Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Home

Fair Haven’s History and Architecture—Past and Preservation

Benjamin A. Gorman

Contents of Curriculum Unit 84.01.05:

To Guide Entry


“It used to be a nice place to live. Neat, clean and people; everybody knew everybody. . . friendly. A real community back then.”

“It’s not the same. . . Things are different. Weather is cold. Still, people hang around. . . talk. This is going to be home now.”

“That old grey siding is gone. The new paint makes it brighter. I never noticed the porch with those columns before. Everything seems to be changing. . . people moving in, fixing up.. . Iooks nice.”

Former residents, long since moved away; immigrants moving in, adapting; people seeing for the first time what was covered, hidden or obscured. The landscape is changing; it is uncovering its past and in doing so, preserving itself as a vital community.

The purpose of this unit will be twofold. presentation of the historical background of the Village of Fair Haven will provide a frame of reference for the students who live in this area of New Haven. By locating in time and space, the settlement, the development and the evolution of this community, the students can obtain a sense of pride. The second thrust will concern the existing architecture in Fair Haven that reflects its historical growth and the effort to preserve the structures as the community revitalizes itself. A set of slides will illustrate the status today as Fair Haven renews, preserves and builds for the future.

This unit will be used with eighth graders in a Social Studies course. The teaching length will be not more than two weeks due to curriculum limitations but individual projects can be completed over a longer period of time.

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Fair Haven is a unique area in New Haven. Its roots are almost as deep as the New Haven Colony, yet its development and growth were independent. The early oystering village established itself along the Quinnipiac River and has been able to maintain much of its architectural past. For so long, in a sad state of decline, Fair Haven has rekindled its community spirit and recently has committed itself to restoring its valuable heritage. The area blends the architecture of the last two centuries in homes built for the rich and for the ordinary. The commercial structures are finding continued existence through adaptive usage and public buildings exist which exhibit values reflective of society’s concept of permanence. Thus the subjects for student analysis will be structures in their community.

Impressions of Fair Haven vary according to the perspective of the viewer and his relationship to the community. My students include life-long residents as.we11 as newcomers. As residents they should have an awareness of their physical community. The Fair Haven that they know exists only today yet Fair Haven has an interesting past. With a presentation of Fair Haven’s past, the students can develop a sense of time. Since examples of Fair Haven’s past still exist in its architectural heritage, the structures will become the bridge for the students to view its history. The method of decision making for the students will be simply to observe the area’s architecture. The result will (hopefully) be that they gain a viewpoint through knowledge and understanding. As children, there exists a need to establish a framework in which they can place themselves, be comfortable, measure themselves and grow from. By viewing Fair Haven’s structures, they can gain an appreciation of its past and get a sense of community. The area will then become more than a place in which to exist but a setting for a range of human activity, past and present. Their judgements may be subjective still strongly marked by likes and dislikes but in the process of observing an appreciation for their place in the community will be gained.

The students pass by the new and the old structures in their community often without realizing that they tell a story of development. The oystermen’s houses along the Quinnipiac River serve as an introduction to the student. They will see that as Fair Haven prospered, more substantial houses sprang up on the higher slopes. The streets are full of Colonial, Federal and Greek Revival styles that could illustrate the pages of the area’s history. Of significance, the oystermen’s house, raised on high cellars, dug into the banks which the once closer river allowed the shallow Sharpies to float almost to the cellar doors, illustrates a special form of waterfront architecture. As Fair Haven continued to grow, the wealth from the trade allows another chapter to deal with more prestigious houses built in the antebellum period. On more spacious grounds, these Villa style homes boasted fringed eaves, columned porches and iron railings. Victorian Gothic can be seen when visiting the Methodist Church on East pearl Street (circa 1877). Facing and complimenting the church is the parsonage designed in queen Ann style in 1882. Another example of remaining elegance can be found across the River where one of New Haven’s earliest affluent suburbs developed. Here a number of stately Victorian Gothic houses ran all the way to Morris Cove. These estates, built in the 1860’s and 1870’s can be seen among more modern dwellings. They still dominate the space and remind the viewer of a past now eclipsed.

Fortunately, the story does not end with a faded past. The area, of course, changes with the influx of new people and industrial/oystering decline. However, since the late 1960’s, Fair Haven has begun to redevelop, renew and preserve its pride. While new designs can be seen in Ruoppolo Manor, Columbus School and Perrotti's Farm Market, a strong determination to preserve the past exists. This includes a new Fair Haven Bridge soon to be re-opened; its design and construction is a close copy of the last iron bridge built in 1896. It is truly a bridge to Fair Haven’s past.

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The Past

At various times called “The Neck”, “Dragontown”, “Clamtown”, or “Fayre Haven” as John Davenport referred to it in 1638, Fair Haven can be viewed differently from each end of Grand Avenue which has been the main artery connecting New Haven to the Quinnipiac River. As colonial New Haven grew, it moved eastward along the harbor. By the time of the Revolution, the name of New Township referred to the area between Olive Street and Mill River. Fair Haven itself, across the Mill River, had been a separate village of scattered farms since 1679. The area east of Mill River had become a street car suburb inhabited by Irish immigrants by the 1860’s. This area, so close to the prosperous Wooster Square, rises and falls according to past Civil War industrial stress. Into the twentieth century, one group after another occupied the buildings which by the 1960’s had become a slum area much of which will be demolished. Only recently is the development taking place with single family dwellings replacing the tenements. But the heart of Fair Haven lies two miles from New Haven’s Green at the other end of Grand Avenue along the banks of the Quinnipiac River.

