Jonathan Mix House, New Haven, Connecticut

The house at 155 Elm Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This section of Elm Street features a row of three historic houses that date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Furthest in the distance, at the corner of Temple Street, is the brick Ralph Ingersoll House, which was built in 1829. To the left of it is the 1767 John Pierpont House, which is one of the oldest houses in New Haven, and closest to the foreground is the 1799 Jonathan Mix House. Together, these three homes are among the few survivors of Quality Row, a term that was once given to the many fine mansions that lined Elm Street along the northern end of the New Haven Green.

Jonathan Mix, the original owner of the house in the foreground, was a New Haven native who was born in 1753. He served in the American Revolution, and spent time as a prisoner of war on the notorious British prison ship Jersey, before returning to New Haven at the end of the war. He and his wife Anna raised a large family, with ten children who were born between 1778 and 1797, at least one of whom died young. Anna died in 1799 at the age of 40, and the following year Jonathan married his second wife, Elizabeth, with whom he had one child.

This house was evidently built around the time of his second marriage, but it does not seem clear how long Jonathan Mix actually lived here. One Mix family genealogy from 1886 indicates that he “lived in the house on Elm street . . . now occupied by Dr. Carmalt” [175 Elm Street], and that he “built the house now owned by Eli W. Blake” [here at 155 Elm Street]. This probably suggests that Mix lived at present-day 175 Elm Street until around 1799, and then moved into this house upon its completion. However, he would not remain in New Haven for much longer, because in 1808 he relocated to New York, where he died in 1817.

As mentioned in the description from the Mix genealogy, this house was later owned by Eli Whitney Blake. He was a nephew of inventor Eli Whitney, but Blake was also a noted inventor in his own right, with innovations such as a mortise lock and a stone-crushing machine. The latter was a particularly important contribution to 19th century America, because it enabled the construction of paved roads. Blake also had connections to the Mix family, which may have been how he acquired this house. His older brother, Elihu Blake, married Jonathan Mix’s youngest child, Adeline, and one of their children was William Phipps Blake, a prominent geologist who also wrote the 1886 Mix genealogy book.

The 1870 census shows Blake living here with his wife Eliza and their son George. His occupation was listed as “Inventor of the Stone Crusher,” but at the time he was also involved with Blake Brothers, a hardware manufacturing company in the New Haven neighborhood of Westville. Among their many products was an early corkscrew, which had been invented by his brother Philos. By this point, Eli was a fairly wealthy man, and the 1870 census values his real estate at $20,000, plus a personal estate of $10,000, for a net worth equivalent to about $600,000 today.

Eliza died in 1876, and Eli continued to live in this house until his death in 1886, at the age of 91. The house was subsequently owned by his daughter Mary, who lived here with her husband George Bushnell, a Congregationalist minister. He died in 1898, but Mary was still here during the 1900 census. She lived until 1916, but in 1901 she sold the property to the Graduate Club, a New Haven social club that had been founded in 1892.

The first photo was taken sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, as part of a WPA survey to document historic buildings across Connecticut. Not much has changed since then, and all three of these historic Elm Street homes are still standing. The other two homes are owned by Yale, but the Jonathan Mix House continues to be used as the clubhouse for the Graduate Club, although the organization was renamed the Elm City Club following a 2012 merger with the Quinnipiack Club.

Ralph Ingersoll House, New Haven, Connecticut

The house at 143 Elm Street, at the corner of Temple Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

The house in 2018:

The north side of the New Haven Green was once known as Quality Row, for the many elegant homes that lined Elm Street. All of the houses along the eastern half of the Green, on the block between Temple and Church Streets, were demolished by the early 20th century, but several survive here on the western half, including this mansion. It was built in 1829 as the home of attorney and politician Ralph I. Ingersoll, and it was designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis, two prominent architects of the early 20th century.

Ralph Ingersoll came from a prominent family that included his father, Jonathan Ingersoll, who served as lieutenant governor of Connecticut from 1816 to 1823. Ralph would also go on to become a leader in state politics, serving as speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1824 to 1825. He then served four terms in Congress, from 1825 to 1833. At the time, Connecticut did not have separate Congressional districts, so Ingersoll and the other five representatives were elected at-large by the entire state. From 1830 to 1831, he was simultaneously the mayor of New Haven, and he was later appointed U. S. Minister to Russia, serving from 1846 to 1848. During his time as a congressman, Ingersoll also received a prominent visitor to his home in 1833, when President Andrew Jackson came here during a visit to New Haven.

Ralph Ingersoll and his wife Margaret lived here together for over 40 years, and two of their sons would also go on to have successful political careers. The oldest, Colin, was elected to two terms in the U. S. House from 1851 to 1855, and his brother Charles served as governor of Connecticut from 1873 to 1877. The 1870 census, taken two years before Ralph’s death, shows him living here along with Margaret, their daughter Grace, and three servants. His real estate holdings were valued at $57,000, along with a personal estate of $12,000, for a net worth equivalent to nearly $1.4 million today.

Charles Ingersoll inherited this house from his father, and he lived here during his time as governor. The 1900 census shows him widowed and living here with his sister Grace, his children Justine and Francis, daughter-in-law Lucy, three servants, and a nurse. He remained here until his death in 1903, and the house was subsequently owned by Ingersoll family relative Frank H. Whittemore. He was a physician, and this building served as both his house and his office. His son, E. Reed Whittemore, was also a physician, and he also practiced medicine here with his father.

