The area which today is New Haven was the home of a small tribe of Native Americans, the Quinnipiack, who built their villages around a broad, but very shallow harbor, at the confluence of the Quinnipiac, Mill and West rivers. They harvested seafood, hunted with bow and arrow for food and furs and grew maize, the staple of their diet.

Their lives changed forever on April 24, 1638, when a company of five-hundred English Puritans led by the Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, a wealthy London merchant, sailed into the harbor. The newcomers were looking for a place to practice their religious beliefs but also came with an avaricious eye towards controlling the trade from the Long Island Sound down to the Virginia colony. Within a year the settlers had laid out eight streets in a grid of four streets by four streets creating what is now commonly known as the “Nine Square Plan,” making New Haven one of the first planned towns in the New World.

Plans for a commercial empire were scuttled early on, however, when the town sent its first fully loaded ship of local goods back to England in 1646. The ship never reached Europe and disappeared with all the hopes of its financial backers in Quinnipiac, as the town was know. By the time it became New Haven in 1678, the colony lagged far behind Boston and the newly conquered town of New Amsterdam, renamed New York.

Instead, New Haven evolved into more of a cultural and educational center. It was made co-capital of Connecticut in 1701, a status it maintained with Hartford all the way into the 1870s. In 1716 the tiny Collegiate School of Connecticut arrived in town from Old Saybrook. Two years later, in response to a request from Cotton Mather on behalf of the institution, Welsh merchant Elihu Yale sent a carton of goods which the school sold for 800 pounds sterling and so it became Yale College. Today Yale University is synonymous with New Haven and is the city’s largest employer.  

There was industry as well. Locks and hardware, pork products, clocks, and especially, Winchester repeating rifles bore New Haven trademarks. Among the odds and ends invented in New Haven were the corkscrew, the lollipop and the steel fishhook. But smokestacks and factories were never an image evoked by New Haven. The city had the first public tree planting program in America, producing a canopy of mature trees that gave New Haven the nickname “The Elm City.” 

New Haven has been in the forefront of urban renewal in recent decades and lost many of its historic buildings and Dutch Elm disease claimed the lives of many of its big shade trees. But trees have been replanted, millions of dollars spent to spruce up buildings that weren’t knocked down and out walking tour will begin in the center of the 16-acre New Haven Green, a National Historic Landmark, and the outstanding feature of downtown... 

Flagpole War Memorial
center of Green

Douglas Orr, a hometown architect won the design competition to create a memorial remembrance to those who sacrificed their lives in World War I. He completed the granite flagpole with carved silhouettes in 1928. Afterwards Orr would go on to design many public buildings around New Haven and in the late 1940s served as president of the American Institute of Architects and helped renovate the White House.


Bennett Fountain
northwest corner of Chapel Street and Church Street

Philo Sherman Bennett of New Haven made his fortune in the New York City grocery trade, specializing in tea. In 1903, while in Boise, idaho on his way to inspect some mining property the team of horses pulling his open stage stampeded down a hill dislodging Bennett and throwing him against a tree. The 61-year old Bennett was killed instantly. In his will administered by William Jennings Bryan whom he had befriended after a contribution to Bryan’s 1896 Presidential campaign, Bennett provided for cash prizes to schools and colleges around the country. There was some money left over for this marble drinking fountain that was erected in 1907. Bryan, the leading orator of the day, delivered a speech at its dedication. The fountain is modeled after the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates near the Acropolis of Athens in 335 BC to commemorate the award of a theatrical prize. The circular structure is one of the first Greek monuments built according to the Corinthian order and was a popular representation in the United States to crown elaborate Beaux Arts buildings of the time. Two troughs in the bottom provided refreshment for dogs; underneath an ice vault kept the water cool in the summer. 


Exchange Building
121 Church Street at northeast corner of Chapel Street  

When this brick building was completed in 1832 it was New haven’s first multi-story commercial building. It featured an open ground floor for retail shops. The windows display a Greek Revival styling, the dominant architectural craze of the period. For a pioneering property, it has not been treated well over the years - the original cupola was removed in favor of a billboard on the roof. the cupola was rebuilt in a 1990 restoration but it also picked up a stone facade of columns on the ground floor.

Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse
141 Church Street

James Gamble Rogers, a Yale graduate, designed this federal building in the Classical Revival style to blend in with the character of the existing buildings around the Green. Built between 1913 and 1919 from Tennessee marble, it sports a Corinthian portico and ornate interior. The courthouse, which also did duty as the post office, was given a date with the wrecking ball in the 1960s but an energetic preservation move saved it and earned the building a $7 million restoration. In 1998, it was renamed to honor Richard C. Lee, a one-time New Haven mayor who spearheaded the building’s rescue.

City Hall
165 Church Street

Henry Austin was a carpenter’s apprentice who began his career in architecture working for Ithiel Town, one of the first generation of professional architects in the United States. Beginning in 1836 Austin practiced more than 50 years in and around New Haven, working in a variety of popular 19th century styles. For the New Haven City Hall he added one of America’s first High Victorian Gothic buildings in 1861 with bands of sandstone and limestone. A much-needed restoration was undertaken in 1976 and has been maintained ever since. 


New Haven County Courthouse
121 Elm Street

After Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 a fervor of urban renewal known as the City Beautiful movement swept the country. In New Haven it claimed a quartet of aristocratic mansions on this side of the green known as “Quality Row.” This exuberant Beaux Arts courthouse arrived in 1914 from the designs of New Haven architects William Allen and Richard Williams, modeled after St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, England. J. Massey Rhind provided the sculptures outside and murals and lunettes inside were executed by famed early 20th century painter T. Thomas Gilbert.

New Haven Free Public Library
133 Elm Street  

After several unsuccessful attempts at creating a free public library, in 1886 the City of New Haven passed legislation thatappropriated $12,000 to start the library. In the 1890s the Third Congregational Church was remodeled to serve the Library and an open-stack policy - radical at the time - was instituted. A separate Children’s Room, one of the first in the country, was also opened. Cass Gilbert, one of the most influential architects of the City Beautiful movement, delivered a Colonial Revival building of brick and marble to harmonize with the traditional architecture of the churches and the Green. The Library was formally dedicated on May 27, 1911.

Visitor Center
149 Elm Street

This is the oldest surviving private residence in New Haven, built in 1767 for James Pierpont, grandson of one of Yale’s founders. During their brief occupation of New Haven during the Revolutionary War, the British used the Pierpont home as a headquarters and hospital.

Architecturally the house has seen several remodelings and renovations through the years to reel its appearance back into the 18th century. The building remained in the Pierpont family until 1900 when Reverend Anson Stokes, then secretary of Yale, purchased the home. In 1921, the University acquired the property for use as a faculty club. 

The Graduate Club
155 Elm Street  

Here is a glimpse into what downtown New Haven looked like 200 years ago. This Federal style home belonged to Jonathan Mix, circa 1799. The first floor window heads and cornice detail show that Mix was a bit more well off than his neighbors. The Graduate Club, a social club for Yale alumni founded in 1892, purchased the house in 1901.

Hendrie Hall
165 Elm Street  

New York architect Josiah Cleaveland Cady was Yale University’s chief architect at the end of the 20th century. He designed 14 buildings on the campus, of which few survive. Here he crafted a brick building with a limestone facade in a Renaissance Revival style in 1895 for the Yale Law School. Its main benefactor was John W. Hendrie, a Connecticut farmboy who took his Yale education to San Francisco in 1854 and within ten years had made enough money to sell his mercantile business and retire back to his Connecticut farm.

First and Summerfield United Methodist Church
425 College Street at northeast corner of Elm Street

Methodism in New Haven marks its beginnings in 1789 when young Jesse Lee preached a sermon on the steps of the New Haven Court House. The Methodists struggled to gain traction in the community; battling persecution and natural disaster - the church they built on the northwest corner of the Green blew down in a storm in 1821 just prior to completion. In a move to clear the Green of unnecessary structures, Yale and the City helped the church secure its present lot, upon which Henry Austin built a Colonial-style church in 1849, just as architectural tastes were changing in America. By 1900 most the Georgian affectation was gone and so was the steeple. Then tastes swung back to a revival of Federal-era architecture and back came the original, more or less, appearance. First Methodist Church is now First & Summerfield, the result of a merger in 1981 with the Summerfield United Methodist, a congregation founded in 1781 and based in the Newhallville neighborhood of New Haven. 