It is along this river that time is being turned backed to the oystering village that began to develop soon after the Revolutionary War. From the beginning, the settlers in imitation of the resident Indians, began to catch oysters. In time, this shellfish became the resource upon which a community could be built. In 1784, Fair Haven became part of New Haven only to withdraw in 1837. The emergence of the streetcar and increasing industrialization, physically brought the two together again in 1870. After the 3,992 inhabitants rejoined New Haven politically, the area westward toward the Mill River experienced the growth of homes and the farms began to disappear.

In the first hundred years or more, Fair Haven was just a cluster of fishing huts, referred to as “Dragon” because of the harbor seals that inhabited the Quinnipiac waters and resembled sea monsters in the eyes of the early settlers. By 1808, oystering supported about 150 people who lived in 50 houses along the river with Rowe’s Tavern nearby. Fair Haven’s growth would be built on the oyster industry; by the mid 1800’s its coastal trade would rank second to Baltimore’s in volume.

In the fall of 1791, a bridge which replaced the ferry opened. It connected the west to the east banks of the Quinnipiac River. At the same time the old ferry path was widened and remained Grand Street. In 1796, envious East Haveners petitioned the General Assembly for the right to build a toll bridge and subsequently the Tomlinson Bridge would cross the River. The Dragon Bridge facilitated commerce by speeding travel across the Quinnipiac and increasing the accessibility of the East Haven meadows and woodlands to New Haveners.

Herman Hotchkiss, as soon as the site of the first bridge was known, purchased land adjoining it and constructed wharves, a mercantile store and a tavern at the eastern approach. Within a few years, he bought more land on the New Haven side and in 1806 built a two-story dwelling, barn and horsesheds. He continued to buy land in the area up to his death in 1836. Because of his investments which led to its growth, Herman Hotchkiss became known as the Founder of Fair Haven.

“To Be Sold”

A one story Dwelling-House, gambrel roof, situated in the Great-Neck (so called) about two miles from the court-house in New Haven, and not so far distant from the New Bridge; there are two large rooms on the lower floor, and two chambers; also an underground room suitable for opening oysters, and a small garden spot adjoining the premises. Any person desirous of purchasing the above, may apply to. . . . . . . .living on the premises.

Nathaniel Yale

Sept. 25, 1793”

(Arnold G. Dana, New Haven Old and New, LII, p5.)

This description illustrates the typical oyster house found along the Quinnipiac River. At first oyster opening was done at home by the women of the house; later, large shops opened which employed women and boys who labored on a piecework basis. An oyster opener averaged about 65 quarts a day, earning 2 1/2 cents per quart.

Oyster boats became a familiar sight on the river and larger vessels engaged in trade with Chesapeake Bay and the West Indies returning with sugar and pineapples.

By the early 1800’s the local oyster beds were over-fished and Fair Haven began to bring oysters from Virginia to maintain the supply. In 1858 Fair Haven oystermen brought two million bushels of oysters on 250 schooners for use as seed oysters to replenish the beds. The oyster industry began to change from just a harvesting activity to a scientific farming process. Henry C. Rowe, in the late 1800’s became the leading oysterman. He pioneered the use of steam powered boats to cultivate oysters and could harvest 7,000 bushels a month. The peak of the industry was 1888 when the harvest was valued at $1,250,000. Until the 1830’s, oystering continued to be a major industry but the combination of the oysters’ natural predators, the marine snail and the star fish, the change of the industry’s base to southern Long Island to be closer to New York City and the increase of pollution caused the industry decline.

Originally the oystermen used a dugout canoe just as the Indians had used to harvest the shellfish. By the early 1800’s the white pine trees near the area were depleted and John Smith began a trade that brought dugouts from Lake Cayuga in New York where he purchased the uncut trees for a dollar. He hollowed the trees, tied the canoes together and floated them down the Hudson River to New York City. From there they were transported by larger vessels to New Haven and sold for $35.00 each. As oystering continued to grow, shipbuilding also kept pace. Shipyards were to be found on both sides of the Quinnipiac and on the east side of the Mill River. The first three-masted schooner built in Connecticut was constructed by Captain J.H. Woodhouse near the present Ferry Street 8ridge. In 1848, the first “sharpie” was claimed to have been built by James Goodsell. The dugout was replaced by the Fair Haven Sharpie. This spin off business from oystering continued to grow, meeting not only local needs but were sold to other oystermen along the Eastern seaboard. The names of Rowe, Graves and Thatcher became well known as sharpie builders by the 1880’s.

The Sharpie was a long, narrow, flat bottomed, fishing boat between 27 and 36 feet long. It had a centerboard and one or two masts, rigged with a triangular sail. The term “sharpie” refers to its sharp bow. With its flat bottom, it gave steady footing for two men to scrape oysters from the shallow river beds with rakes and tongs.

Later they were used for racing. The sailing speed was eleven nautical miles in thirty four minutes. By the 1880’s nearly 200 sharpies were to be found along the wharves of Fair Haven alone.

