Newhallville is located in the north-central section of New Haven. Its street boundaries are as follows: the Hamden town line to the north (directly beyond Elizabeth, Daisy and Lander Streets). To the south it is Munson Street, Mansfield and Prospect Streets to the east and Beaver Park and Fournier Street to the west (see fig. 1).
The community got its name from George T. Newhall, founder of the Newhall Carriage Emporium (at one time New Haven was considered a leader in the production of carriages. More on that later).
Since Newhallville was founded around the industries of the area jobs were often plentiful (as long as the demand for their products continued to grow). As a results of that the area tended to attract the most recent immigrant groups that came to the area in search of work. Understandably the comfort and future of the community was tied directly to the stability and success of its industries.
During the 1970s Newhallville began to feel its share of the burdens of the recession and general decline of commercial interest in the area. Those setbacks led to strikes, lay-offs and the eventual selling of the Winchester Arms plant. At that time parts of the Olins plant was formally closed.
Many neighborhood organizations have taken the lead in trying to revitalize the area and help shape its future improvements. Organizations such as the Newhallville Neighborhood Corporation, Newhallville Block Association and Blockwatch programs, Newhallville Restoration Corporation and Science Park are all working together to change the conditions of the neighborhood.
IMPORTANT DATES IN NEWHALLVILLE’S HISTORY
1800—Dixwell Avenue is laid out
1820—Plans for Farmington Canal Project are developed
1828—Farmington Canal was opened
1851—Newhall’s Carriage Emporium founded
1850s—Winchester Repeating Arms Company opened
1871—Newhall’s Carriage Emporium closed
1900—Large German and Irish population settles in area
1960—Large African American population settles in area
FARMINGTON CANAL PROJECT
In the early part of the nineteenth century New Haven was still struggling with the question of how to make its harbors a part of the great seaway. New Haven visionaries envisioned a harbor that would stretch from Long Wharf to Northampton and on to the St. Lawrence Seaway. This would ensure New Haven a solid place in the worldwide maritime trade, thus tying New Haven to the whole of New England as well as to the eastern portion of Canada. Those kinds of improvements in the transportation field would inevitably lead to improvements in New Haven’s industrial ventures.
On July 4, 1825, Governor Wolcott and Mr. Joel Root, president of the Farmington Canal Project, threw out the first spades of dirt opening the project. The project was completed in 1828 starting at a waterfront terminal just to the east of Long Wharf and ending in Farmington. A year later the project reached Northampton, Massachusetts.
Around the time that the canal was opened, New Haven (and surrounding towns) was struggling to overcome the burdens of transforming from a predominately agricultural economy to a predominately industrial economy. This transformation doomed the canal project to failure from the beginning. The change reduced, by reversing, the flow of agricultural goods from the interior. The canal depended on this traffic. In addition to that the banks of the canal were constantly collapsing and in need of repair. As if that wasn’t enough strain on the company’s funds they had the added burden of dealing with stiff competition from the railroad that had recently been completed.
Faced with these seemingly insurmountable problems the company was forced to turn the canal rights over to a New York company that converted the canal for railroad use. This proved to be a successful venture.
Inspite of the failures of the canal project it still succeeded in bringing new immigrant groups to the area. It also spurred the establishment of a solid industrial region.
Some important figures associated with this project was James Hillhouse (superintendent), David Hind (chief engineer) and Henry Farnam (asst. engineer).
Irish immigrants were the first foreign born ethnic group to settle in the Newhallville area. The Irish immigrants had come over to work on the canal project and later the railroad.
The potato famine of 1845 would accelerate the Irish migration forcing the later immigrants to settle in the less desirable areas around the Hill neighborhood. There they remained until they were upwardly mobile enough to relocate.
