Old Brick Row, New Haven, Connecticut

The Old Brick Row on the Yale campus, seen from the corner of College and Chapel Streets in New Haven, in 1863. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

The scene in 2018:

Today, much of the Yale campus consists of ornate Gothic-style buildings that were constructed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, prior to this time the campus consisted of a group of brick Federal-style buildings that ran parallel to College Street from the corner of Chapel Street. Collectively known as the Old Brick Row, these were built between 1752 and 1824, and they formed the heart of Yale University until the late 19th century, when the old buildings were steadily replaced by more modern ones. Only one building, Connecticut Hall, still survives from the Old Brick Row, although it is now surrounded by newer buildings and is hidden from view in the present-day scene.

The site of the Old Brick Row, now known as the Old Campus, was also the site of the first Yale building in New Haven, which was named the College House. It was completed in 1718, two years after the school moved to New Haven, and was located in the foreground at the corner of College and Chapel Streets. During the early years, it was the only building on campus, but it was later joined by other buildings, including Connecticut Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1752 and was, in later years, known as South Middle College. Then, in 1763, the First Chapel – later known as the Atheneum – was built to the south of Connecticut Hall. College House was demolished in 1782, but the other two buildings were still standing when the first photo was taken in 1863, with the First Chapel second from the right, and Connecticut Hall just to the right of it.

Following the demolition of the College House, Yale decided upon a campus plan that would involve new buildings to the south of the First Chapel and to the north of Connecticut Hall. This is regarded as the first such campus plan at any college in the country, and it consisted of a single row of buildings that alternated between long dormitories and smaller buildings that were topped with steeples. As part of this plan, Union Hall – later called South College – was built near where the College House had stood, on the far left side of the first photo. This was followed at the turn of the 19th century by the Lyceum, which stood immediately to the right of Connecticut Hall, and Berkeley Hall – later North Middle College – further to the right of it. The last two additions to the Old Brick Row came in the early 1820s, with the construction of North College on the extreme northern end of the row around 1821, and the Second Chapel, which was built between North Middle and North in 1824.

By the time the first photo was taken in 1863, the campus had also come to include buildings such as a library, laboratory, art gallery, and Alumni Hall, which was used as a lecture hall. The Old Brick Row continued to play a central role on the Yale campus throughout this time, but this would soon begin to change. In 1870, the school adopted a new campus plan, which called for the gradual replacement of the old buildings and the creation of a quadrangle that was surrounded by new Gothic-style buildings. This began at the northwestern corner of the block with the construction of Farnam Hall, Durfee Hall, and the Battell Chapel in the 1870s, although this did not immediately affect the Old Brick Row, which stood here for several more decades.

The first to go were South College and the Atheneum, both of which were demolished in 1893 to make way for Vanderbilt Hall, which was completed a year later. By this time, the rest of the Old Brick Row had found itself essentially surrounded by new buildings, hidden from view from the street and in the midst of a newly-formed quadrangle. These old, plain brick buildings looked increasingly out of place in the midst of the new, ornate Gothic-style brownstone buildings, and most were removed over the next few years. Both North Middle College and the Second Chapel were demolished around 1896, followed by the Lyceum and North College in 1901. South Middle College was also slated for demolition as part of the new campus plan, but it was ultimately saved, and was restored to its original Georgian-style design in 1905.

The present-day photo shows a few of the late 19th and early 20th century buildings of the Old Campus, most of which are now older than much of the Old Brick Row had been when it was demolished. In the distance on the extreme left is Vanderbilt Hall, with Bingham Hall (1928) at the corner, Welch Hall (1891) to the right of it, and Phelps Hall (1896) barely visible beyond the trees on the far right. South Middle College, which is once again known by its historic name of Connecticut Hall, is still standing in the quadrangle behind Bingham Hall, no longer visible from this angle. It is the only surviving remnant from the Old Brick Row, but in 1925 it was joined by McClellan Hall, which stands next to it on the quadrangle with a Colonial Revival design that matches Connecticut Hall and pays tribute to the long-demolished buildings of the Old Brick Row.

College Street from Chapel Street, New Haven, Connecticut

Looking north on College Street from the corner of Chapel Street in New Haven, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

These photos were taken from about the same spot as the ones in the previous post, just angled a little to the right to show the view up College Street. As mentioned in that post, this site has long been important in Yale’s history, starting with the construction of its first building in New Haven in 1718. Over a century later, a rail fence was built here along the perimeter of the campus, and for many years it was a popular hangout spot for Yale students, who would sit and socialize on the fence. However, by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the old fence was gone, having been replaced by a group of new buildings.