Samuel Hemingway, who lived at 37 Pearl Street, owned a successful shipping business. At the rear of his property, near his docks, he began to handle the oystermen’s money for a small commission. As one business might lead to another, Hemingway’s banking and business experience would propel the oyster broker to the presidency of the Second National Bank.

Throughout the 1880’s Fair Haven’s population and business would increase; from the riverfront oyster community, it would reach out from the river banks building, thriving and asserting its pride. On the corner of Grand and Clinton Avenues, the first public school was built in 1808. The Fair Haven Academy was erected on Clinton Avenue in 1836; tuition was $S.00 to $6.00 per quarter. Other private schools also opened. They served the wealthy of the community.

The First Congregational Church dedicated its first meeting house in 1830. 8y 1851, the membership had grown so that a group left to build the Second Congregational Church across the river on the corner of Lenox Street. In 18S3, the original parishioners hired Henry Austin to design a new and larger church. The church which would seat 1,400 had a 237 foot steeple. The lofty spire made it the highest church in Connecticut and guided many sea captains into the harbor safely. A storm in 1877 damaged the spire. Unfortunately, even after repairs, it would sway in strong winds and one hundred feet had to be removed. One sea captain, not knowing of the removal, could not find his familiar landmark on a misty day when it could have been seen above the fog. He concluded that he had entered the wrong port and headed back out to sea.

With the spire’s removal and a drastic reconstruction in 1878, the Georgian appearance was replaced with a heavy Romanesque style; its tall brick tower would also be removed as a lightning hazard leaving the blunted turret one sees today. In 1890, the name was changed to the Grand Avenue Congregational Church. The burial ground of the church, Union Cemetery, covering seven acres, is a resting place for many early Fair Haven seamen.

On East Grand Avenue, St. James Episcopal Church was dedicated in 1844; it reminds the observer of Trinity Church on the New Haven Green. Across the street, the Second Congregational Church (pilgrim Church) opened in 18S2 and its style echoes Center Church also on the Green. Fair Haven Methodists, after being in several locations, constructed a church of Gothic design on East pearl Street which was dedicated in 1873. The spires of these churches, seen from the river as outlined by the sky, illustrate the growth of Fair Haven and the prosperity of the inhabitants who used architectural styles which can be appreciated more than one hundred years later.

The river and its related activities influenced the homes that were constructed. Along the banks of the river, the earliest oysterman’s house was a work place for the shuckers, wielding knives, who opened the oysters. As profits were made, the waterfront expanded with larger structures devoted to this business; schooners and Sharpies tied up on the wharf-side and workers toiled within the salty workrooms. prosperity from oystering, boatbuilding and other businesses moved people to areas above the river and houses representative of styles that suited the status of the inhabitants.

The main link to New Haven, unpaved and tree-shaded, Grand Street was lined with commercial establishments. All the appropriate craft shops of the period could be found along it. Increasing numbers of stores providing goods for the community opened their doors. Of note was the clothier, Edward Malley, who began his business in 1848 in Fair Haven before establishing himself in New Haven proper with the Edward Malley Company.

The original Fair Haven 8ridge was replaced in 1860 with one having sidewalks for pedestrians and rails for the Fair Haven and Westville Horse Railroad Company. The carbarn was on Grand Avenue near Fillmore Street and nearby 450 horses were stabled. Trolleys replaced the horses in 1893. The second Grand Avenue 8ridge was replaced in 1896; this iron structure rested on seven stone piers and measured 427 feet long by 50 feet wide.

In 1852 the New Haven and New London Railroad constructed a truss bridge across the Quinnipiac River north of the Grand Avenue 8ridge. The line sliced Fair Haven from the depot in New Haven into East Haven until 1894 when the tracks were routed northward and the bridge was demolished.

8y 1870 when Fair Haven joined New Haven, its population had grown to almost 4,000. The incorporation resulted in new streets being laid out and old ones being repaired. Some streets were renamed such as pearl Street which became East pearl because New Haven already had one with that name. Grand Street became Grand Avenue in 1887. The ferry was replaced by a bridge over the Quinnipiac in 1876. The Ferry Street bridge provided greater access and thus continued expansion. The growth of Fair Haven after the Civil War can be followed in the building of numerous churches including Saint Francis Roman Catholic Church (1867) on Ferry Street and in the number of public and private schools that opened. The once rustic village was rushing toward the next century and new waves of people who would make their home in Fair Haven.

While the activities on the river remained devoted to oystering and related businesses, Irish, German, polish and Italian immigrants arrived to work in the factories and on the railroads. The seamen had lived close to the river in comfortable homes. The newcomers would come to live in small cottages more inland; the result would be the disappearance of some of the earlier rural estates. For example, the thirty acre estate of Oliver E. Maltby, a retired New York businessman whose property ran from the Mill River to Blatchley Avenue, was subdivided into building lots after his death in 1897. Gone were the elegant mansions, stables and greenhouses. From Ferry Street toward New Haven there was money to be made, selling land and building homes which were sold at low prices and were convenient to the factories. Fair Haven’s Post Office, established in 1833 near the Quinnipiac River, moved to the corner of Clinton and Grand in 1881 as the population expanded in that direction.

