they are not originals. They are necessarily copies.”

In an early example of historic preservation, the building was spared demolition. It was restored to its colonial-era appearance, and it was also renamed Connecticut Hall, after having been named South Middle College for about a century. This work included rebuilding the gambrel roof, and the project was completed in 1905, not long before the first photo was taken. As a result, Connecticut Hall became quite an anomaly here on the Old Campus, as the only Georgian-style building in the midst of an otherwise entirely Gothic quadrangle. However, as Farnham had noted, it was the only original example of a historic architectural style here, since all of the other buildings were imitations of medieval-era Gothic buildings. Ironically, though, Connecticut Hall would inspire a copy of its own in 1925, when the nearly identical Colonial Revival-style McClellan Hall was built just to the west of it, in order to provide some degree of symmetry in the quadrangle.

Connecticut Hall would undergo another major renovation from 1952 to 1954. The interior was completely gutted and rebuilt, and it was converted from a dormitory into academic use. Today, it is used as offices for the Department of Philosophy. However, the exterior has remained essentially unchanged since the 1905 renovations, as these two photos demonstrate. It still stands as the oldest building on the Yale campus, predating the next oldest building by nearly a century, and in 1965 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Old Dwight Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

The original Dwight Hall, on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1900-1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows the view from across the quadrangle at the Old Campus of Yale University. Several buildings are visible, including Durfee Hall on the far right and Alumni Hall just to the left of it, but the most prominent is the old Dwight Hall, which is in the center of the scene. This brownstone building was completed in 1886, and it was designed by noted architect J. Cleaveland Cady, whose other New Haven works include the historic Othniel C. Marsh House. It was built to house the Yale chapter of the YMCA, along with other religiously-affiliated campus groups, and it was named for Timothy Dwight IV, who served as president of Yale from 1795 to 1817. He was also the grandson of Timothy Dwight V, who became president of Yale in the same year that Dwight Hall was completed.

Appletons’ Annual Cyclopaedia of 1886, which was published in 1888, provides the following description of the building:

It is of brown-stone, irregular in shape, and two and a half stories high. The entrance is through an elaborate portico on the side of the building toward the campus, and on the opposite side is a large round tower with conical roof. The hall contains on the first floor a reception-room, finished in oak, which is also used as a reading-room, and four large rooms for class prayer-meetings, furnished respectively in butternut, walnut, oak, and cherry, with leather-upholstered furniture, and large fireplaces. On the second floor is a large hall for lectures, containing a valuable pipe-organ, and a library-room; and on the third floor are rooms for the curator of the building.

The organization came to be known as Dwight Hall at Yale, and it eventually came to include a wide variety of both faith-based and secular charities, advocacy groups, and other service-based campus groups. However, it was only headquartered here in its namesake building until 1926, when it was demolished to provide an unobstructed view of the new Harkness Tower, which is visible on the left side of the present-day scene. This was done in accordance with the wishes of Anna M. Harkness, who had donated the tower to the school, and it resulted in a large gap on the west side of the Old Campus quadrangle, as seen in the 2018 photo. Following the demolition, the Dwight Hall organization moved into the old library building, which is barely visible on the extreme left side of the scene. The building was subsequently renamed Dwight Hall, and today it continues to house the variety of groups that comprise the Dwight Hall at Yale organization.

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.

Vanderbilt Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Vanderbilt Hall, seen from Chapel Street 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:

Vanderbilt Hall was completed in 1894, and is named for William H. Vanderbilt II, who died of typhoid fever in 1892, while he was a student here at Yale. He had been the oldest son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who donated this four-story dormitory to the school in honor of his son. At the time, it was one of several expensive building projects that Vanderbilt was undertaking, which included a massive expansion of his Fifth Avenue home in New York City, and the construction of The Breakers in Newport. As was the case in these other two projects, Vanderbilt spared no expense in this dormitory. It was built at a cost of about a million dollars – nearly $30 million today – and was designed by noted architect Charles C. Haight, who designed many buildings at Yale and in New York City.

