(image is available in print form)
The Green, or Market Place, as it was first referenced before the 19th century was slow to develop. The first map of the Green is attributed to Thomas Brockett who is responsible for arranging the New Haven Colony in a grid pattern based on nine squares. While his original map is lost a copy exists.
See figure 2. 14
Figure 2: a copy of The Brockett map of 1641
(image is available in print form)
The sketch shows an undeveloped central square surrounded by eight squares. Each of the eight squares is divided into plots that were allotted to each of the persons who had invested in the colony. These eight squares have long since been subdivided and transferred into different hands many times over. However, the land for the Green, remains as the same central square as was set aside as part of the community's "Common and Undivided Lands" in the mid 17th century. Maps from the 18th and 19th century indicate that aside from the churches, school, and government buildings that were built on the Green, most of the development occurred on the Green's periphery. See figure 3 (Early Maps of New Haven) Brown's map of 1724 shows the meeting house, prison and government building (county house) on the Green. Approximately 19 small and non-uniform structures border the Green. The largest appears to be Yale College. A 1748 map (Wadsworth) shows the center meeting house with the graveyard behind it, a grammar school, jail (goal), courthouse, and county house on the Green.
Figure 3: Early Maps of New Haven
About 28 structures bordered the Green on this map. Ezra Stiles map of the Green (1775) shows two churches, a new courthouse, the prison, and county house on the Green. Trees line the Green's border and two paths cross each other in front of the center church. More than thirty buildings border the Green. These buildings appear noticeably more uniform when compared to the structures in earlier maps. By 1817, the Green had adopted a form that more closely resembles the layout of the Green today. Doolittles's map of 1817, shows the three current churches and the old courthouse as the only structures on the Green. The map shows a fence around the Green which is bordered on each side by Hillhouse's elm trees. Approximately 40 buildings surround the Green.15
Governance of the Green today remains the responsibility not of the city government but of a self perpetuating group of private individuals called the Committee of the Proprietors of Common and Undivided Lands at New Haven. They function much as outlined by New Haven Colony planners in the 17th century. While the Proprietors Committee has evolved from all original investors in the New Haven Colony it essentially has been a continuous force in managing the Green for over 300 years.16
The narrative record of the Green's development can be found in Henry Blake's Chronicles of the New Haven Green, Rollin Osterweis' Three Centuries of New Haven 1638-1938, and in Susan Mills Brown's New Haven A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design. A medley of Brown's words succinctly describes the Green's development:
In the original town plan this square was held as common land and used as a place for military drill, the burying ground, and other public necessities…it was called the Market Place and the first meeting house was built somewhere on it..by 1740 only about 14 houses had been built around it, along the new Yale College standing among the cornfields. The square itself was a ragged lot-rutted and dotted with a motley group of buildings, some dilapidated-the meeting house, courthouse, school, jail, and others. In the mid-18th century efforts at improvement began: a state house… a new meeting house…the offensive graveyard was hidden by a board fence painted red. 17
She describes the Federal period as being the crucial period in the Green's history.
…the field was graded, fenced, cleared of old buildings and roads, and transformed into a public square..the graveyard was moved away (to the newly commissioned Grove Street Cemetery), and elm trees were planted all around the edge. ..three churches (were built) as a monumental composition down the center….Ithiel Town's great Doric Temple (replaced the old state house)…in 1821, the Methodist church was allowed to build on the northwest corner (and then encouraged to move off the Green across the street in 1849). …town life moved up from the waterfront..retail shops spread on Chapel Street on one side of the Green and residences rose on Elm Street (on the other side of the Green)..the Exchange was built on the corner of Church and Chapel Streets (and became the hub of downtown) ..a new County House established the town government on Church Street….Yale bought the whole College Street frontage…throughout the rest of the century the basic scheme received only a few changes 18
In addition to this architectural legacy, the events on and around the Green offer insight into peculiar episodes in local history as well as reflect regional, national, and universal trends. The development of the New England colonies is reflected in the Green's use as a town marketplace, place of worship, and town government. Troops drilled on the Green during the American Revolution, Civil War, World War I and World War II. The Civil Rights Movement is represented in the demonstrations that occurred on the Green for Bobby Seale's Black Panther Trial. While the focus of my unit will be to connect students to the historical Green of New Haven from its foundation as a colonial land parcel until 1876, the time of the America's Centennial, so much more contemporary and well documented events have occurred that teachers of United States History II, or Civics, would find it easy to adapt some of the activities and strategies of this unit to their classes. For instance, there are many more spaces and buildings that survive into the modern era from the late 19th and early 20th century. Topics such as urban renewal of the 1960's and the current remaking of downtown into an entertainment district would be great subject to study. Some sensible and controversial decisions were made in the name of improving the city. Some entire neighborhoods were removed for highways and development. In some cases, such as the construction of the Chapel Square Mall in 1965, a lasting change was made to the city's architectural, economic, and social environment. In other cases, such as the clearing of space for the Oak Street Connector, plans were initiated but development never materialized. The impending demolition of the New Haven Coliseum offers the prospect of a current debate over preservation and re-use over demolition.