Since the Irish were openly discriminated against by the “native-born”, Yankee and Protestant population of New Haven those that settled in Newhallville set-up communities that were pretty-much self supporting. In addressing that question Gerald stated that; “There was a neighbor of mind, an Irish fellow, that use to tell us stories about the old neighborhood. He would tell us that every group of immigrants that came into the neighborhood were discriminated against by the group that preceded them, irregardless of race. The “native-born” harassed the Irish and Germans. The Irish and Germans harassed the Italians, and the Italians harassed the blacks.” He went on to say that “most Irishmen had to work as canal or railroad builders, or as firemen or policemen.”
Politically the Irish began to build a strong base succeeding in electing, in 1899, an Irishman to become the first immigrant mayor of New Haven. A second Irish mayor (Richard C. Lee) lived on Shelton Avenue in Newhallville.
For the most part Mayor Lee was well liked. However, near the end of his tenure he began to loose support in Newhallville and other neighborhoods. Gerald stated that “A lot of people in the community began to dislike the mayor. They associated the changes in the community with his urban-renewal programs. Those programs relocated people and sent new faces to Newhallville.”
IMPORTANT DATES IN IRISH HISTORY
1754—38 servants arrive as first Irish immigrants
1845—Ireland’s potato famine increases Irish migration
1860—Irish are the largest immigrant group in New Haven
1899—Cornelius R. Driscoll becomes first immigrant mayor
Newhallville is basically a residential neighborhood however it has, from its inception, been closely tied to the industries of the area.
As mentioned earlier the Irish and German immigrants were attracted to the area by the canal and rail projects. When the lure of these projects began to dwindle they were quickly replaced by the carriage industry.
Newhall’s Carriage Emporium was founded in 1851 and was located between Division and Argyle Streets (on the Newhallville/Dixwell line). This factory made the area the focus of attention whenever the discussion centered around the production of carriages. New Haven, as a whole, had a reputation for the production of carriages but it was Newhallville’s own Emporium that stood out among the others. George Newhall pioneered the use of steam power in the production of carriages. With steam power he used the assembly line and mass production techniques in his production. At one time the Emporium was producing one carriage an hour (that was indeed a feat for that time). Newhall’s factory was once considered the largest carriage factory in the world.
This boom period encouraged an influx of immigrants.
The Emporium first opened in 1851 and reached its apex in 1955. Since most of Newhall’s business was with the South, post Civil War conditions forced Newhall to suspend operations in 1872. He reopened another plant in 1880 and died in 1902 just as his business was being threatened by the growing popularity of the “horseless” carriage.
Newhall’s Carriage Emporium was replaced by Winchester’s Repeating Arms factory as the largest employer of the areas’ working class.
The arms plant was founded in the 1950s and spurred a wave of commercial and service oriented businesses in the community. Benefiting heavily from this boom was streets like Star, Bassett, Newhall and Dixwell Avenue.
The success of the plant really “exploded” during wartime (these properous times encouraged Italians and African Americans to move into the area). At one point Winchester’s plant was so self sufficient the neighborhood could almost be viewed as a “company town”. The arms plant owned its own powder plant, foundries and rails. Nearly everyone, of working age, worked for the company in some form or another. If the plant survived the community survived. Consequently, if the plant died the community suffered.
In 1931 Winchester Repeating Arms was purchased by the Olins Corporation. Olins is a chemical producer, metal researcher and ammunition manufacturer that also produces skis, diving equipment and fasteners.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s Olins found itself beset with labor disputes that led to the eventual closing of some of its buildings. It also led to massive cut backs and layoffs at the plant.
The success of these plants encouraged local entrepreneurs to set-up shops to service the needs of the growing working population. Gerald stated that “At one time you didn’t have to go downtown for your shopping. We had everything right there in the neighborhood.”
Delores added to that by saying “. . . we had drugstores (like Bens on Newhall Street), dry cleaners, corner markets, etc. all right there. As people started to leave the area these businesses were sold and converted to other things like storefront churches and nightclubs.”
