Orange Street Historic District
The Orange Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Orange Street Historic District is located in New Haven, Connecticut, a medium-sized New England industrial city situated along the northern coast of Long Island Sound approximately 100 miles northeast of New York City. The Orange Street Historic District encompasses 563 major structures on 125 acres of land lying between three-quarters of a mile and a mile and one-half northeast of the New Haven Green. The bulk of the district falls within the corridor of land which inclines gradually from south to north between two heavily trafficked major north/ south thoroughfares: Orange Street on the west and State Street on the east. Of the 563 major structures in the Orange Street Historic District, better than 95 percent contribute to the area's significance as a large, substantially intact, middle-income residential neighborhood which developed between 1830 and 1900.
North/south streets which fall within the Orange Street Historic District's boundaries include Lincoln Street, Pleasant Street, Foster Street, Nicoll Street, Nash Street, Mechanic Street and portions of Orange Street, State Street and Whitney Avenue; east/west streets include Audubon Street, Trumbull Street, Bradley Street, Eld Street, Pearl Street, Clark Street, Humphrey Street, Bishop Street, Edwards Street, Lawrence Street, Cottage Street and Eagle Street. Whitney Avenue, State Street and Orange Street are the oldest roads in the district, having been laid out prior to 1800. The Orange Street Historic District's two major east/west roads, Humphrey and Trumbull Streets, appear to have been laid out between 1800 and the late 1830s. All other streets in the Orange Street Historic District were laid out between the late 1830s and the 1870s.
The extant structures in the Orange Street Historic District form an unusually cohesive and intact contiguous assemblage of nineteenth-century residential architecture. Styles represented include the Federal, Greek Revival, Italian Villa, Italianate, Second Empire, Stick, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival modes. While the Orange Street Historic District includes some large and relatively high-style examples of these modes, it is dominated by small 1-1/2- to 3-story vernacular renditions of these styles. Most of the houses in the Orange Street Historic District are wood-frame structures; however, a significant number of structures built of brick and/or cut stone are also included within the district, particularly near its southern end along Orange and Trumbull Streets. Most buildings in the Orange Street Historic District stand close to the street and each other on deep, narrow lots.
The Orange Street Historic District includes a variety of residential building forms. Invariably, buildings erected prior to 1850 were originally designed for single-family occupancy. While a great number of dwellings of this type continued to be built throughout the remainder of the century, by the mid-1850s multi-family dwellings had begun to make an appearance. These early multi-family dwellings were designed in a duplex or "double-house" format. By the 1860s, rowhouse complexes containing 3 or more units were being constructed on a sporadic basis within various portions of the district. However, the most common form of multi-family architecture emerged in the early 1880s, when a number of local contractors and developers began to erect numerous gable-roofed 2- and 3-family Queen Anne-style houses.
The Orange Street Historic District maintains an unusually high degree of architectural integrity. Unlike similar neighborhoods in New Haven, the area has been almost entirely spared from the intrusive effects of demolition and redevelopment. The only notable exception is found in the area along the northern side of the eastern end of Trumbull Street. All but two of the residential structures erected in this area during the nineteenth century were demolished or removed from their sites in the 1960s when the extant entry/exit ramp for I-91 was constructed. (The district's boundaries have been drawn to exclude this exit-entry ramp.)
Due to a lack of significant twentieth-century commercial intrusions, the Orange Street Historic District continues to retain its historic identity as an intact, almost exclusively residential nineteenth-century neighborhood. The district's stable physical character has resulted in great measure from the continuity of usage of buildings as residences. The only portion of the Orange Street Historic District featuring a significant concentration of buildings converted for non-residential use is found along Trumbull Street and the southern end of Orange Street. Here, a number of larger houses now provide office space for physicians, lawyers, architects and other professionals. However, these conversions have not significantly effected the residential character of the exteriors of these buildings, many of which have been restored to their original or approximate original appearance.
The Orange Street Historic District's physical integrity is enhanced by the fact that modifications to the historic exterior fabric of individual buildings have been limited. A high proportion of structures retain all or most of their original exterior details, such as porches and window, wall, and roof trim. Significant modifications on most building exteriors tend to be confined to the superimposition of later siding materials (aluminum, asbestos, or asphalt) over original clapboards and/or wood shingles. Despite such re-sidings, very few district buildings have been completely stripped of historic exterior details. Even the more extensively modified houses often retain enough of their distinguishing historic massing and/or detailing characteristics to merit their inclusion in the district as contributing structures, especially when considered within the visual context of their respective streetscapes. A number of houses featuring unsympathetic early and mid-twentieth-century exterior changes have been or are in the process of being sympathetically rehabilitated or restored, especially in the portions of the district which lie adjacent to the Upper State Street Historic District and in the City of New Haven's community development target area along Nicoll, Nash, and Mechanic Streets.
The Orange Street Historic District forms a distinct and coherent entity within the context of the surrounding portions of the city. The Orange Street Historic District's southern and southwestern edges are defined by the northern perimeter of New Haven's modern central business district, which is dominated by large- and small-scale structures designed and built in the twentieth century for commercial and institutional use, and post-World War II high-rise apartment buildings. The eastern boundary is defined by the western boundary of the abutting Upper State Street Historic District, which is dominated by modest mixed commercial-residential and light industrial buildings built between the 1870s and the 1930s. The district's western edge is defined by a distinct change in the scale, design quality, and siting characteristics of the residential architecture found in the Orange Street/Whitney Avenue corridor, an area which began to develop as a upper middle-income residential neighborhood following the breakup of the subdivision of large estates belonging to families such as the Whitneys during the final decade of the nineteenth century. The Orange Street Historic District's northern boundary is delineated on the basis of the transition which occurs between the nineteenth-century housing stock along and south of Eagle Street, and the early through mid-twentieth century housing stock which dominates the area from Eagle Street north to the southern edge of East Rock Park.