The most visible of these buildings is Osborn Hall, which was used for recitation rooms. It was completed in 1890, with a Romanesque-style exterior that was designed by noted architect Bruce Price. Just beyond it is Welch Hall, a dormitory that was completed a year later and was also designed by Price. Further in the distance, and mostly obscured by trees in the first photo, is Phelps Hall. This building, with its tower-like design and distinctive gate leading into the Old Campus, was completed in 1896, and it is the newest building in the first photo.

Today, this scene looks significantly different from the first photo, thanks to the loss of the trees and the demolition of Osborn Hall. The trees, which once lined both sides of College Street, appear to have been some of New Haven’s ubiquitous elm tees. However, the trees in Elm City, along with those across the rest of the country, were decimated by Dutch Elm Disease in the mid-20th century. Osborn Hall is also gone, having been demolished in 1926 to construct Bingham Hall, a dormitory that now stands on the site. Further in the distance, though, there are some surviving features from the first photo, including both Welch Hall and Phelps Hall, which still comprise part of the Old Campus at Yale.

Osborn Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Osborn Hall, at the northwest corner of College and Chapel Streets 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:

This site, at the corner of College and Chapel Streets, was the location of the first building on Yale’s New Haven campus. Established in 1701 as the Collegiate School, it was originally in modern-day Clinton, Connecticut, and it moved several times before eventually coming to New Haven in 1716, where it was subsequently renamed Yale College. The first building, known as the College House, was completed here in 1718. It was the only building on campus during its early years, and it stood here until its demolition in the late 18th century.

By the 1830s, the perimeter of the Yale campus was marked by a rail fence that ran along the streets. Aside from serving as both a literal and symbolic boundary between Yale and the rest of New Haven, the fence also became a popular spot for socializing, where up to several hundred students could be found seated on the rails at any given time. At the time, the fence encircled the Old Brick Row, a collection of late 18th and early 19th century buildings that were set back from the streets. By the late 19th century, though, the school had adopted a new campus plan, consisting of new buildings on the edges of the streets, with a quadrangle where the Old Brick Row had once stood.

As a result, the old fence was steadily replaced by these new buildings, which were constructed over a period of several decades. The last surviving section of the fence was here on this corner, and it remained a popular gathering place into the 1880s. However, this busy intersection was too prominent a space to have occupied by just a rustic rail fence, especially when the school was in the midst of dramatically transforming its appearance. The fence was ultimately removed in 1888, in order to make room for Osborn Hall, which was built on the site.

Osborn Hall was a gift of Miriam Osborn, who gave $150,000 to construct a recitation hall in memory of her husband, Charles J. Osborn. The building was designed by prominent architect Bruce Price, whose subsequent works include the adjacent Welch Hall, and its exterior was an excellent example of Romanesque-style architecture. Even Yale’s rival school praised the design, with the Harvard Crimson declaring, shortly before its completion, that “when finished will be one of the finest buildings belonging to the college, as well as the best equipped building of the kind in the country,” and that “In every way the building is to be as near perfection as it can possible be made.”

The building was largely completed by the end of 1889, and was formally dedicated on January 7, 1890, with college president Timothy Dwight V delivering the keynote address. However, despite its architectural grandeur, the construction of Osborn Hall was highly controversial, especially since it replaced the humble yet much-beloved rail fence. Among the many critics was Isham Henderson, who wrote about it less than a decade later in the February 1899 issue of the Yale Literary Magazine. He viewed the loss of the fence as a sign of the times, epitomizing the Gilded Age emphasis on money, progress, and ostentation. Henderson believed that tradition, such as fence sitting, was more important than a grand new building, writing:

It is by these class customs that college spirit is fostered, and it is in them that a large part of the college training, by many considered larger and more valuable than all the curriculum of the recitation room is acquired. . . . Osborn Hall set a precedent for displacing the old Yale for the new. . . . It lies with the next president to decide whether internal arrangement is to be sacrificed to external show, whether traditions and customs and ‘spirit’ are to go down before the demand for luxuries – or whether the old Yale is to be made into the new by rearranging the interior instead of decorating the exterior, and the old spirit preserved in defiance of wealth and aristocracy.

Regardless of nostalgia for tradition, though, Osborn Hall proved to be further from perfection than the Crimson had predicted. Its location at a busy intersection made it a prominent landmark on the Yale campus, yet this same intersection also made it difficult to hold classes here, because of the unceasing traffic noise just outside the windows. As the first photo shows, this included pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages, and trolleys, and within a few years automobiles would also be added into this mix. This problem was mentioned in the 1915 Reports of the President and Secretary of Yale University, which noted:

There are numerous requests from members of the Faculty for better recitation rooms. Osborn Hall grows more and more unpopular and this building is used under protest. During the year the route of the Winchester Avenue cars has been changed, and this heavy traffic now passes along College Street directly beneath the windows of Osborn, rendering it almost useless for lecture purposes. In order to meet the very reasonable requests of the instructors assigned to these noisy recitation rooms, a large hall on the second floor of the University building on High Street is being fitted up for lecture purposes and will be used for certain classes now held in Osborn Hall.