Across the river, in Fair Haven Heights, the opposite was occurring in terms of the size of homes developing. This area, because of its view, became an attractive place to live for the well-to-do. Spacious homes were built in the relatively unsettled woods. Successful oystermen had imposing houses along the river and farther up the Heights, Victorian showplaces were constructed like the twenty-four room mansion by James H. King, rumored to be the former president of the American Tobacco Company. Charles Ives’ Victorian home stood 400 feet above the river; his spacious grounds and gardens would later become Fairmont park in 1923.

The industry that attracted the immigrant workers varied from the New Haven Clock Company, the Bigelow Company which still makes steam boilers, the Quinnipiac (Yale) Brewery, to the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set Co. Gilbert’s product gained fame as a child’s toy and in 1938, Gilbert also began to manufacture the American Flyer train to which he had obtained the rights. A large supply of skilled workers were attracted to the area and the jobs found in New Haven Quilt and pad, Brewster Shirt, Sargent’s, National Folding Box and the other industries. Three and four-story tenements began to line Grand Avenue and its side streets. Fair Haven became more citified with the mix of business, industry, private and multiple family dwellings. Open space declined as a result. Fortunately, part of the old Civil War Camp Terry near Chapel Street and Clinton park were acquired by the public park Commission.

The coming of the Twentieth Century brought more industry and the problems of industrialization to the area. Overcrowded living conditions, pollution and crime shadowed the teeming populations. But Fair Haven became their neighborhood as the families developed a close relationship to the area. The individual residents not only lived and worked here but as a community, they played, worshiped, shopped and celebrated close to their home. At Dover Beach on the Quinnipiac River, Fair Haveners learned to swim; they celebrated around bonfires on the Fourth of July and cheered at Labor Day canoe races on the river. Fair Haven had an identity of its own that was a source of pride to the inhabitants.

The last thirty years saw a decline in the area; especially as industry moved out, the community changed. Deterioration of the attractive neighborhoods increased; people moved away for various reasons. Social upheaval and political in-fighting resulted in the decline of the sense of neighborhood. The continuity with the past was broken. Yet the memories of many are strong and fortunately the area escaped, to a great degree, the downtown demolition of the 1960’s. As that area learned, bulldozing and constructing anew does not build a community. Fair Haven has retained many structures that provide a link to its past. Balanced renewal with careful preservation, planning, and building with a sense of purpose, can rekindle the pride that a community needs for itself.

The days of the oyster laden schooner unloading, the world traveling sea captain returning, and the mansions gracing many acres are gone. Their marks on the landscape remain. They can still be observed and can serve as a source of pride upon which to build. They serve as threads to the future. Today, Fair Haven is actively turning to its past, remembering and preserving, while building its future.

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The Architecture

It is important to take the time to view the variety of structures that exist in Fair Haven. The area contains buildings from the late colonial period, unique examples of waterfront architecture, Victorian Gothic, NeoClassic, cubed Italian Villas and modern styles. Observing some of these can promote the feeling that Fair Haven has deep roots in the American development and reveal the rich architectural heritage that is part of the students’ environment. Many of the structures belong to the past and thus provide a reference to Fair Haven’s history. The current restorations attempt to preserve and to maintain contact with the area’s heritage. The newer buildings add today’s imprint; this is needed so that an area does not stagnate in its past. The modern buildings provide the balance that a vital community needs to keep moving into the future. Of course the designated Historic District regulates exterior construction but the Fair Haven area is large enough to accommodate the new while protecting its past.

To counterpoint, the chronological story of Fair Haven— The past, its architecture is presented in three groups: public structures, commercial establishments, and private residences. The buildings in each group include the old, the new, and the attempt to preserve existing architecture through adaptive use.

Fair Haven contains public school architecture that is reflective of many periods. The old Woolsey School (slide 1), 1878-1984, was a solid building sitting close to the street on a third of an acre. Dulled by age, the colorful brickwork accented the arched windows of the upper floors in the front while connecting the windows with horizontal bands. The hip roof had a majestic overhang with brackets; its white detail circled the red brick structure. Woolsey School which had been closed since the mid-1960’s was demolished in June of 1984. Its replacement was Christopher Columbus School in 1966 (slide 2) on Grand Avenue. Set back into the landscape, which also serves as a park, Columbus School sits on three acres and has fourteen classrooms; the same number as had the old Woolsey. Besides the increase in land use, the size of and decrease in number of windows is noticeable. Columbus’ window shapes are designed to admit light according to the sun’s exposure, more glass on the shadier sides, less on the sunny sides. Woolsey’s windows were large openings on all sides allowing easy viewing of the outside surroundings without regard to the changing natural light.

At 611 Ferry Street, you can still find the building that was the Ferry Street School built in 1881. It is easily recognizable as a school (closed 1938) although it is now a commercial business with the exterior brick painted to hide its old purpose. Along Quinnipiac River, the old Benjamin Jepson School (slide 3) has been cleaned, modernized and reborn for commercial use. Cheever School (1896) on Lombard Street also has undergone restoration and continues to serve the public in a commercial way. In 1911, the Clinton Avenue School (slide 4) was dedicated. Next to Clinton park, it is an example of Neo-Classicism, popular before World War I. The entrance, with its columns, is slightly set back from the wings to create a portico. The columns, seem to support a wide fascia and stepped pediment. Ignoring the building’s function, it appears to exist on a page from an Edwardian picture book. The windows are not original of course, but the new ones add depth in helping the columns to move forward from the facade.