Newhallville’s factories played a central role in the livelihood of its residents. Today, however, some of the pressure has been removed from the neighborhood factories and spread around the city. Bill, when asked about the employment situation of the neighborhood in 1970 replied with the following: “There was a balance at that time. Some people worked within the community at the Olins plant and others worked outside of the neighborhood at places like; Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale University, Armstrong, St. Raphael’s Hospital and Pratt & Whitney (Aircraft).”
ITALIANS AND BLACKS IN NEWHALLVILLE
A Comparative look at the Neighborhood via Personal Reflections
As stated in the sub-heading, the following will be reflections of Newhallville, the community, as seen through the eyes of three residents that lived there at various times. The interviewees were not asked to compare (or to contrast) the neighborhood as it existed then and now. Instead they were ask to simply give a narrative account of the neighborhood as they saw, or remember, it.
Here, two things have to be pointed out; (1) that limitations placed on the paper, in terms of length, forced me to subjectively edit the interviews. Consequently, only those parts of the interview that delineate pre-chosen points will be used in this section and the rest will be filed for student use. (2) The reflections recorded were supposed to be random accounts of the neighborhood as seen by those recounting the events. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to ask certain questions of all interviewed. This was done in an attempt to give students some common ground, or topics, to study for the sake of making comparisons or understanding the changes that a particular event or idea underwent over the years.
When students conduct their interviews the teacher might want to prepare questions, in advance, that would address certain issues. This will avoid ending up with a project that is to broad in scope to adequately cover.
Our first observation comes from Gerald Baldino, a principal at a local elementary school.
“My family moved to Newhallville around 1933. At that time the population was mostly Irish with Italians beginning to move in. By the time I left (1968) the population had changed. It was mostly Italian with Blacks coming in.
Most of the people in the community worked at the local Winchester plant and the old Sealtest company. At the same time you had people working in the small stores and corner markets. . . . There were people that worked outside of the community, also, at places like the Griest Company, or Mite Corporation. The neighborhood was pretty much a blue-collar working community.”
How did people feel about their neighborhood?
“There was a sense of pride among the people for their neighborhood. This continued up until around the mid ’50s when the community began to change.”
How did it change?
“Blacks began to move into the community around the early 1950s and the Irish started to leave around ’54 (that is, the first Irish family in my area left at that time). The change that I am talking about had nothing to do with color or race. I mean the community started to lose its family structure . . . times were good and people were moving out to better things in the suburbs.
At one time a person owned a two or three family house. The owner lived on the first floor and maybe an uncle, and his family, lived on the second floor. If it was a three family house you might find an aunt, and her family, living on the other floor. Grandparents often lived on some of those floors. Anyhow, everyone looked out for each other. Then families began to move to places like North Haven and East Haven. As they left they sold or rented their houses to people that were no longer families. The property often went down because the renters didn’t have the incentive to maintain the property. . . . After awhile you had to start locking your doors. This had nothing to do with skin color. It was about people with no ties to the community and/or property. ”
When the African Americans moved into the neighborhood do you know where they were coming from?
“Blacks were coming into the area from the projects of Dixwell as well as from other areas of the city (this was a step-up for Blacks). This was the period of redevelopment or urban renewal.”
This period that Gerald speaks of was twofold. First, the wartime restrictions placed on immigration left-northern factories short of a labor reserve. That shortage encouraged African Americans to in-migrate from southern cities into the larger industrialized cities of the north in search of that elusive “better life”. Secondly, the period from 1945-60 New Haven, and surrounding towns, experienced a phenomenon that they would be hard pressed to reverse. Some social historians refer to this as the period of “white flight”. That is, whites, mostly middle class, began to leave the cities in large numbers. They left seeking a better lifestyle (better schools, houses and neighborhoods). With them went a lot of the small businesses that were located in the community. Downtown department stores moved to the malls.
This movement inevitably resulted in an increase of the city’s minority population and a paradoxical decrease of the total population as whites left the city.
New Haven Population
Year Blacks Whites Total
As minorities came into the city a lot of the jobs left the area. Those African Americans that could afford it moved to the better neighborhoods vacated by whites, such as Newhallville. They entered Newhallville at the Newhallville/Dixwell neighborhood line and slowly inched their way towards the Hamden town line.
