Temple Street, New Haven, Connecticut

The view looking north on Temple Street from near the corner of Chapel Street in New Haven, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This block of Temple Street passes through the New Haven Green, and in front of three historic churches that stand on the Green. The southernmost of these, the 1816 Trinity Church, is just out of view on the far left side of the scene, but the 1814 Center Church, along with the more distant 1815 Union Church, are both visible on the left side of the street. The latter two churches have very similar designs, with each one featuring a brick exterior and Federal-style architecture. Both of these photos also show the eastern portion of the Green, with a number of people walking across it or sitting on benches. The longer exposure time of the first photo is shown by the blurred images of several people walking on the right side, while the people seated on the left remain sharp and clear.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much of this scene has remained largely unchanged, particularly in the foreground and on the left. All three churches are still standing and in active use by their congregations, and they are contributing properties in the New Haven Green Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark. However, there have been some significant changes to this scene, particularly in the distance on the right side. This block of Elm Street was once known as Quality Row, and had a number of elegant early 19th century mansions that are visible in the first photo. These included the Nathan Smith House, which stood second from the right. It was built around 1815, and was once the home of U. S. Senator Nathan Smith, but it was demolished – along with the rest of Quality Row- by the 1910s, soon after the first photo was taken. The block is now occupied by the 1911 New Haven Free Public Library on the left, and the 1917 New Haven County Courthouse on the right.

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.

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.

Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut

Looking west on the New Haven Green, toward Trinity Church on the Green, with the Old Campus of Yale University in the distance, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The New Haven Green is home to three historic churches on the west side of Temple Street, all of which were constructed between 1812 and 1816. The two oldest, Center Church (1814) and United Church (1815) both feature Federal-style architecture that was common for churches of this period, and Center Church is particularly notable for having been designed by prominent architects Asher Benjamin and Ithiel Town. Town subsequently designed the last of these three churches, Trinity Church, which was completed in 1816 on the corner of Temple and Chapel Streets. However, its design was a vast departure from his work on Center Church, and it is generally regarded as one of the first – if not the first – Gothic-style church building in the country, as Gothic Revival architecture would not gain widespread popularity for several more decades.

Trinity Church was established in 1723, and was a rare Anglican parish in a colony that was otherwise predominantly Congregationalist. The first permanent church building was completed in 1753, and stood a block away from here on the southeast corner of Chapel and Church Streets. As time went on, though, this building proved too small for the growing parish, and in 1814 construction began on a new church here on the Green. The exterior was built of locally-quarried trap rock from East Rock, giving the church its distinctive multicolor appearance. This, along with the Gothic architecture, provided a significant contrast to the more conventional brick churches just to the north of here. The new church was consecrated in 1816, an event that coincided with the installation of a new rector, the noted journalist, author, and clergyman Harry Croswell.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, Trinity Church was already nearly 100 years old, and had undergone some changes since its completion. The top of the tower was originally constructed of wood, but this portion was rebuilt of stone in 1871. The church had also been built with crenelated wood balustrades along the roofline, although these rotted and were eventually removed as part of the 1871 renovations. Other 19th century changes included the installation of stained glass windows, and the addition of a pyramidal spire atop the tower, which can be seen in the first photo.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, the interior of the church has undergone some changes, but this view of the exterior has remained largely unaltered, with the only noticeable difference being the removal of the pyramid on the tower. Trinity Church is still an active Episcopalian parish, and the church building is now part of the New Haven Green Historic District, which includes the other two early 19th century churches nearby. Aside from the church itself, there have not been many other changes to the scene from the first photo. The New Haven Green still functions as a park in the center of the city, and the Old Campus of Yale University still stands in the distance, on the other side of College Street. The only significant difference in this view of the campus is the loss of Osborn Hall. Visible just to the right of the church, it was demolished in 1926 and replaced by Bingham Hall, which now stands on the site.