Leigh Hall
435 College Street

Completed in 1930, the building now known as Leigh Hall originally served as the home of the Department of University Health Services. The limestone structure under a slate roof contained administrative offices and treatment facilities.

Stoeckel Hall
469 College Street

Stoeckel Hall was designed by Grosvenor Atterbury and completed in 1897 as a residence for Chi Phi Fraternity. This Venetian Gothic building, originally called York Hall, was renamed for music professor Gustave Stoeckel in 1954, when it was converted for use by the School of Music. 

Albert Arnold Sprague Memorial Hall
470 College Street

This was Yale’s first building dedicated to music, completed in 1917. Constructed of brick with wood trim it contains classrooms, practice rooms and a 680-seat recital hall. After a major renovation Sprague Memorial Hall now boasts of a silent heating and air conditioning system; acoustical panels that allow for subtle adjustments to a performer’s sound; and sound-proof doors and windows to keep out street noise.

Woolsey Hall
500 College Street  

The master architects of the Classical Revival form, Carrère and Hastings of New York Public Library fame and Capitol Hill in Washington, gave Yale its primary performance hall as part of the commemoration of the school’s bicentennial in 1901. The ornately decorated hall is home to the Newberry Memorial Organ, one of the most renowned orchestral organs in North America.

Sterling Tower
northeast corner of Grove and Prospect streets  

Sheffield Scientific School was founded in 1847 as a school of Yale College for instruction in science and engineering. Originally named the Yale Scientific School, it was renamed in 1861 in honor of Joseph E. Sheffield, the railroad executive and one of Yale’s greatest benefactors. The Sheffield Scientific School helped establish the model for the transition of U.S. higher education from a classical model to one which incorporated both the sciences and the liberal arts. The old Yale Medical School building on this site was renovated and renamed Sheffield Hall. It was demolished in 1931 and is now the site of Sterling Tower, Sheffield Hall and Strathcona Hall, part of the early 20th century mandate that all new buildings were designed on a common architectural pattern, giving the Yale campus one of the greatest collections of Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere


Grove Street Cemetery
Grove Street at head of High Street

New Haven’s first common burial ground was the Green but it became overwhelmed during outbreaks of yellow fever in 1794 and 1795. The result was the creation of a new cemetery on the edge of town, the first chartered burial ground in the United States. The first burial, that of Martha Townsend, took place on November 9, 1797; the last burial on the Green occurred in 1812. The pattern of the cemetery also appears to have been unique, for it was arranged in lots for families as opposed to random burials which had been common in the past. Some of the notables interred in Grove Street Cemetery are Lyman Beecher, James D. Dana, Charles Goodyear, Roger Sherman, Noah Webster, and Eli Whitney.  


Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
121 Wall Street at northeast corner of High Street

Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is the largest building in the world reserved exclusively for the preservation of rare books and manuscripts. A six-story above-ground tower of book stacks is surrounded by a windowless rectangular building with walls made of a translucent Danby marble, which transmit subdued lighting and provide protection from direct light. The design is by Gordon Bunshaft and was a 1963 gift of the Beinecke family. The library also contains one of the 48 extant copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

Sterling Law Library
127 Wall Street; northwest corner of High Street  

The Sterling Law Building, built in 1931, is modeled after the English Inns of Court. The building is named after Yale alumnus and benefactor John William Sterling, name partner of the New York law firm Shearman & Sterling. In the friezes above the two entrances to the Yale Law School are humorous depictions of the educational experience - in one a professor lectures to bored, sleeping students and in the other eager students are thwarted by an indifferent professor. 

Sterling Memorial Library
120 High Street  

James Gamble Rogers simulated a centuries-old Gothic cathedral in 1931 to create Yale’s largest library, holding over 10 million volumes and manuscripts. It is made up of fifteen stack levels and eight floors of reading rooms, offices, and work areas. Work on the library was completed in 1931. Rogers loaded the elaborate building with architectural details. The main entrance is adorned with symbols and writings in various ancient languages. The Nave is decorated with marble reliefs depicting Yale’s founding and the history of New Haven and Connecticut. A giant fresco of Alma Mater surrounded by figures representing academic schools greets scholars over the circulation desk. The doors of the elevators are handwrought iron, depicting Medicine, Law, Shipping, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Chemistry, Husbandry, and Machine Work. The library is most famous for its 3,300 hand-decorated windows that depict everything from fiction to history and even small insects on otherwise unadorned panes created to look real.  