Some notable events and people make the New Haven Green an interesting historical as well as architectural study. During the colonial period, theocratic government could be found on 'the Marketplace.' New Haven Colony joined the Connecticut Colony in 1665 and served as co-capital until 1873. The tension with England leading up to the American Revolution is characterized early in the 1660's in the hiding of Charles I's regicides: Whalley, Goffe, and Dixwell. Events regarding the American Revolution, such as Benedict Arnold's demanding powder for Connecticut troops to fight the British are part of the Green's legacy. The creation of state government saw New Haven shine and darken as a state political star. The Green provided the stage for the Amistad Affair in Antebellum America. Public School children performed patriotic spectacles to rally support for the Union troops in the Civil War. Lastly, the 1876 Centennial Celebration for America displayed the Green still as the communal central square in a now sophisticated urban center that was 234 years removed from its humble but ambitious founding.
The Marketplace, as the Green was called at that time, was also the place of town government and town worship. The first meetinghouse, church, and market were built on the Green by 1639. The Green served as the town's first burial ground until the late 18th century.
Town records indicate that the responsibilities of a town drummer (circa 1650) included "attend(ing) the publique occasions of the Towne for drumming" According to Ruth Wilson in Connecticut's Music in the Revolutionary Era, the drummer's public service included announcing meetings, accompanying the watch to and from the watch house, calling hours such as 9 o'clock curfew, raising 'alarmum' in times of danger, marking cadence for military training exercises, and performing special functions as closing auction sales. Most of these activities took place on the Green.19
While a single congregation founded the New Haven Colony, it fractured in the wake of the Great Awakening. A second congregation of "New Lights" established their own church. Later, Methodists and Episcopalians would also worship in churches on the Green. The three churches on the Green today are the Center Church or First Congregationalist Church, the Second Congregational Church, and the Episcopal Church.
The first public commencement for Yale College occurred n the Green in 1718. The tradition continued through the mid 19th century.20
Tension with England and the American Revolution
King Charles II of England sought to avenge the condemnation to death of his father, Charles I. The judges, or regicides, who sentenced Charles I to death fled England to avoid Charles II's order for their arrest. Judges Whalley and Goffe were hid by New Haven residents in homes and then in a cave on West Rock. A third judge, John Dixwell lived in New Haven after Whalley and Goffe left. He went by the alias James Davids and married Governor Eaton's daughter Hannah. He is buried behind Center Church on the Green. His large gravestone is simply marked with the initials 'J.D.'.21
New Haven and Hartford's role as co-capitals originated in the colonial period. The New Haven Colony rested its claim to the land on a transaction with the Quinnipiac Indians and not on a charter issued by the King of England. An attempt to gain a charter from the King of England failed when the ship carrying New Haven's emissary to the king failed to reach England. Members of the Connecticut Colony agitated that New Haven's territory fell under the Connecticut charter. As dispute developed between the members of both colonies, a compromise eventually materialized; New Haven would join the Connecticut colony and both would serve as co-capitals. The legislature would meet once in New Haven and once in Hartford each year.22 A state house existed on the Green for the purpose of hosting the legislature from the colonial period until 1873.