Upon its completion, it was hailed by the Springfield Republican as “The costliest and most magnificent college dormitory in America,” and the newspaper provided a glowing description of the building’s interior:

The halls are spacious, circular in plan, and the staircases are of iron and marble. On entering the hallways, one finds the walls lined with white enameled brick, while the iron stairs have marble footsteps and an artistic railing with wooden top. The floors are paved with tines, some in mosaic work. On each floor are washstands set in a recess, with hot and cold water. In the further part of the entries are the bath-rooms, each of which has a porcelain tub and is lined throughout with handsome gray marble. There are also in each entry trunk elevators running from the top to the bottom of the building. The rooms are wainscoted to a hight [sic] of four feet in paneled oak. The fireplaces are large and constructed with handsome brick, surrounded by wood-work, which extends up over the mantel to a hight of bout [sic] eight feet. A feature of each suite of rooms is the window seat. These seats are made of fine grained oak, and the lower part of each contains two sets of drawers and two closets. The suites will consist in general of a study, 18 by 14 feet, and two bedrooms, each 16 by 8 feet. Most of the sitting-rooms face the court and are lightel [sic] by three windows. A number of the rooms facing the quadrangle have oriel windows, and private vestibules are provided for each apartment where it is practicable. The bedrooms are large, and each is provided with a closet and a small cupboard with shelves.

The construction of Vanderbilt Hall was part of a dramatic shift in Yale’s campus plan. For much of the 19th century, the school consisted of a group of seven brick buildings known as the Old Brick Row. These buildings were constructed between 1752 and 1824, but by the late 19th century they had begun to be surrounded by newer, more ornate Gothic-style buildings. The first to go were South College and the Atheneum, both of which stood on the site of Vanderbilt Hall. They were demolished in 1893, and most of the other buildings in the Old Brick Row soon followed. By the time the first photo was taken less than a decade later, all were gone except for Connecticut Hall, which stands directly behind Vanderbilt Hall and has been preserved as the oldest surviving building on the Yale campus.

Vanderbilt Hall was designed to house about 130 students, and in its early years these included Cornelius “Neily” Vanderbilt III and Alfred Vanderbilt, two of the younger brothers of the building’s namesake. Neily would become estranged from his parents in 1896, when he eloped with Grace Wilson. She had been secretly engaged to William before his death, and Neily subsequently fell in love with her, over his parents’ strenuous objections. As a result, 21-year-old Alfred inherited the bulk of his father’s estate upon his death in 1899. However, like his eldest brother, Alfred also died young. He drowned in the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, and he is regarded as a hero of the disaster for giving his life jacket to a woman and then attempting to tie life jackets to babies as the ship sank.

Today, Vanderbilt Hall continues to be used as a dormitory. The interior has been renovated several times, but very little has changed in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century. Even the fence is still here, and the only significant difference between the two photos is the loss of the massive elm tree in the courtyard. In 1969, when Yale became coeducational, Vanderbilt Hall was used to house the school’s first freshman class of women. It now houses both men and women, with the freshmen of Branford College on one side of the building, and those of Saybrook College on the other side.

United Church, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The United Church, at the corner of Temple and Elm Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2018:

As discussed in a previous post, the United Church – also known as the North Church – was completed in 1815. It was the second in a row of three churches that were built along Temple Street on the New Haven Green, and it featured Federal-style architecture that was very similar to the neighboring Center Church, which had been built a year earlier. However, unlike Center Church, which had been designed by two of the most influential early 19th century architects, United Church was evidently designed by Ebenezer Johnson, Jr., a local shoemaker who was a member of the congregation. Noted architect David Hoadley is generally credited with overseeing the construction, though, so he may have had a hand in the final design as well.

The United Church itself predates the construction of this church by nearly 75 years, with the origins of the congregation dating back to 1742. At the time, New England was in the midst of the Great Awakening, causing a rift between the “New Lights,” who were influenced by the preaching of men such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, and the “Old Lights,” who were wary of the ongoing revival. The New Lights of New Haven ultimately separated from the First Church in 1742, forming the White Haven Church, with a meeting house that was located a block away from here, at southeast corner of Church and Elm Streets.