Strong School (slide 5), on Grand Avenue at the Clinton Avenue corner, was the most elaborate school built after 1915. It is an example of Collegiate Tudor with plain brick walls, decorated with diamond shaped figures, a lot of glass and twin towers which are best seen at a distance. In early 1914, the earlier Horace H. Strong School (1895) burned down; the site was a good location atop the crest of Grand Avenue before it slopes toward the river for the then new chapel-like structure whose facade has remained unchanged.

In 1927-2B, Fair Haven Junior High School was built at 164 Grand Avenue. It was constructed in two stages with the back section set on the rear of the property. Within a year, while the first building was in use, the front section was added. Brown and Von Beren were the architects (slide 6); they used red brick with white trimmings on this Colonial design. The decorated clock tower (slide 7) once was higher with an octagoned shaped turret; it became structurally weak during the 1930’s and was removed. Aside the main entrance doors sit two mythical griffins designed by Malcom Rice, a Fair Haven sculptor (slide 8). Over the doors are two bas-relief heads of children. Though the name remains over the doors, the school is now a middle school, serving grades 5 to 8, but the divided entrance steps which reach towards the street still beckon the children to “enter to learn. . . ”

Directly across from the school is the Grand Avenue Congregational Church (slide 9) originally built in 1853; the front that is now seen was constructed in 1878. The story of the 237 foot steeple’s removal has been related and now the imagination must be used to envision the lofty Roman spire and pinnacles. Behind and to the right of the church is the Victorian Gothic gate (slide 10) into Union Cemetery. Built in 1885, the gate is a solemn entrance facing the street, marking the buying ground as an important place.

On East pearl Street, the Methodist Church (1871) is located (slide 11). Easily identified from across the river because of its steeple, now under repair, the church’s style is Victorian Gothic whose intricate interior woodwork frames its stained glass window. This is the third church built by Fair Haven Methodists over the years. At 65 East Grand Avenue, the Second Congregational Church was built in 1851; its name was changed in 1902 to the pilgrim Congregational Church (slide 12). The design is mindful of Center Church on the Green. Note the six columned portico, the design in the pediment and the urns at the steeple’s base. predating the Pilgrim Church is St. James Episcopal Church (slide 13) across the street. Dedicated in 1845, the sandstone used to build this Gothic style church came from Captain Isaac Brown’s quarry nearby. The hurricane of 1938 necessitated that the tower be reduced in height.

Education and religion are two institutions that communities value highly, thus their structures are constructed to last and are styled to reflect the importance of the inner activity. Function aside, the churches in Fair Haven illustrate a heavenward reach by people; they soar above the everyday life of the street and offer hope for one’s personal future. The school buildings tend to reach out side ways to include and embrace the public. Of solid construction, their details mark them as special places in the community, for the community. Besides these aspects of community life, one remaining building from Fair Haven’s interest in public welfare exists at 118 Clinton Avenue. Originally founded as a place for homeless girls, The Home for the Friendless has served as a charitable institution in the area since 1866. Renamed the Mary P. Wade Home (slide 14) in 1931, the brick wing was opened in 1888 being designed by Henry Austin and Son. The main entrance as shown, replaced an earlier wooden house in 1898. Today the Home serves elderly women and its spacious gardens in the back are a source of pride for all the community.

From the earliest days of settlement, the Quinnipiac River was the basis of prosperity for the oystering, shipbuilding and related activities. Even the quarrying business in the Heights used the river for transport of its red sandstone. The native stone was used for foundations in many New Haven buildings including the old State House on the Green. From Canada, three-masted schooners brought gypsum to a plaster company. But by the Civil War, manufacturing had established itself and with the railroad expanding inland transportation, the importance of the river was challenged. More and more factories were built along Mill River and along the Quinnipiac’s south bank facing the Harbor. By 1913, the population center had shifted from the river to the intersections of Grand and Ferry.

From the Ferry Street Bridge on South Front Street you can see the Quinnipiac Brewery (slide 15). It includes the earlier 1870’s building of the Robinson Company that made “Oyster Tubs, Kegs and Extension Tables.” Note the mansard roof and tower; they were incorporated into the Quinnipiac Brewery building constructed in 1896. This towering brick structure is going to receive new life as it is being remodeled into residential apartments. Moving along Chapel Street toward the Mill River, the center of much industry at one time, one remaining giant sits on an island in the river. The New Haven Electric Light Company built its power plant here where coal could be easily delivered by barge. In 1899 a merger formed the United Illumination Company as seen from Grand Avenue (slide 16). Built in stages, 1927 and 1947; the power plant mixes futurism, the 410 foot stacks and powerful lines to dwarf the island.

The oldest continuous hardware store in New Haven is across the avenue at One Grand; it is the Roland T. Warner Hardware founded in 1883 by William A. Warner (slide 18). He moved into this 1890’s building in 1910 combining the three earlier shops (1,3,5 Grand) on the first floor. When William’s brother Roland became head of the business in 1914, the name was changed. The building was remodeled in 1948 using grey asbestos siding and the windows on the first floor were covered. A fire in August 1982 almost destroyed the building, however, the new owner, Edward Flanagan, has restored the exterior to its original design. The building is of post and beam construction with roof timbers measuring 14” x 14”. The new clapboards and trim exist today as they did on the original facade. For an extended analysis note appendix I.

