Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The Trinity Church on the Green, at the corner of Chapel and Temple 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 an earlier post, Trinity Church was one of three churches that were built on the New Haven Green in the mid-1810s. However, unlike the other two, which were Congregationalist churches designed in the typical Federal-style architecture of the period, the Episcopalian Trinity Church featured a very early Gothic Revival design. Completed in 1816, it was the work of prominent Connecticut architect Ithiel Town, and it is perhaps the first Gothic church to be built in the country. Unlike the neighboring Congregationalist churches, which were built of brick, the exterior of Trinity Church was made of trap rock, quarried from the nearby East Rock. The top of the tower, however, was originally built of wood, and the Town’s design also featured wooden balustrades along the roofline.

The most significant exterior change to the church came in 1871, several decades before the first photo was taken, when the wooden tower was rebuilt of stone. During this renovation, the rotting wooden balustrade was also removed, and was not replaced. Other changes that were done before the first photo was taken included the installation of stained glass windows, and the addition of the pyramidal spire on the top of the tower. Aside from this, the exterior remained largely unaltered from its early 19th century appearance, although the interior has seen some significant changes, including a major renovation by architect Henry Austin in the late 1840s.

Today, very little has changed since the first photo was taken more than a century ago. The pyramidal spire has been removed, although it was not original to the church anyway, and the rest of the exterior has been well-preserved. Along with the other two neighboring churches, it is now part of the New Haven Green Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Much of the area around the church has also remained largely unchanged, including the Green, which still serves as a park in the center of the city. Both photos also show part of the Old Campus of Yale University, particularly Phelps Hall, which stands in the distance to the right of the church in both photos.

Center Church and United Church, New Haven, Connecticut

Center Church and United Church, as seen looking west on the New Haven Green, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This view shows two of the three historic churches that were built on the New Haven Green in the 1810s. The oldest of these, on the left side of the scene, is Center Church, which was completed in 1814. It was built of brick, and featured a Federal-style that was designed by Asher Benjamin and Ithiel Town, two Connecticut-born architects who were among the leading American architects of the early 19th century. Like many New England churches of this period, it featured a columned portico, along with a tall, multi-stage steeple that rose above it.

Although not readily apparent in this view, one of the more unusual features of Center Church is its basement. Throughout the colonial era, this section of the Green served as New Haven’s burial ground, and an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 bodies were interred here. Center Church was built in the midst of this cemetery, but rather than removing the remains or the headstones, the church was simply built above them. The ground became the floor of the basement, but otherwise the graves were not disturbed, and the headstones are still well-preserved today. However, this was only a small portion of the entire cemetery. The rest of the headstones, which are once located around the outside of the church, were moved to Grove Street Cemetery in 1821. The remains themselves were not disinterred, though, and they are still buried here under the Green.

In the meantime, Center Church was joined by two other churches in the mid-1810s. To the right of it, at the corner of Temple and Elm Streets, is the United Church, which was completed in 1815. It was, along with the neighboring Center Church, a Congregationalist church, and it likewise had very similar architecture. There is some disagreement among historic sources over who the architect was, but it appears to have been Ebenezer Johnson, Jr. His design was likely influenced by Center Church, but the United Church does have some differences, such as a lack of a portico, and it featured a shorter steeple with a rounded top, instead of a tall pointed spire.

The third church to be built here on the Green was Trinity Church, completes a year after United Church in 1816. Although not visible in these photos, it featured Gothic-style architecture that sharply contrasted with its Federal-style neighbors, and was one of the first Gothic churches to be built in the country. Today, all three of these church buildings are still here, and they are all contributing properties in the New Haven Green Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Overall, very little has changed in this scene, and even many of the buildings in the distance have remained. These include another historic church, the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church, which can be seen in the background just beyond and to the left of the United Church. It was built in 1849, with a design similar to these other two churches, and it still stands at the corner of Elm and College Streets.

Old Campus, New Haven, Connecticut

The Old Campus of Yale University, seen looking west from the New Haven Green, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This scene has hardly changed in more than a century since the first photo was taken, yet it would have looked very different just a couple decades earlier, when the Old Brick Row still stood here. Constructed between 1752 and 1824, this group of seven building comprised the bulk of the Yale campus until the late 19th century, when they were steadily replaced by more modern Gothic-style buildings, as seen in the first photo. This transition also marked a dramatic shift in the layout of the campus. Unlike the Old Brick Row, which had been built in a single line that was set back from the street, these new buildings were constructed right up against the street, along the entire perimeter of the block, with a large quadrangle in the center.