During the revolutionary period, New Haven resident Benedict Arnold was one of the first to agitate for fighting the King's troops. At New Haven town meetings on the Green, after the battles at Lexington and Concord, Arnold called for the New Haven militia to march to the aid of the Massachusetts militiamen. Arnold's requesting of powder from the armory for his troops is re-enacted each April on 'Powder House Day' on the Green. Arnold became captain of the unit which became the Governor's Second Company of Guards. He was instrumental to the colonial victory with Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys at Fort Ticonderoga but received little credit. He later became a traitor in planning to hand over West Point to the British and giving out secrets that led to the British burning of New London, Connecticut. His effigy was burned on the Green as a result of his traitorous acts.23 His first wife's grave is in the Center Church's crypt on the Green.
The British attacked New Haven and planned on burning the town. Despite occupying New Haven, they instead left and burned Ridgefield.
Nathan Hale, a Yale student who lived across from the Green most likely trained with the Yale militia on the Green. He is commemorated in history books for his bravery as a spy during the American Revolution. A statue in his likeness is outside of Connecticut Hall, the oldest building on Yale Campus (1750). Occupants of the building could once gaze out the windows onto the Green before the outer row of buildings (still present) including Phelp's Gate were constructed.
In response to the fighting at Lexington and Concord, Yale students joined the militia on the Green to drill. Noah Webster, a Yale freshman at the time reported keeping time for the militia with his flute. He also reported escorting General Washington with Washington's new recruits from Yale and New Haven out of New Haven from Yale campus. 24
As far as music and religion on the Green is concerned, Ezra Stiles reported in 1780: "they sing Watt's Version of the Psalms in the three Meetings in Town; as well as at the College. At Mr. Hubbard's Episc Ch they sing Tate & Brady's Version of the Psalms. Twenty years ago they sang the old New England Version at the Meetings."25
Connecticut State Governance
New Haven served as co-capital of the Connecticut Colony (with Hartford) and the state of Connecticut from 1665 until 1873. The Connecticut State Legislature held one of two sessions each year in a statehouse on the Green (the other session was held in Hartford).The last state house was a large, stone, Greek Revival structure which was designed by Ithiel Town (1830). New Haven ceased being the state capital in 1873 after a state referendum ended two city rule. Three non-profit agencies, the Boy's Club, the Connecticut Museum of Art, and the New Haven Colony Historical Society occupied part of the structure for some time after. The building was torn down in 1889. Unfortunately, when one visits the Green today there is no visible remembrance of what Shumaway and Hegel refer to as "(Ithiel) Towns' once-imposing Greek Revival structure". The building, which had become a dilapidated eyesore to many by 1884, when Shumaway and Hegel report that people made fun of it and advocated razing it, was removed in 1889.26This seemingly tragic event raises the question of remembrance previously referred to. How could the status of being home to the state's capital be publicly and appropriately commemorated on the Green? Indeed the story of how New Haven ceases to be the capital is a lesson in civics or government. The fact that the transfer of power came about through a state referendum indicates the practice of using a public referendum to resolve controversial issues in our society is historical. Arguably there are many symbols of civic pride that should occupy our collective memory, but perhaps the fact that our city was once the state's co-capital should be recognized somewhere near the spot where important state decisions once were made.
Slaves were bought and sold in the marketplace just as they were in town commons and marketplaces up and down the east coast. The last slaves were sold on the Green in the 1825. Pastor Bacon, was named pastor of the Center Church the day after the last slaves were auctioned on the Green. He became a staunch abolitionist who favored gradual emancipation. His writings against slavery are said to have been read by Abraham Lincoln.27 The Amistad captives were held in the New Haven jail and tried in the Courthouse. These buildings were on the upper Green. A memorial to the Amistad affair rests not on the Green but across Church Street next to the steps at City Hall.
The Green also took its present form during this important period. First, the opening of the Grove Street Cemetery meant that the Green would cease being the town burial plot. Headstones were removed to the new cemetery and gravesites covered over in the beginning of the 19th century. In addition, a new Center Church (the fourth one) was constructed (1812-1814). It was built over gravesites which were preserved. The crypt now serves as an important remembrance to the first burial ground in New Haven. Displays and publications about the crypt list 137 identified remains and perhaps up to 1,000 unidentified remains. It is believed that between 5,000 and 10,000 unidentified remains of the settlers of New Haven Colony lie under the upper green. The names and epitaphs on the gravestones in the crypt are great resources for students to explore.28
James Hillhouse's tree plantings and the building of the iron and stone fence created a natural and open space in the midst of one of the largest cities in New England. This look of urban pastoralism as defined by Campanella generated the praise by citizens and visitors alike by which the Green gained a substantial reputation. Undoubtedly, this reputation helped reinforce the image and arguably still continues to influence urban planners.