Fair Haven’s strength as a community has always been its people. Their homes relate a story of development that parallels the community’s history of growth. Along the river bank the oystermen’s houses became the nucleus of the Village. The houses built between 1795 and 1830’s were raised on high cellars that were dug into the bank at the tide line; the cellars served as work places for oyster opening and as storage spaces. Along North Front Street can be seen a mixture of late Colonial, Federal and Greek Revival architecture. A traditional Colonial one-and-a half story house with a center chimney is found at 196 North Front Street (slide 19). This is the oldest house on the street; it was moved to the location and placed on an existing foundation. The house was turned sideways to the street with the main entrance facing south. Note the wide entrance into the cellar for the moving of oysters and shells in and out. Along South Front Street, Redevelopment has taken all but one of the Federal and Greek Revival waterfront houses. The sole survivor is the 1846 home of Captain Edwin Thompson (slide 20). The Doric entrance faces south; the exterior is stucco and the red sandstone foundation gives the viewer a hint of the once distinguished house that existed. The twin chimneys add an unusual dimension to the front. The steeply pitched roof and large arched window through which goods could be hoisted give clues to the fact that Captain Thompson used the attic level for storage as he was a coastal trader before becoming an oyster dealer with a warehouse across from the house at the river’s edge.

Turning from Front Street onto East pearl Street the change in style of the houses is noticeable. As Fair haven prospered, more elegant homes were built on the higher elevation. 37 East pearl Street (slide 21) began in the 1840’s as a Grecian Villa but was changed with a mansard roof and additions such as the porch about thirty years later. East pearl Street before the Civil War was where prestigious homes were built attesting to the economic wealth that mainly resulted from oystering and shipping. W.S. Barnes, ca. 1840, built a Villa style home (slide 22) at number 42 East Pearl. Note the fringed eaves of the roof and porch.

The houses on this street reflected the success and wealth of the owners who built homes that illustrated their achievement in life. Detail, ornament and the half-moon window graced gable ends (slide 23) on this Victorian Gothic built by oysterman John Ludington in the 1870’s. Columns were used extensively to support porch roofs and like this carved capitol added beauty (slide 24). The iron fences served to bound important places as well as scale down the street path. The Greek Revival columns on 76 East Pearl Street, (slide 25) which was built as a small Villa in 1B51, were topped with a cornice and brackets. A top floor and roof trimmings were added in the 1870’s. Built as the Methodist parsonage (slide 26) in 1882, this Queen Anne style structure is now a multi-family dwelling.

Still graceful, an 1852 Villa stands at 169 Grand Avenue (slide 27). The large porch and classic lines remind the viewer of the Avenue’s rural past. The original owner, Lyman Woodward, expressed his fear that the lofty steeple of Capain’s Church might crush his Italian Villa-style home. The 1877 gale and his concern prompted the steeple’s removal. Moving back towards the river on Grand Avenue is an interesting Greek Revival double house with a recessed Doric porch (slide 28) and a divided stair entrance of red sandstone. Its neighbor (slide 29) at number 33 has a Greek Revival porch and dentile molding under the eaves.

Across the River at 630 Quinnipiac Avenue (slide 30) is a gable to-street middle-income home popular between 1850 and the mid-1879’s. It and its neighbors to the north are part of a rehabilitation project whereby luxury condominiums will replace the residences. Next to Pilgrim Church exists one of the earliest houses built on the hill above the Quinnipiac River (slide 31). 61 East Grand Avenue was originally constructed between 1836 and 1847. The balustrades and shingles were added in the 1880’s. Farther along up East Grand at 133 is an interesting combination (slide 32). It is a Swiss variation of Victorian Gothic built in the 1870’s. The intricate pattern of woodwork contrasts against the brick and creates a jutting facade to the street.

As wealth increased, Fair Haven Heights became the place to live because of the spectacular view afforded of the river and the landscape beyond. Impressive residences sitting on many acres began to occupy the relatively unsettled land by the 1860’s. Three of the five Lancraft brothers built gabled and towered houses within walking distance of each other on Lenox Street. Henry Lancraft, a builder and oyster dealer, built this Victorian of the 1870’s (slide 33) with an entrance at 120 Lexington Avenue. The red stone wall still visible on Lenox Street marked the brothers’ land. In 1862, the James Babcock estate covered thirty acres. The Victorian mansion (slide 34) at 89 Sherland Avenue was Babcock’s home until 1869, the years that he was Collector of Customs. Babcock then moved into a palatial home at the corner of Grand and Ferry, now the site of the Second New Haven Bank. The home in the Heights was later occupied by Andrew R. Bradley, president of the company that invented the “lollipop”. The current owner has restored and preserved the old home, however, much of the original acreage is now crowded with newer homes. yet the mansion still shines above its surroundings and dominates the space.

Still, among the growth of the twentieth century, exist these Victorian masterpieces along the river from Foxon Boulevard into Morris Cove. At 1212 Quinnipiac Avenue (slide 35) the faded elegance of the 1870’s can be seen; it awaits an unknown future. Substantial, open yet at the same time, foreboding; it remains an ornate legacy to Fair Haven’s architectural heritage.