Probably the most prominent early pastor of the church was Jonathan Edwards the Younger, who was the son of Jonathan Edwards. He was installed in 1769, but this decision proved controversial, and many members left and formed a new church, known as the Fair Haven Church, and constructed a meeting house here at the site of the current church. These two congregations remained separate throughout Reverend Edwards’s tenure, but he left in 1795, and the churches were reunited the following year as the Church of Christ in the United Societies of White Haven and Fair Haven. This rather unwieldy name was eventually simplified, and was variously to as either the United Church or the North Church, given its location at the northern end of the Green.

Following the reunification, the congregation worshiped in both meeting houses, alternating on a monthly basis. This arrangement continued for some time, but by the early 1810s the church had seen significant growth, and the old buildings were in poor condition. As a result, in 1813 construction began on a new brick church, which was built on the site of the former Fair Haven building. Twenty church members were involved in the actual construction work, and their payment was in the form of the two old buildings,, along with the former property of the White Haven Church. The new church was dedicated in December 1815, although the finishing touches would not be completed for another two years.

During the Antebellum period, this church and its members contributed to the growing Abolitionist movement in New England. Perhaps most significantly, one of its members was Roger Sherman Baldwin, an attorney who represented the African defendants in the Amistad case. Baldwin was successful in the trial, which was held across the Green from here on the present-day site of City Hall, but the outcome was then appealed to the Supreme Court. There, Baldwin again spoke in favor of the kidnapped Africans, as did former president John Quincy Adams, and the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decision to free the men. Baldwin would subsequently go on to have a successful political career, serving as governor of Connecticut from 1844 to 1846, and as a U. S. senator from 1847 to 1851.

Aside from its connection to the landmark Amistad case, the North Church was also involved in the controversy over whether Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a free state or slave state. Since this issue was to be decided by a vote among its residents, this caused an influx of both pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers, with each side hoping to tip the balance in their favor. This inevitably resulted in violence between the two sides, and on March 20, 1856 the prominent abolitionist and pastor Henry Ward Beecher spoke here at the church, in support of a group of New Haven residents who were moving to Kansas. As the New York Times recounted several days later,

The object of the meeting was to raise money for the purpose of providing the colonizing party with proper weapons of self-defence against the attacks of the Border Ruffians, and also to give them something with “lock, stock and barrel,” to point at the wolves of the prairie who may encroach upon their camps.

The price of admission was fixed at twenty-five cents, but, notwithstanding the equivocal politeness of inviting a subscription party out of an evening, on such conditions, the Church was filled – floor and galleries – with an audience of the most prominent citizens of New-Haven, including a large number of clergymen of various denominations, and a full quorum of Professors from the Faculty of Yale College.

As the keynote speaker of the event, Reverend Beecher spoke about slavery, its effect on the country, and the current situation in Kansas. Following his speech, the audience sang a hymn, “Song of the Kansas Emigrant,” and then Yale professor Benjamin Silliman came forward and asked the people to purchase Sharps rifles, at a cost of $25 each, for the departing settlers to bring with them. Samuel W. S. Dutton, the pastor of the church, was among the first to pledge money for a rifle, standing and declaring that “One of the deacons of this church, Mr. Harvey Hall, is going out with the Company, and I, as his pastor, desire to present to him a Bible and a Sharpe’s rifle.” This was met with great applause, and at one point Reverend Beecher pledged that his church would give 25 rifles, if the assembly could match the contribution. They eventually reached this number, with some contributing multiple rifles, and finished the meeting with a total of 27 rifle pledges from the assembly. This, combined with the admission fee, resulted in a collection of about a thousand dollars for the Kansas settlers, or about $28,000 in today’s dollars.

The church went through another merger in 1884, when it joined with the Third Congregational Church. The combined congregation continued to worship here in this building, which had seen few exterior changes by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1900s. Two other historic buildings are also visible in the photo, which predate the church. On the far right side of the photo, at 149 Elm Street, is the John Pierpont House, which was built in 1767, and just to the right of it is the Jonathan Mix House, built in 1799. Today, remarkably little has changed in more than a century since the photo was taken. Both of these houses are still standing, with the Pierpont House now serving as the Yale Visitor Center. The church has also remained well-preserved during this time, and it is now a contributing property in the New Haven Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.