Osborn Hall was ultimately demolished in 1926, just 36 years after its completion. Its much larger replacement was Bingham Hall, an eight-story dormitory that was named in honor of Cleveland businessman, philanthropist, and Yale graduate Charles W. Bingham, whose children provided funds to construct it. The new building was completed in 1928, with a Gothic-style exterior that blended in with the rest of the campus much better than the Romanesque-style Osborn Hall had managed to do. Bingham Hall is still standing today, as are the neighboring Vanderbilt and Welch Halls, which are barely visible on the far left and far right sides of the first photo.

Skull and Bones Tomb, New Haven, Connecticut

The Skull and Bones Tomb, on High Street on the campus of Yale University, around 1903-1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2018:

There are plenty of secret societies on college campuses across the country, but perhaps none are as famous, or mysterious, as the Skull and Bones at Yale. The society was founded in 1832 by William Huntington Russell and Alphonso Taft – father of future president and Supreme Court chief justice William Howard Taft – and  at the time it consisted of 14 Yale seniors. Each year, a new group of seniors was initiated into the Skull and Bones, which over time came to include some of the nation’s most powerful political figures. Alphonso Taft himself went on to have a successful career as Attorney General and Secretary of War during the Grant administration, and his far more famous son was also a member. Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were also members, as was John Kerry, and other members have included a wide range of congressmen, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, business executives, and other prominent leaders. This impressive membership roll, along with the group’s secrecy, has undoubtedly played a major role in the various conspiracy theories and other rumors surrounding the society.

Many of these rumors concern the interior of its meeting hall, which is said to contain, among other artifacts, the skulls of Martin Van Buren, Geronimo, and Pancho Villa. Appropriately known as the Tomb, the original part of the building was completed in 1856, on the left side of this scene. It featured a windowless, sandstone exterior that resembled an ancient Egyptian tomb, and was evidently designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis, although other sources have credited New Haven architect Henry Austin with the design. The Tomb was subsequently expanded over the years, starting with an addition to the rear in 1883. Then, in 1903, it was doubled in size with a new wing on the right side that matched the design of the original section. The old front entrance became two narrow windows, and a new entrance was built in the middle of the two wings, as seen in the first photo.

Today, the Tomb is still standing, and still serves as the meeting hall for the Skull and Bones. Not much has changed since the first photo was taken more than a century ago, although the surroundings have. Immediately to the right is Weir Hall of the Jonathan Edwards College, one of the residential colleges at Yale. Not much of the building is visible except for the crenelated towers, which had once adorned Alumni Hall. Constructed in the early 1850s, and similarly designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, this Gothic-style building stood near the northwest corner of the old campus until 1911, when it was demolished to build the present-day Wright Hall. However, the towers were preserved, and were incorporated into the new building. Otherwise, the only noticeable change to this scene has been the construction of the adjacent Yale Art Gallery. This building, which is visible on the far left, was completed in 1928, and includes a bridge over High Street, located immediately to the south of the Tomb.

Kent Chemical Laboratory, New Haven, Connecticut

The Kent Chemical Laboratory, at the southwest corner of High Street and Library Walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1894. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

The scene in 2018:

The Kent Chemical Laboratory was completed in 1888, and was a gift from Albert E. Kent, a Yale graduate from the class of 1853. Kent valued the importance of studying chemistry, and he provided a gift of $75,000 in order to construct this building. The first photo was taken only a few years later, around 1894, and it shows the building in its original appearance. However, the Kent family would subsequently make further donations to the school, and the facility was expanded several times. The first came in 1902, with another donation from Albert, and the second came in 1906, when his son William provided the funds to add a third story to the building.

The initial construction of the laboratory was overseen by Frank A. Gooch, a prominent chemist who had been hired as a professor in 1886. He would continue to serve as the director of the Kent Laboratory for most of its existence, until his retirement in 1918, and during this time he authored over eighty research papers, with many focusing on analytical chemistry. The Kent Laboratory operated for just a few years after his retirement, until the completion of the Sterling Chemical Laboratory in 1922. This building was then converted into a psychological laboratory.

The former Kent Laboratory was ultimately demolished in the early 1930s in order to construct Jonathan Edwards College, a residential college that consists of a series of Gothic-style buildings around central quadrangle. The college spans the width of the block between High and York Streets, and today there are no surviving traces landmarks from the first photo. However, the name of the Kent Laboratory lives on with Kent Hall, the building that now stands on this site at the corner of High Street and Library Way.

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.