These two photos show the east side of the Old Campus, which consists of a group of five buildings along College Street. The oldest of these is Farnam Hall, which stands second from the right. It is somewhat difficult to distinguish from the other buildings, but it is identifiable by its somewhat lower roof line. It was completed in 1870, and was the first of the dormitories to be built under the new campus plan. Immediately to the right of it, on the far right side of the scene, is the Battell Chapel, which was completed in 1876, and to the left of Farnam Hall is Lawrance Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1886. All three of these buildings, along with nearby Durfee Hall, were designed by noted architect Russell Sturgis, and they all feature the High Victorian Gothic style of architecture that was popular during this period.

The two buildings on the left side of the scene were built a few years later. They were architecturally similar, although their style could perhaps best be described as English Gothic. As explained in a previous post, these were also designed by prominent architects. To the left is Welch Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1891 and was designed by Bruce Price. The final link in this row of buildings, Phelps Hall, was built five years later. It was designed by Charles C. Haight, who gave it the appearance of a medieval gatehouse. On the ground floor is the Phelps Gate, which serves as the main entrance to the Old Campus from the east, and the upper floors were built with recitation rooms.

Several more buildings would be added to the Old Campus after the first photo was taken, but otherwise the quadrangle was largely complete by the time Phelps Hall was constructed. This particular view has hardly changed at all. The buildings have seen only minor exterior alterations, and the only new building visible in the present-day scene is the Harkness Tower, which was completed a block away from here in 1922, and can be seen in the distance just to the left of Phelps Hall. Another building of interest, which appears in both photos, is Connecticut Hall. Visible in the distance on the far left side of the scene, it is the only surviving building from the Old Brick Row. It was built in 1752, and although threatened with demolition at the turn of the century, it was ultimately restored, and it now stands as the oldest building on the Yale campus.

Dwight Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Dwight Hall on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

During the first half of the 19th century, the most prominent feature on the Yale campus was the Old Brick Row, a group of seven buildings that ran parallel to College Street on what is now known as the Old Campus. Constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, these brick buildings included dormitories, along with academic buildings that housed recitation rooms, laboratories, chapels, and a library. The Old Brick Row served the school well for many years, but one of the first significant additions to the campus came in the 1840s, with the construction of a new library building. Located away from the Old Brick Row, on the High Street side of the block, the new library was both physically and architecturally set apart from the older buildings. It featured an ornate Gothic Revival-style design, which contrasted sharply with the older, more plain Federal-style buildings, and its style also foreshadowed the future development of a Gothic-style quadrangle that would eventually displace the Old Brick Row.

The library building, which was later named Dwight Hall after former presidents Timothy Dwight IV and Timothy Dwight V, was constructed between 1842 and 1846. It was the work of noted New Haven architect Henry Austin, and it was among the first major commissions of his career. Prior to its construction, the library had been located in several different Old Brick Row buildings, including the Atheneum from 1763 to 1804, the Lyceum from 1804 to 1824, and then in the Second Chapel starting in 1824. However, this building was the first building on campus to be built specifically as a library, and its design was intended, at least in part, to protect the school’s rare books and archival materials from fire. Its location, far from the Old Brick Row, would have kept it safe in the event of a fire in the older buildings, and the library itself was built to be as fireproof as possible, with features such as a brownstone exterior, tin roof, and internal firewalls.

Within a few decades of the library’s completion, the Old Campus began to undergo a major transformation. The buildings of the Old Brick Row were steadily demolished, and the entire block was eventually encircled by late 19th and early 20th century Gothic-style buildings, creating an open quadrangle where the old buildings had once stood. The library was spared demolition, and was incorporated into this new campus plan, as was South Middle College, a part of the Old Brick Row that had been built in 1752. Later renamed Connecticut Hall, it is the oldest building on the Yale campus, and the library is now the second oldest.

This building served as the Yale library for many years, although it eventually became too small for the school’s growing collections. The library was expanded with the construction of Chittenden Hall in 1890 and Linsly Hall in 1906, and the latter is partially visible on the left side of both photos. However, even this arrangement proved inadequate over time, and in 1931 the library moved into the newly-completed Sterling Memorial Library. The old library was then converted into a chapel, and was renamed Dwight Hall. Over the years, the building has also served as the headquarters and namesake of Dwight Hall at Yale, a community service organization that is comprised of a wide variety of advocacy groups, charities, and related service-based campus groups.

