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.

Welch Hall and Phelps Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Welch Hall (left) and Phelps Hall (right), on the campus of Yale University, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

Although at first glance they appear to be part of the same building, these are actually two different buildings, and they form part of the perimeter of the Old Campus at Yale. The older of the two is Welch Hall, the four-story building on the left side. It was completed in 1891 as a dormitory, and was donated by the family the late Harmanus M. Welch, a businessman who had also served as mayor of New Haven from 1861 to 1863. The exterior was constructed of Longmeadow brownstone, a popular building material of the period, and its Gothic-style design was the work of the prominent architect Bruce Price, who had also designed the adjacent Osborn Hall several years earlier.

Just to the right of Welch Hall is Phelps Hall, which was completed in 1896. Its architect was Charles C. Haight, who also designed a number of other buildings on the Yale campus, including several buildings for the Sheffield Scientific School. His design for Phelps Hall filled the narrow gap between Welch and Lawrance Halls, and it was made to resemble a medieval gatehouse, complete with turrets on each corner and crenelations in between them. On the ground floor is the Phelps Gate, the main entrance to the Old Campus from the east. The upper floors were built with recitation rooms, and the building originally housed offices for the campus police as well. Its namesake was the late William Walter Phelps, an 1860 Yale graduate who served as a Congressman and as ambassador to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and it was donated by his family in his honor, following his death in 1894.

Today, nearly 120 years after the first photo was taken, almost nothing has changed about this scene. Both Welch Hall and Phelps Hall are still standing with few noticeable alterations, and even the fence along the New Haven Green is still there. Welch Hall continues to be used as a dormitory, housing the freshmen of Davenport College. From this angle, the only noticeable exterior differences are the addition of skylights on the roof, and the closing of what used to be the front entrance of the building. Next to Welch Hall, the Phelps Gate is still a main entryway into the Old Campus, and the floors above it in Phelps Hall are now the home of the Department of Classics and the Classics Library.

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.

Northfield Chateau, Northfield, Mass (2)

Another view of the Northfield Chateau, at the end of Highland Avenue in Northfield, in 1963. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, this mansion was built in 1903 as the summer residence of Francis Robert Schell, a wealthy New York businessman. He and his wife Mary had begun visiting Northfield in 1890, and originally came here because of evangelist D. L. Moody, who lived in the town and ran the nearby Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies. After the death of his father in 1900, Francis inherited a considerable fortune, and used it to build this 99-room mansion. He hired noted architect Bruce Price, who designed the house in a Châteauesque style that gave it the appearance of a French castle, complete with plenty of turrets, arches, and other embellishments.

The house was part of a 125-acre estate that Schell owned here in Northfield, and the family regularly visited here for the next 25 summers, until Francis’s death in 1928. Mary outlived him by more than a decade, but she reportedly refused to stay in the house after his death, instead choosing to spend summers at the adjacent Northfield Hotel. The house was eventually acquired by the Northfield School, and was used as an annex for the hotel, as well as a venue for the school’s prom and other events. Along with this, the basement, which had previously been the servants’ quarters, was converted into a youth hostel. It was still owned by the school when the first photo was taken in 1963, but by this point the 60-year-old mansion was in poor condition, and was too costly for the school to maintain. It was demolished later in 1963, and today the site is an open field next to the Northfield Golf Club.

Northfield Chateau, Northfield, Mass

The Northfield Chateau at the end of Highland Avenue in Northfield, in 1963. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2017:

Unlike many other parts of New England, the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts was never a major summer resort destination during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, the area saw few of the grand hotels and Gilded Age “cottages” that were built in places like Bar Harbor, the Berkshires, Newport, the North Shore, and the White Mountains. However, one of the exceptions was this 99-room Châteauesque mansion in Northfield, which was completed in 1903 as the summer residence of Francis Robert Schell, a wealthy New York businessman.

Francis Schell and his wife Mary first came to Northfield in the summer of 1890, and stayed at the nearby Northfield Hotel. They originally came because of prominent evangelist D. L. Moody, who lived in the town and ran the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies, but the Schells soon fell in love with the town itself. They continued to return each summer, eventually purchasing a summer house. However, Francis’s father, Robert Schell, died in 1900, leaving him with a substantial fortune, and that same year the Schells began planning a massive house here in Northfield.

The house was designed by noted architect Bruce Price, and featured a style similar to his most famous work, the iconic Château Frontenac in Quebec. It would have blended in well in places like Lenox or Newport, but here in Northfield it stood out as garish and ostentatious, in the midst of a small farming community with otherwise modest houses. The house’s size and style did little to endear Schell to the town, nor did the fact that he enclosed his 125-acre estate with a fence to prevent locals from trespassing on the property. Schell did make at least one major contribution to the town, donating the nearby Schell Bridge over the Connecticut River, although even this was rather self-serving, since it gave him direct access from his house to the railroad station across the river.

The Schells spent many summers here in the house, from its completion in 1903 until Francis’s death in 1928. Mary would continue to visit Northfield after his death, although she reportedly stayed at the Northfield Hotel, being unwilling to return to the mansion without Francis. By this point, though, the house had little resale value, despite the extravagance that went in to its design and construction. The grand summer houses of the Gilded Age were falling out of fashion, a trend that was accelerated by the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

The house was eventually purchased by the Northfield School, and for many years it was used as the venue for the school’s prom, which became known as “The Chat,” after the chateau. It was also used as an annex for the Northfield Hotel, and at one point the basement was converted into a youth hostel. However, it steadily fell into disrepair, and by the 1960s it was becoming too expensive for the school to maintain. The first photo was taken in 1963, as part of a Historic American Buildings Survey study of the building, and it was demolished later in the year, just 60 years after its completion. Today, the site of the house is an open field adjacent to the Northfield Golf Club, which is located on the former site of the Northfield Hotel.