The white, suburban flight that created this situation is what Mayor Lee tried to reverse with his, then, innovative redevelopment and urban renewal program that was mentioned earlier.
Our second observation comes from Mrs. Delores White, a long time resident of the neighborhood.
“I moved to Newhallville in 1959. I have been here for thirty-years....In 1959 the population consisted of Polish, Irish, Italian and Blacks.
When I first moved here the neighborhood was a community. I could discipline my neighbor’s child if he was bad. You better not try that now.
The neighborhood has changed. Kids are on the street corners all hours of the day and night. And you don’t know most of them. Its not safe anymore.”
Where did people work at that time?
“We had a diverse group of workers but most of them worked in the community. People worked at Winchester and Olins. They worked in the small community businesses, and we had people that worked for the telephone company. We had nurses and teachers (but they worked, for the most part, in the neighborhood schools). Everyone knew each other and if you had a problem you could talk about it.”
Who was there to help you with those problems?
“Each community had its own neighborhood corporation. In the early ‘60s we had UNO (United Newhallville Organization). Mrs. Huckabee and Bernie Silva were on the Board. The Newhallville Mental Health Clinic grew out of UNO. It (the clinic) later became a part of the Newhallville Neighborhood Corporation currently headed by Mr. Holloway.
We were strong and organized and we always had a place to go when we had trouble. People like alderman Fred Wilson and Bill Dyson, to name a few, were always around. A lot of these programs grew out of the riots and demonstrations of the 1967-68 era.”
You mentioned that you were strong and organized. How strong were you politically?
“Politically Newhallville was always strong and pretty active. Newhallville was the place people would watch to judge how things would go because we were always active.”
Someone stated that absentee landlords helped to influence whites to leave the neighborhood. Do you agree?
“No, because the absentee landlords were the whites that were leaving the area and renting their houses.”
In your opinion, what influenced them to leave?
“They left because we (blacks) began to come into the neighborhood. Some people (whites) think that the property value will decrease with the coming of blacks.”
How did African Americans feel about their new homes, and/or houses in Newhallville?
“Most people still owned their own homes and they took pride in them (cleaning and fixing up the yards).”
What did people do for social activities?
“We had a lot of churches in the area (St. Andrews, St. Johns, Community Baptist and Friendship Baptist to name a few). There was always something to do at the churches. We also had use of the community schools. We had neighborhood corporations and then we did a lot of entertaining at each other’s houses.”
William Dyson, a state representative representing the Newhallville area, is our third resident interviewed. William moved to the neighborhood in 1970 and, like Delores, continues to live there.
“In 1970 the neighborhood was primarily black, but it was undergoing changes.”
What type of changes?
“The old neighborhood was breaking down. As whites left the neighborhood and blacks entered values and culture changed. Stores that once catered to the needs of the community could no longer service the needs of the new people. These businesses left the community following the residents of the old neighborhood.”
Does that mean that whites left the neighborhood because African Americans moved in?
“Not really. It was a natural progression fed by the migration of blacks from the south. . . . Whites left seeking a better place to live, better schools, etc. and blacks left areas like Dixwell seeking the same thing. Newhallville was certainly a step-up when compared to Dixwell.”
What did people do socially and politically?
Socially, people weren’t much different than they had been in the south. That is, they stayed to themselves. There were a lot of differences that kept people apart. There were the “old-timers” and the “new-comers” with different views about the role of the community. There were black Americans and there Blacks from the Islands.”
What about the community organizations. Did they try to resolve these differences?
“Those were carry overs from the anti-poverty and urban renewal era. Those programs kept the local activist quiet but they couldn’t really service all the needs of the neighborhood.”
What about politically?
“There was some participation but not a lot. People did not view government as serving the needs of their people. These were hard lessons learned from the ‘60s.
