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.

High Street and Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

The corner of High and Dwight Streets in Holyoke, sometime before 1885. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows the Second Congregational Church, which was once located here at the corner of Dwight and High Streets, directly across from City Hall. The church was organized in 1849, and worshiped in several different locations until 1853, when this building was completed, at a cost of $12,000. It was designed by prominent New Haven architect Henry Austin, and was large enough for 800 people, although the congregation only had 36 members at the time. Holyoke was still in the early stages of its industrial development, with a population of a little over 3,000, but over the next few decades both the city and the church saw steady growth. By the mid-1880s, the congregation had outgrown the building, and in 1885 a new church was built a few blocks away, at the corner of Maple and Appleton Streets.

The old church was sold and demolished soon after the new one was completed, and later in 1885 Delaney’s Marble Block was built on the site. The building was owned by John Delaney, and was designed by local architect James A. Clough, with an exterior that was built of Vermont marble. Like many of the other commercial blocks on High Street, the building had stores on the ground floor, with professional offices in the upper floors, and it enjoyed a prominent location at one of the busiest intersections in the city. In later years, the building housed a W. T. Grant store, but around 1950 it was demolished to build a new, more modern-looking building for W. T. Grant. This chain of stores has long since gone out of business, but its architecturally nondescript building still stands here as somewhat of an anomaly, on a street that is otherwise still predominantly lined with 19th century commercial buildings.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hartford, Connecticut

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Main Street in Hartford, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

St. John's Episcopal Church

The scene in 2016:

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When this church building was completed in 1842, it was one of two Episcopalian churches along Main Street in downtown Hartford, and it was designed by architect Henry Austin in the Gothic Revival style that was popular at the time. The same style of architecture can be seen today in the Wadsworth Atheneum, which was completed just north of here only two years later.

The congregation remained here for over 60 years, but by the early 20th century this section of Main Street had become predominantly commercial, and the property was being eyed for an expansion of the Atheneum. The church sold the property in 1905 and moved to a new location in West Hartford, and the old building was demolished to make way for the addition. Today, the site of the church is now partially occupied by a small park, located between the Atheneum on the left and the Hartford Municipal Building, which is just out of view to the right.