Harkness Tower  
74 High Street  

The 216-foot Gothic tower was constructed between 1917 and 1921 on designs from James Gamble Rogers, who designed many of Yale’s “Collegiate Gothic” structures. The money came from by Anna M. Harkness in honor of her recently deceased son, Charles William Harkness, Yale class of 1883, and the second son of Stephen V. Harkness, an early investor in the company that became Standard Oil. The tower contains the Yale Memorial Carillon, a 54-bell carillon. 

Skull and Bones Society
64 High Street

 Founded in 1832 Skull and bones is the most famous of Yale’s secret societies. The brownstone Skull and Bones Hall, known as the “Tomb,” was built in 1856 with later expansions. In real life presidents and Supreme Court justices have been members; in fictional lore Montgomery Burns on The Simpsons was a Bonesman. 


Yale University Art Gallery
1111 Chapel Street

The Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest college art museum outside of Europe, founded in 1832 with a gift from artist John Trumbull. Architect Edgerton Swartwout designed the older “Tuscan Romanesque” section of the gallery, completed in 1928 and distinguished by the Neo-Gothic arched windows and Art Deco bridge over High Street. The modern wing, designed by Louis I. Kahn, opened alongside Swartwout’s building in 1953. 


onnecticut Hall
1017 Chapel Street

Completed in 1753, Connecticut Hall is the oldest building at Yale and one of four National Historic Landmarks on campus. Only the second structure ever built for the college, Connecticut Hall was commissioned as a dormitory by Yale College President Thomas Clap in 1750 to relieve overcrowding. Remodeled and expanded in 1797, Connecticut Hall, then called “South Middle College,” formed part of the Old Brick Row, the original building complex that lined what is now the Old Campus. Brick Row was demolished at the beginning of the 1900s, leaving only Connecticut Hall intact.

Sherman Building
1032 Chapel Street  

This is the site of the home of New Haven’s first Mayor, Roger Sherman, the only person who signed all four of the nation’s founding documents: the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States. One hundred years later, Gaius Fenn Warnier, one of the city’s leading industrialists, built his townhouse, which today forms the core of the building. From the 1880s through the 1940s this was the home of the Union League Club, a private civic and social club. The building’s appearance dates to 1902 and a Beaux Arts remodeling by New Haven architect Richard Williams. It is currently occupied by the Union League Cafe.


Trinity Church on the Green
129 Church Street (located at the northwest corner of Chapel Street and Temple Street)   

The construction of these three churches on the Green, all erected at about the same time around the War of 1812 and for separate, independent denominations instill a character to New Haven’s core unrivaled in Connecticut. The last to be built on the green, consecratedon february 21, 1816, was Trinity Episcopal Church, the first house of worship in New Haven to be called a “church” as opposed to a meetinghouse. That first small wooden church was completed in the summer of 1753 on the east side of Church Street, south of Chapel Street.  It is one of the first Gothic Revival churches in the United States.   

The First Church of Christ
311 Temple Street  

Center Church and New Haven were founded in 1638 by the Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, who came from Boston with a group of Puritans in order to settle here. This building is the fourth church of this society built on the Green since 1638. This structure wasbuilt by Ithiel Town in 1812-1814 at the cost of $34,323. Town may have designed the church or used designs from his boss, Asher Benjamin of Boston but whichever, he used this church as a springboard to a prosperous career around Connecticut. The church was partially built over a burial crypt that includes possibly over 1,500 graves, the oldest dating to 1687. The famous Tiffany window over the pulpit contains 2,320 separate pieces of glass; in 1893, this window cost $10,000. 

United Church on the Green
270 Temple Street at Elm Street

David Hoadley outfitted this Federal style church with an exceptionally fine steeple in 1814, especially for a self-taught architect often dismissed as a mere builder. He built many houses around New Haven, most of which are long since gone. The United Congregation came about in 1796 when the White Haven Church and the Fair Haven Church congregations merged. The church boasts of a proud history of abolitionism; Roger Sherman Baldwin was a defender of the Amistad Africans.