Fair Haven Village (slide 36) exists in its structures as it has for many years; its architecture remains for the observer to read and delight in the story of the community’s development. It represents the vanished society of the oysterman and 19th century entrepreneur. But with the present structures their moments are not forgotten and can serve us as a source of visual pleasure and pride.

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The Preservation

Fair Haven’s past is varied and rich; it has left strong impressions in the memories of former residents. But the future, without careful planning, will not attract people who are the vitality of any community. Preservation of the past while controlling the future development may help restore the community’s landscape thus creating an attractive environment for future residents. Both sides of the Quinnipiac River between the Grand Avenue and Ferry Street bridges are not part of the Historic District. While the local Commission must approve any exterior changes to structures within the District, property owners are eligible for twenty-five percent investment tax credits for rehabilitation of income producing property. Opposition exists for extending the District but plans proceed to have the area listed on the National Register of Historic places. Restoration and rehabilitation efforts are moving forward in Fair Haven resulting in re-establishing its historic character as well as enhancing the values of properties in the neighborhood. Along South Front Street a city park has been designated and across the street will exist Riverplace, a condominium project of traditional design. The newly constructed iron bridge copied from its 1896 predecessor gives the new impression that Fair Haven is remembering its past while building for its future.

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Fair Haven’s History and Architecture-Past and Preservation

The following classroom lessons are designed to get the students to consider Fair Haven as an area of which they are a part and also to allow them to observe some of its architectural styles and to realize the importance of preservation. Fair Haven students can observe, explore and think about the past which is part of their physical environment. Maybe they will realize that the past can only exist through an effort to preserve it.

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Lesson I Neighborhood and Community

Major Concept:

Before understanding and decision making concerning Fair Haven and its architectural landscape, it is important to ascertain the students’ personal perspectives. A questionnaire may serve as a beginning, thereby focusing attention and directing thought to issues for discussion.


1. Students will consider the area in which they reside by responding to a survey.
2. Students will practice answering questions using personal knowledge.
3. Students will express their perceptions of Fair Haven’s physical environment by composing an advertisement.


1. Reproduce and administer the following; answers should be written.
Fair Haven Resident Survey
a. How long have you lived in Fair Haven?
b. Do you think of yourself as a Fair Havener?
c. Does your family own or rent its dwelling?
d. Can you name two parks in the area?
d. What is the “main street” in the area?
f. Name a major natural resource in the area?
g. About how old is the place in which you live?
h. What is one interesting feature on the outside of the place in which you live?
i. Name the landmark or give the location of a building that has interested you or made you curious in any way.
j. Name any building that looks like it was used for another purpose than it is now.
k. What is one change that you have noticed in the area occurring during the time that you have been a resident.
l. List two things that you think that Fair Haven has going for it. m. List any things that you view as problems in Fair Haven.
n. Do you think of Fair Haven as a community?
o. Do you feel pride in being a Fair Havener?
p. Would you continue to live in this area in the future? If not, where would you want to live?
2. Some answers could be shared in order to determine any common concerns, interests or attitudes. Discussion may follow.
3. Students should list 5 to 10 words that would best describe their community of Fair Haven. Then write an advertisement using the terms; the object of the ad would be to attract people to come and live in Fair Haven.
4. Make a drawing that would symbolize Fair Haven that would go with the advertisement.

Extended Activity:

Define the following terms:

Restoration Resident Heritage
Redevelopment Community Preservation

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Lesson II “Picture This!”

Major Concept:

While buildings tend to be extensions of humans, reflection of our needs, memories and dreams, the architecture of a building should be a pleasing visual experience. The first step in appreciation must be the observation of a building in a way to critically discern its features.


1. Students will develop observation skills by viewing slides and photographs of buildings in their textbook.
2. Students will develop communication skills through writing a description of the building.


1. The prepared slides, available at the Teachers Institute Office, should be shown. The section titled “The Architecture” in this unit can serve as the descriptive narration for the slides.
2. Distribute the following vocabulary and definitions lists; discuss the terms by relating them to the school building.
Place—indoors or out, private or public, it is an enclosed space where human activity(s) can happen.
Path-passages or routes which may vary in design and purpose that connect places for human locomotion or vision.
Center-place of major activity, may be singular, multiple or undefined.
Entrance-point of transition into a place, may be more than one into a structure or onto a property.
Pattern-the system in which path and place are related.
Edge-marks a boundary by separating a space by walling it in or facing out from it. Facades, walls and bays are examples.
3. Depending on the social studies textbook used, the teacher can list on the board the pages where photographs of a building or group of buildings can be found. A partial list from Western Hemisphere and The United States and The Other Americas can be found in the Bibliography.
4. Each student will select a photograph and write a paragraph describing the building(s) only. The description should include: color, material, shape, information on detail, arrangement of windows, and roof type. Student’s name is to be put on the back.
5. The descriptions are collected and then re-distributed by the teacher to other students in the class.
6. The task for the students is to locate the building’s photo as described in the textbook. The descriptions may be exchanged and the activity repeated. As an alternative, the teacher may select a number of descriptions, read them aloud and allow the students to match the photo. Discussion may follow on the quality of the description in relation to the pictured building(s).
7. Extended discussion might compare some of the buildings to illustrate changes in American social and economic conditions or style differences in other countries.