In 1919, Yale University purchased the house, thanks to a gift of $100,000 from Harriet Williams in memory of her son, Earl Trumbull Williams,. He was a 1910 graduate of Yale, and went on to serve as a lieutenant in the army during World War I. However, in 1918 he was killed by a falling tree while on leave from his post at Camp Devens in Massachusetts. This house became the Earl Trumbull Williams Memorial, and it was initially used to house the Yale University Press.

The first photo was taken several decades later, in the late 1930s or early 1940s. By this point it was still occupied by Yale University Press, which would remain here until 1959. Over the years, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved – even the two trees in front are still standing from the first photo – and it is still owned by Yale. Today, it is used for offices, and it was recently used as the temporary home of Dwight Hall, a community service organization that was located here while its building was undergoing renovations in 2017-2018.

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.

John Pierpont House, New Haven, Connecticut

The house at 149 Elm Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

The house in 2018:

This house was built in 1767 as the home of John Pierpont and his newlywed wife, Sarah Beers. However, the property itself had been in the family for nearly a century, having been acquired in 1685 by Pierpont’s grandfather, James Pierpont, who was a prominent pastor and co-founder of Yale. John was about 27 and Sarah was about 23 when they were married, and they went on to raise nine children here, although four died young. Their surviving children included their oldest, Hezekiah, who later changed the spelling of his surname to Pierrepont and became a prominent merchant and real estate developer in Brooklyn.

John Pierpont died in 1805, but Sarah outlived him by 30 years and remained here until her death in 1835 at the age of 90. Her daughter, Mary Foster, then inherited the house, and her children subsequently owned it until 1900, more than 130 years after their grandfather had built the house. The property was then sold to Anson Phelps Stokes, the secretary of Yale University. He was the son of the prominent New York merchant and banker of the same name, but unlike his millionaire father he entered the field of education instead of business. He expanded the house with a large addition, and he lived here throughout his time as secretary, until he resigned the position in 1921 after being passed over for the role of university president.

That same year, Phelps sold the property to Yale, which used the house as a space for social functions. By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s, it was known as the Faculty Club, and the building later housed the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Other additions came during Yale’s ownership, including the wing on the left side, which was added sometime after the first photo was taken. However, the historic house is still standing today, as one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Haven, and it now serves as the Yale University Visitor Center.

Ira Atwater House, New Haven, Connecticut

The building at 218-224 College Street, at the corner of Crown Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The building in 2018:

This large Federal-style house was built around 1817 as the home of Ira Atwater, a local architect, builder, and carpenter. He evidently built the house himself, and its completion coincided with his marriage to Roanna Buckingham. The couple would go on to have ten children, and Ira had a successful career as a builder, which included constructing the historic First Congregational Church in nearby Guilford. However, he died in 1849 from injuries he sustained after falling from the roof of his house. Historical records do not specify whether he was living at this same house at the time, although it seems likely that he was.

At some point around the early 20th century, the house was converted into commercial use, and the ground floor was altered with the addition of two storefronts. By the time the first photo was taken, the building was occupied by Phillips Restaurant on the left and Star Shoe Repair on the right, and a sign above the front door advertises for “Rooms,” suggesting that the upper floors were used as a boarding house. Many of these rooms were likely occupied by Yale students, as the campus lies just a block north of here.

Today, not much has changed in this scene since the first photo was taken. Despite the ground floor alterations, the Federal-style architecture of the house is still easily recognizable, and it is one of the oldest surviving homes in this part of downtown New Haven. It stands adjacent to another historic home, the Thomas Merwin House, which was built around 1840 on the right side of the scene. Its ground floor has likewise been altered over the years, but the two upper floors have survived intact. Both of these houses are now contributing properties in the Chapel Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Nathan Adams House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 1135 Worthington Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2018:

This elegant Queen Anne-style house was built in 1887 as the home of Dr. Nathan Adams, his wife Elizabeth, and their son, Nathan, Jr. An 1834 graduate of Yale, Dr. Adams came to Springfield in 1838, where he practiced medicine for many years. Later in life, he lived in New Haven for some time, but ultimately returned to Springfield. He was in his mid-70s when he and his family moved into this house, and he was only able to enjoy it for about a year before his death in 1888. Soon after, Elizabeth moved around the corner to a new, even larger house at 28 Ingersoll Grove, where she remained until her death in 1908.

By 1890, this house on Worthington Street was the home of Emily Jacobs, the widow of another noted physician, Dr. Horace Jacobs. She lived here until her death in 1898 at the age of 77, and her daughter Mary inherited the property. She was unmarried, but early 20th century census records show her living with several other family members, including her nephew Horace Rice, who was here in 1910, and her brother Chauncey A. Jacobs, who was here in 1920. Like his father, Chauncey was a physician, but he was 76 years old and evidently retired by this point. Both siblings lived here for the rest of their lives, until Chauncey’s death in 1923 and Mary’s in 1927.

The next owner of this house was David E. Tebo, a former woolen mill manager who had previously lived in Enfield, Massachusetts. He came to Springfield in the late 1920s, and his relocation was likely spurred by the imminent construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, which would flood Enfield and three other neighboring towns. The 1930 census shows him here in this house, along with his daughter, Anne T. Blair, who was an attorney. Both were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and David Tebo died a few years later in 1945, when he was about 90 years old.

Anne Blair continued to live here until 1969, when she finally sold the property about 40 years after she and her father had moved in. The house has remained well-preserved since then, on both the exterior and interior, and it stands as an excellent example of the many fine Queen Anne-style homes that were built in the McKnight neighborhood during the late 19th century. Along with the other houses in the area, it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.