There were still political activist around, remnants of the ‘60s. Political activity emanated from them, but in the end not much changed.”
Who did people look up to in the community, for example, when they had problems?
“There was a cadre of people for that. People went to the schools, churches and the elder people of the community—to name a few.”
Could you talk briefly about the influx of churches and nightclubs in the area around that time?
“As for the storefront churches that was a matter of self-esteem. As different groups came into the neighborhood, socially they sought after people with similar ideas and status. If no organization or church existed that met those criteria then they created one.
The night-clubs were a vehicle for survival. As blacks came into the area they purchased the businesses that had been closed down by the whites leaving the area. These people did not have the wherewithal to just start successful businesses. It took years and years to cultivate a dedicated clientele. People didn’t have that kind of time so they purchased a building, sold some liquor and played some records for dancing. They soon found that they could be successful at it.”
What about your feelings of the community today? The youth?
“We have a younger and different generation now. They are a product of an era different from ours. Consequently, you have different values at play. One generation is from the Martin Luther King era and the other have not had those strong values instilled in them. The kids now are less inclined to educate themselves, work or prepare for a future.”
In conclusion I will reiterate, briefly, the point that Newhallville developed around the industries of the area and prospered when they did. Jobs, for the part, were plentiful in the area and people were able to establish a nice residential/blue-collar neighborhood. The neighborhood became a desirable place to live for new immigrants. As industries and small businesses came into existence and faded so did the population of the community come-and-go. It changed as each new wave of immigrants entered the area. These groups went to Newhallville because of those jobs (and the upward move that it represented).
When assigned to the student as a unit of study, I would strongly encourage the teacher to emphasize the oral historical approach as opposed to the solely research form of study. I feel that students will gain more that way. This method of study should prove to be a new approach to most students and should, in return, captivate their attention. It should prove to be easy to handle (for the student) since the teacher will, according to the level of his/her students, set the limitations of the study (students may research an entire neighborhood. They may research the social life of the community for the past twenty years. Or they may simply research the naming of one street in that community. The limits are strictly teacher imposed).
If students are looking at Newhallville, as a choice of study, the following is a partial listing of people and/ or institutions that could be researched or interviewed. Methods of contacting these people should be relatively easy for the teacher:
Mayor Richard Lee—Newhall’s Carriage Emp.
Gerald Baldino—Farmington Canal Project
William Dyson—Winchester Repeating Arms
Bernie Silva—Olins Corp.
Al Johnson—Newhallville Neighborhood Corporation
John Daniels—Newhall Cleaners
Dorothy Harper—Eddie’s Barber Shop
The purpose of this unit is to give students an opportunity to learn more about their community, or any community for that fact, thus engendering in them a greater respect for and appreciation of that community. To accomplish this students will study their community (in this paper the word community is used to mean neighborhood). They will study it from its inception to the present (if desired by the teacher). Their study will consist of a general study of the New Haven community, as a whole, and their particular community as the focus. This can be accomplished via readings assigned by the teacher, investigational research into the origin of key institutions and/or buildings, interviews with members, or former members, of the community, visits to the Historical Society and field trips through the community.
If teachers are teaching this unit on Newhallville I will urge them to include a study of the Irish, Italian and African American as ethnic groups associated with the area.
1. To know why various ethnic groups were attracted to the neighborhood.
2. To compare and/or contrast the activities of the community as conducted by the three ethnic groups.
3. To know what contributions the community made to the city, state or world, if any.
4. To know two historical buildings and/ or institutions in the neighborhood.
5. To know two famous people, or two important people from the community (teacher will explain “important”).
6. To gain an appreciation of their community.
7. To know why people, as an ethnic group, left the community.
8. To understand some of the changes that have taken place in the community over the years.
9. To understand how residents of the community can influence and shape the directions in which the community moves.
1. Discussions of maps, graphs and charts.
2. Readings from text and other materials.
3. Oral and/or written reports.
4. Field trips.
5. Photo expeditions throughout the comm.
While studying the United States and its neighbors, a study of immigrants, have students research the impact of immigrants on their city (Do this as homework consisting of one or two short paragraphs). Next, ask students to restrict that research a little more by confining to a study of their local community. Once this is completed students should be ready for an earnest study of the unit.
SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR RESEARCH
1. Refer to partial listing of people, institutions/projects as listed earlier.
2. George Newhall.
3. Contributions of an ethnic group.
4. Student’s choice (with approval).
This unit is intended for students in grade eight that are studying United States History. It can be tailored for the remedial, average and/or above average students. It can be used with any text with a section on communities or immigrants.
The unit should last a minimum of five weeks. In five weeks the unit may be broken down as follows (weekly topics are not written in behavior terms):
Week 1: Introduction and background information
Week 2: Irish (and German) in Newhallville
Week 3: Italians in Newhallville
Week 4: African Americans in Newhallville
Week 5: Review, evaluation and presentation of reports and/or projects.
SAMPLE BREAKDOWN OF TWO WEEKLY TOPICS ON A DAILY BASIS
I. Week 3: Italians in Newhallville (daily objectives)
Day 1: Factories attract Italians to Newhallville.
Day 2: Social & political life of Italians in Newhallville.
Day 3: Italian contributions to New Haven (Speaker)
Day 4: Newhallville Italians and the suburban move.
Day 5: Reports, field trips or projects.
II. Week 5: Review, evaluation and presentation of reports and/or projects
Day 1: To compare the social life of Italians and African Americans in Newhallville.
Day 2: Reports and/or synopsis of interviews.
Day 3: Field trip (neighborhood or historical society).
Day 4: Group discussion (problems of neighborhood, then and now).
Day 5: Group discussion (political life of community throughout the stay of the three major ethnic groups).
THREE SAMPLE LESSON PLANS
I. Week 1: Introduction and background information
To know what the Farmington Canal Project was.
To know that the canal project attracted Irish Immigrants to the area
The famine in Ireland and the construction of the Farmington encouraged Irish immigrants to come to the area.
Text (or dittos from the book “Inside New Haven’s Neighborhood”, or any book on the canal project. Wall maps or class atlas.
Have students locate and identify Ireland on a map. Have student approximate distance from Ireland to Connecticut across the Atlantic.
Based on readings and discussions teacher will help student to understand the following points:
a. Famine & lack of opportunity forced many Europeans to migrate to the United States.
b. Some of those immigrants were the Irish and Germans New Haven, Newhallville.
c. On 7/4/1825 the canal project officially began.
d. Newhallville’s high school (Hillhouse) is named after the superintendent of that project.
e. The canal project offered immigrants plenty of jobs.
f. The canal was completed in 1828 from Long Wharf to Farmington and later to Mass, creating a vehicle for trade in the area.
g. Irish and German immigrants worked on the project.
h. Workers on the project moved to Newhallville.
i. Financial problems closed the project.
II. Week 3: Italians in Newhallville
Factories attract Italians to Newhallville
The Winchester/Olins Company attracted Italians to the area and encouraged development of the neighborhood.
Ditto material from “Two Centuries of New Haven”.
Read (orally) and discuss material on Newhallville’s factories. Discussion should lead students to the following understandings:.
a. Winchester Arms factory (a division of Olins) was largest employer of neighborhood.
b. Winchester/Olins was biggest employer of city at one time.
c. Italians came to Newhallville to work in those factories.
III. Week 4: African Americans in Newhallville
To know why African Americans came to New Haven and in particular to Newhallville.
Unable to make advances in the south African Americans headed north in search of a better way of life.
Text or ditto pages from; “The Afro-American in United States History”.
Have students read and discuss with teacher chpt. 21, pages 230-233. Discussion should highlight the following points:
a. African Americans left the south seeking equality and a better lifestyle.
b. Once in New Haven African Americans were attracted to Newhallville because of the jobs in the area.
c. A large number of African Americans are still employed at the Olins Corporation.