A law making it illegal to play football and all other athletic games in the streets and squares of the city was passed in 1858. Initiatives to pass similar laws dating back to 1848 had been unsuccessful. Apparently, rough football games and other Yale student athletics on the Green had aroused public complaints.29
The Civil War
The tradition for militia to train on the Green was compulsory. May 1 was one compulsory training day. Blake reports that this event was a spectacle to which thousands would descend on the Green to witness in the 1840's. Ironically, its popularity waned in the years leading up to the Civil War. However once, Lincoln was elected, support for drilling and parading increased. On May 10, 1861, the Second regiment of Connecticut Volunteers paraded on the Green in full uniform and with all their equipment before being dispatched to battle. Included were the New Haven Grays under the command of Alfred H. Terry.30 Professor Jepson began organizing annual patriotic processions of public school children for Fourth of July celebrations in 1855. In 1861, he organized the biggest of these processions to date to rally support for the union troops as the first big battle of the Civil War loomed. Jepson would later organize a tremendous procession and performance of students for the Centennial Celebration of 1876.31
The American Centennial
New Haven celebrated America's centennial on the Green with tremendous fanfare. A large advertisement on the front page of the
New Haven Evening Register
announced a full day of spectacles. (See Figure 4)
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Figure 4: Advertisement for the Centennial Celebration of America
The advertisement included the following itinerary: the ringing of church bells and a thirteen gun salute at sunrise, a military and civic parade, a military dress parade, balloon launching, prayers in the Center Church, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a historical oration by Reverend Leonard Bacon, a concert on the Green by 2800 public school children led by Professor Benjamin Jepson and the Teutonia Maenner-Choir. Lastly, the advertisement announced that at sunset following bellringing and a 38 gun salute, the "Grandest and Most Magnificent Display of Fireworks Ever Exhibited in New England would take place.32
The New Haven Evening Register of July 5 reported that despite some delays in starting particular events, the celebration largely lived up to its billing. Chinese lanterns and fire cups "illuminated the Green and buildings facing it, including the colleges" on the eve of the fourth while popular tunes were played in the bandstand in front of the Center Church.33 Soldiers marched to the Green from outposts in each of the outlying neighborhoods at dawn. Church bells and a 13 gun salute were sounded at dawn. Morning parades departed from the Green, processed through city streets and returned to the Green. They included costumed figures and antique carriages with local dignitaries. P.T. Barnum contributed a carriage with strange animals. Among the carnival like procession people carried banners with humorous and political messages. "Centennial Kisses" was carried on one banner by an old couple. "May I Vote?" was carried on an ensign by an "old lady in fantastic bloomer costume of many colors." Despite some difficulty in getting the balloon up on schedule, it flew dangerously close to the trees before heading into the sky and landing in Haddam, Connecticut.34
A highlight of the afternoon was a 2 hour Children's Concert performed by 2800 public school children under the direction of Professor Benjamin Jepson and assisted by the Teutonia Menner-Chor (German American Choir). Students from the High School, Webster School, Eaton School, Wooster School, Dwight School, Skinner School, Washington School, Hamilton School and Woolsey School marched in procession to the Green. They were dressed in red white and blue and were arranged on the stage so as to form the American Flag. The article reports that they sang 13 songs including 'Rally Round the Flag', 'The Glorious Fourth of July, Yankee Doodle, the 'Star Spangled Banner' and Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. The concert was considered to be "the feature of the day"35
Following a 38 gun salute (one for each state in the union) at sunset, the crowd prepared for fireworks. The two hour long display elicited cheers from many for the aerial shells and bombs. However, many of the advertised pieces disappointed the crowd. The newspaper article summed up the festivities with a congratulatory note and prognostication to the future: "And yet it was a great and successful celebration, unmarred by any serious accident or fire, and enlivened by many noteworthy and pleasing sights and observations. Whoever lives to see the next centennial celebration of the day in New Haven will doubtless witness a more imposing (fireworks) display; it is doubtful however, if they will view one which will be more harmonious, more free from deplorable events, or one which will awaken greater enthusiasm in the hearts of people."36