Extended Activity:

Write a paragraph describing the front of your house.

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Lesson III Decide for Yourself

Major Concept:

For decision making, available resources should be used, choices explored and considerations of the results must occur. The student’s home would be a natural resource, familiar yet often unnoticed, and given a personal connection, the consideration should be careful.


1. Students will draw the facade of their home as it exists, then make a change (an addition or a deletion).
2. Students will practice scale, use of a ruler, drawing and using their imagination.


1. Presentation of the architectural analysis (appendix I) of Warner’s Hardware Store while viewing the slide will illustrate how a facade can be read. It will also serve to reinforce the vocabulary introduced in Lesson II.
2. Using graph paper the students will draw the front of their house using scale.
3. Using tracing paper a copy can be made and the lines heavily accented; a decision can be made concerning what may be changed. A second trace copy now can be made with the change included; shrubbery can be added.
4. Both drawings can be mounted for comparison viewing and analysis.

Extended Activities:

1. Using the map (appendix II), students are to locate the school and their home, locate their church, any parks and the U.I. Company. Then take a walking tour as indicated.
2. Students should select a building shown in the slides or one of interest near their house and write a descriptive narrative of the structure.
3. Students could take photographs of buildings that are being restored, have been restored or are in need of restoration. The photos can be put into a scrapbook with the location of the structures.

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Appendix I

Roland T. Warner Hardware Stroe

One Grand Avenue


On Grand Avenue, it fronts the street facing south. Front Street is on the west side and a parking lot is at the rear. The east foundation borders the Quinnipiac River.


Grey except for white trim, windows, panels, detail, etc.


Front 61 1/2 feet, side 56 feet, height 32 feet.


Wooden clapboard exterior; post and beam construction.


It is a three story building with a low, hip roof. Gable roof peaks accent sections that extend from the sides at the second floor level. Beneath the roof line which creates a large soffit is a fascia. The fascia is interrupted by eyebrow windows and a pattern of bars and rosettes; the later detail is on the extended second floor.

Original 7’2’ windows have been replaced with smaller double hung ones but the space has been maintained with the use of panels under the new windows on the second floor. Light is emitted through a series of smaller windows under the second floor fascia; these lightly repeat the effect of the smaller windows under the eaves.

A larger fascia bank circles the building repeating the effect of the roof’s overhang. This fascia visually separates the floors on the exterior yet balances the vertical lines of the windows and trim, helping to maintain the solid, spacious nature of the building. In practice, the fascia allows space for wooden letters which label the building in name and purpose.

The entrance is recessed, it uses glass doors and side panels. A canvas canopy also identifies the entrance as it extends over the street. Original windows, long since covered over, are now covered with decorative, framed wooded panels. They repeat the height of the upper windows and give more street security as well as interior wall space. The raised panels also extend along the base at the street level on the front and tend to repeat the fascia above in line and color.

On the right side of the front are wooden doors that provide access to the second floor. They do make the main entrance off center but it’s closer to the foot traffic from the street intersection and away from the nearby bridge.

The entrance leads directly into an interior which is bounded by exterior walls, displays and supplies. Within, “place” is everyplace. Without reading the store’s sign, the unknowing visitor might be reluctant to enter this large structure, afraid that it might overwhelm or trap him. The store doesn’t invite the casual visitor; it is not its purpose. Shoppers enter usually knowing that the item will be available here and no where else. The walls create a definite inside. Once one steps under the canopy, you have crossed from the outside.

The facade of the building moves the viewer to the entrance of the interior place. Yet it also can move the viewer along a path by it because there is no way to see inside unless you choose to enter under the canopy. Thus, the place exists for its intended market and the architecturally minded but not for the browser.

The impressive structure, perched upon the river’s edge, dominates the intersection, sharing it only with King’s Block. It looks out at the river over the open space along the west bank and could serve as a giant gatehouse for the bridge on its right. preserved and renewed, they are a logical center to Fair Haven Village.

(figure available in print form)


Belmont Jeff. “East Farmes. . . Fair Haven,” New Haven Register, June 6, 1975.

Brown, Elizabeth Mills. New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. Excellent reference to Fair Haven pp. 167-207.

Drummond, Harold D. The Western Hemisphere. Boston: Allyn and Bacon Inc., 1978. photo reference pages: 42, 112, 118, 173, 269, 313, 377, 390, 398, 401, 434, etc.

Greenbie, Barrie B. Spaces. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981. Note discussion of neutral ground, transitional space and haptic senses.

Dubar, Walter. “In ‘old’ New Haven Along Frand Avenue. . ., New Haven Register, Fedruary 8, 1981.

Hornstein, Harold. “When Captains Came Home to Fair Haven,” New Haven Register, February 24, 1974.

King, Dennis and Potter. United States and The Other Americas. New York:. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1980. Photo reference pages: 142, 173, 250, 290, 306, 320, 337, 366, 469, 457, 508, 509, etc.

Osterweis, Rollin G. Three Centuries of New Haven, 1638-1938. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953. Information on oystering, shipping, immigrants and politics.

Townshend, Doris B. Fair Haven: A Journey Through Time. New Haven: The New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1976. The narrative of this unit is based on this rich and easily read story of Fair Haven.

(figure available in print form)

(figure available in print form)

(figure available in print form)

(figure available in print form)

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