Town life came to be centered around the Green during the Federal period. By 1800, it had become impractical for the descendants of the original settlers to operate as a group in dealing with the business of the “proprietors common and undivided lands.” Thus a committee of five members was given all the power and obligation to perpetuate itself. From 1805 until the present, this committee has continued to function and although the lands now consist of a single plot—the central Green, they remain committed to keeping the Green inviolate. The Green that they now administer attained its true image as a public and civic center in the Federal period.
On Elm Street, three houses still exist that take the observer back to our Revolutionary time. They have been added to, changed and restored; as a result, they are not the best representatives of the period. But their presence gives the viewer a sense of the Green’s border at the end of the 18th Century. The Nicholas Callahan House, c. 1762-1776, at one time a tavern, had a two story porch added over the front door in Victorian times. During its 20th Century restoration, the upper half of this porch was removed and replaced with a seemingly Federal entrance porch that appears to float above the doorway. The house is now a Yale Senior Society.
Truer to their original building are the Jonathan Mix House, 1799, and the John Pierpont House, 1767. The later house also received a two story porch, but it was completely removed when it was restored in 1929. The metal roof had already replaced its shingles after 1870. Now the Yale Faculty Club, the Pierpont House, is the sole example of a Georgian country house with its center chimney. By observing the Mix House, the change from Colonial to Federal style can be noted. The ornament contrasts with the plainness of its neighbor especially noted in the cornice and over the windows. The Palladian windows may not have been a feature of the original house which is now the Yale Graduate Club.
Using these houses as a reference, it is not hard to visualize the general appearance of New Haven after the Revolutionary War. The public buildings reflected the dignity of Georgian architecture which was serious and stately, reflecting a desire for order and symmetry. There were no factories and the retail shops were small. Except for the busy waterfront, the city was still concentrated around the nine squares with their dusty and often muddy dividing roads. These restored houses remain a symbolic image of old New Haven.
The planning and concept that gave New Haven its 13th Century charm were the work of James Hillhouse and Timothy Dwight. These men created the setting around which the upper class constructed the Greek Revival designs of Itniel Town, Alexander Jackson Davis and others. These efforts resulted in the architecture that transformed the Green from merely a market place to a celebrated public square .
Flanking the Center Church, Trinity Church was built between 1812 and 1814 by Ithiel Town. It was the earliest Gothic Revival building in New Haven and although it has been altered, it maintains a quiet beauty that is medieval in nature. The Gothic Revival style was chosen by the Episcopal Church as they considered it to be the appropriate architectural form for the true English church. To the right of Center Church stands United Church or the North Church built by David Hoadley between 1814 and 1816. Hoadley worked from the plans of others in constructing a good example of Federal design which influenced the design of other churches. Also on the Green, in the north corner was a Methodist Church which was induced to move across the street in 1849. This church was built by Henry Austin; originally Federal in style much was changed until 1905 when it was re-Federalized. The continued presence of these churches symbolize the religious beginnings of the community.
As New Haven prospered, expanded and entered the Canal Era, its architecture continued to be fashionable. The residences on Elm Street would give it the title “Quality Row.” Governor Ingersoll’s house at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets was designed by Town and Davis in 1829 and built by Nahum Haywood. It is a brick town house of late Georgian style with pure Greek Revival detail. The flight of steps lead to a simple Doric porch which reaches out to the street. Of great contrast along Elm Street is Hendrie Hall which was built as the Yale Law School in 1894. This stone building contains the facade of a Venetian palazzo and appears to be out of place and time with its wooden neighbors. At the time of its construction, Hendrie Hall was to be a new step in the development of Elm Street as its unfinished side walls indicate. However it was to be the first and last attempt to redesign this section of the street. Today it adds to the architectural medley running along Elm Street.
Greek Revival architecture based upon the classical Greek buildings was reintroduced into the western world by England. In simple terms, the ancient temples were raised on a base with an approach by steps across the front. A colonnade supported an entablature and the pediments held a low pitched roof. The columns created 8 portico that allowed one to pause and reflect upon entering the sacred place. The Greek temple form began to be the motive for churches, public buildings and even houses in England and then America. With the rise of Jacksonian democracy in the 1820’s the Greek Revival style became popular architecture.
This style was adapted to a New Haven commercial structure in 1832. The Exchange, on the corner of Chapel and Church Streets, was an attempt at commercial architecture; it was built by Atwater Treat possibly based on a Town design. Today you must blot out the confusion of the street level which contains storefronts. Originally, between the piers, wide shops existed and a domed cupola marked the corner. New Haven’s wooden dwellings were giving way to more commercial buildings and brownstone and brick structures. Another side of New Haven’s development and architecture is connected with Yale University. The Brick Row, a campus designed by John Trumbull and James Hillhouse, with Connecticut Hall facing the Green, was separated from it by an outer row built close to College Street facing inward to create its own green or common. Russell Sturgis designed the High Victorian Gothic style of Farnam Hall and Lawrance Hall on College Street and Battell Chapel which serves as a cornerstone at the corner of Elm Street. The many gables, scrupulous masonry, green copper roofs and now dirty red brick seen to present a solid face to the street sealing the activity within. Welch Hall was built in 1891 leaving a gap that was filled by Phelps Gate in 1895. This Tudor gatehouse with corner towers as menacing as battlements, is Yale’s front door. At the Chapel Street corner on College Street is Charles gingham Hall; it was the last building to be constructed on the Old Campus Quadrangle. Walter Chambers designed the tower in 1928 which includes dormitories and offices.
By 1846, the wooden fences around the Green gave way to stone and iron enclosures and the Elm trees reached a beautiful maturity. The jail that had stood on Church Street across from Center Church was replaced by a Victorian Gothic City Hall in 1861. Designed by Henry Austin the existing facade of limestone and sandstone alongside the Old Court House built by David Brown in 1871 stand today, as false fronts, as monuments to civic pride. Austin’s city hall is an impressive example of an architectural style that dominated America until the 1890’s. For the rest of the 19th Century, the Green remained the same. Prosperity fell off after the Civil War and building declined. By the 1690’s, there was new wealth from the industrial growth and the railroads that carried New Haven products across the nation. It was not until around World War I that the Green would acquire additional buildings and the urban look of today.