Today, aside from changes in its use, Dwight Hall is not significantly different from its appearance in the first photo, taken more than a century ago. Linsly Hall, which is now combined with the adjacent Chittenden Hall, is still standing on the left side as well, and other features from both photos include the statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, who became president of the college in 1846, the same year that Dwight Hall was completed. This statue has become somewhat of a Yale landmark, as rubbing Woolsey’s left foot is said to bring good luck. This has resulted in a foot that is significantly shinier than the rest of the statue, a phenomenon that has even been referenced on the television show Gilmore Girls.

Overall, the only major difference between these two photos is the Harkness Tower, which is visible in the distance on the right side of the 2018 photo. Completed in 1922, this 216-foot tower was named in honor of Yale graduate and prominent Standard Oil investor Charles William Harkness, and was donated by his family after his death in 1916. The 2018 photo also shows some of the work that has recently been done on Dwight Hall. The building temporarily closed in 2017, and underwent its first major renovation since its conversion from a library to a chapel. This work was still in progress when the first photo was taken in the spring of 2018, but it was completed several months later, and the building reopened in the fall of 2018.

United Church, New Haven, Connecticut

The United Church, at the southwest corner of Elm and Temple Streets, as seen from the New Haven Green around 1900-1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

New Haven’s United Church, also know historically as North Church, has occupied this building on the Green since its completion in 1815. It was one of three church buildings to be built here during the mid-1810s, and it features a Federal-style design that was typical for churches of this period. The architect of United Church is somewhat unclear, but sources generally credit Ebenezer Johnson, Jr. with designing the building, and noted architect David Hoadley with overseeing the actual construction work. Either way, the design was likely influenced by the adjacent Center Church, which was completed a year earlier. Both churches have a brick exterior, a multi-stage steeple, and a pediment above the main entrance, although the United Church lacks a columned portico, and its steeple has a rounded top instead of a pointed spire.

The United Church was built a block east of the Old Campus of Yale University, which is visible in the distance on the left. The campus was developed in the 18th century, but most of these early buildings were demolished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to construct the modern-day Gothic college buildings. The majority of this work was completed by the time the first photo was taken, and the most visible of these new buildings was Phelps Hall, with its distinctive tower that rises above Welch Hall to the left of it and Lawrance Hall to the right. Lawrance Hall is the oldest of the three, having been built in 1886, while Welch and Phelps were built in 1891 and 1896, respectively.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. The elm trees on the Green are long gone, with most having presumably succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease in the mid-20th century, but otherwise the Green continues to function as a public park at the heart of New Haven. The United Church is still an active congregation, and its historic 1815 building has remained well-preserved, with no noticeable exterior changes from this angle. Along with the other two early 19th century churches on the Green, it is now part of the New Haven Green Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Further in the distance, this view of the Old Campus has also remained largely unchanged since the first photo was taken, and these buildings are used as freshman dormitories and as offices for several academic departments.

Trinity Church and Center Church, New Haven, Connecticut

Trinity Church on the Green (left) and Center Church (right), seen from across the New Haven Green, around 1900-1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

These two churches were completed only two years apart, and were designed – at least in part – by the same architect, yet they represent two very different architectural styles. On the right is the Federal-style Center Church, which was completed in 1814. It was the work of notes architects Asher Benjamin and Ithiel Town, and it reflects the typical appearance of New England churches during this period. Common features include a columned portico with a triangular pediment above it, a tall, multi-stage steeple, and an exterior of red brick. The United Church, located just out of view to the right, was completed a year later, and in many ways its design was a close imitation of Center Church.

A third church, Trinity Church, was also built on the New Haven Green around the same time. It was completed in 1816, and can be seen in the distance on the left side of the scene. However, while the two earlier churches were Congregationalist, Trinity was an Episcopalian parish, and its members were interested in a design that would set it apart from the new neighboring churches. As discussed in more detail in an earlier post, the result was a stone, Gothic Revival church, perhaps the first church of this style to be built in the United States. Like the neighboring Center Church, it was designed by Ithiel Town, and his work predated the widespread popularity of Gothic Revival architecture by several decades.

The first photo was taken nearly a century later, and shows the view of the Green with both churches still standing. Aside from a partially-reconstructed steeple on Trinity Church, neither building had seen many exterior changes by this point. Today, the churches are more than twice as old as they were when the first photo was taken, yet they have still remained well-preserved. The only noticeable difference is the removal of the pyramidal spire atop Trinity Church, which was not original anyway. The Green itself has also remained largely unchanged, aside from the loss of the elm trees that once gave New Haven its nickname of Elm City. The only other major change to this scene since the early 20th century has been the construction of the Hotel Taft, which was completed in 1912 and can be seen in the distance between the two churches.