The Orange Street Historic District is historically significant as New Haven's most cohesive surviving example of a large, middle-income residential neighborhood which developed between the late 1830s and the turn of the twentieth century in response to the city's emergence as southern New England's foremost industrial and population center over the course of the nineteenth century. The Orange Street Historic District is architecturally significant as a remarkably well-preserved, contiguous assemblage of first-generation dwellings whose styles and forms reflect a broad range of nineteenth-century urban residential architecture.
Like many New England coastal communities possessing good natural harbors, New Haven emerged from the first quarter of the nineteenth century as an important port with an established mercantile-based economy. However, between 1830 and 1850, the principal focus of the city's economy shifted from mercantilism to manufacturing. This shift in the economic base of New Haven was spurred by the construction and opening of the Farmington Canal which connected the New Haven harbor and the Connecticut River at Northhampton. Though the canal itself failed to meet its commercial expectations, it did create a new era of optimism and was important for the growth of New Haven's inland commerce. Aided by advances in technology, such as the introduction of the railroad and the proliferation of both the number and types of mass production machinery, many of the small, semi-traditionally organized local carriage, gun, clock and other hardgoods-producing shops of the 1820s had become medium-sized factories utilizing modern methods of production and distribution. By the early 1850s, New Haven boasted over 150 of these factories employing several thousand workers.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw the full flowering of New Haven as a major, manufacturing-based commercial and transportation locus. From 1850 to 1900, the number of factories in the city more than quadrupled. The scale of many factories also increased significantly. Huge new industrial complexes employing as many as a thousand workers apiece were constructed for a number of the most successful firms, such as Sargent and Company (hardware), the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (firearms), and the Strouse-Adler Company (corsets). New industries, including piano and rubber goods manufacturing, emerged and prospered along with the city's more established carriage, firearms, clock and hardware companies. The local railroad system, which had initially developed as an intricate web of private lines all converging at New Haven, was consolidated under the single, large corporate umbrella known as the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Under the auspices of this corporation, which maintained its headquarters in New Haven, extensive terminal, repair and storage facilities were constructed along the western side of the city's harbor front.
New Haven's emergence and continuing development as one of the region's principal industrial centers sparked a dramatic and ever-accelerating growth in the number of its inhabitants. Between 1830 and 1900, the city's population increased more than tenfold (10,000 to 108,000). In response to the tremendous pressure which this population explosion brought to bear on housing, new residential neighborhoods developed. One of the largest and most significant of these neighborhoods was the area which today forms the Orange Street Historic District.
Between 1830 and 1850, most development occurred in the southernmost portion of the district along streets such as Lincoln, Bradley, Eld, Trumbull, and lower Orange. These streets lay closest to the city's established early nineteenth-century urban core and abutted the emerging industrial districts spurred by the Farmington Canal along Audubon Street and northeast of the district. Land records and city directories indicate that development of this portion of the district was initially fostered by developers such as Joseph Ball, Gerard Hallock, Everard Benjamin, and Henry Eld. These men purchased and subdivided most of the land along these streets and sold individual house lots to local artisans and craftsmen who built most of the houses in this area which date from the late 1830s through the early 1850s.
Prior to 1850, the land which lay between State and Orange Streets from Clark Street north to Eagle Street had formed a 112-acre farm owned by one of the city's most prominent business and civic leaders, Abraham Bishop. Following Bishop's death in 1844, this extensive farm was apportioned to the families of his heirs. In the early 1850s, the heirs subdivided their respective allotments into small building lots for sale and development. Bishop's heirs also laid out many of the district's extant streets, which continue to bear family surnames, such as Bishop, Clark, Nicoll, Foster, and Edwards Streets.
The subdivision and sale of Bishop's farm greatly facilitated the relatively rapid northward expansion of residential construction in the area during the ensuing decades. Land records and nineteenth century maps indicate that by the late 1860s significant housing concentrations were already established along Clark, Pleasant, and Humphrey Streets, as well as along the eastern end of Bishop Street. Aided by the introduction of horsecar railways through the area and the growth of industries in the region abutting the northeastern boundary of the district, by the 1870s significant residential development had pushed even farther northward along the eastern ends of Bishop, Edwards, and Lawrence Streets, as well as along Nash, Nicoll, and Foster Streets. In-fill construction continued to take place throughout the Orange Street Historic District as a whole during the remaining decades in the century; by the turn of the twentieth century, the district had emerged as one of the city's most densely built-up residential neighborhoods.
City directories dating from the second half of the nineteenth century indicate that throughout this period the district continued to develop, from a socio-economic standpoint, as a predominantly middle-class residential quarter. While a number of prominent and wealthy individuals such as industrialists William Converse and John Anderson built and occupied large, fashionable residences along the district's southern fringe, the majority of the Orange Street Historic District's population during this era were either employed as skilled laborers, builders, middle-management businessmen, or independent shopkeepers.
The Orange Street Historic District's structures form the city's best and most intact collage covering the full range of local nineteenth-century residential building forms and styles. The earliest and one of the most prevalent styles found within the district is the Greek Revival mode. While the Orange Street Historic District includes one structure which, despite its somewhat modest scale, incorporates such high style features as a central block flanked by diminutive side wings and an Ionic portico probably designed by Henry Austin, all other houses of this style in the district stand as good and typical, though far more vernacular, examples of this mode.
The Italian Villa/Italianate style is another architectural mode well-represented throughout the Orange Street Historic District. Some of the city's finest examples of houses designed in this style are found along major district thoroughfares such as Orange and Trumbull Streets, which had begun to emerge as the most fashionable section of the district by the mid-nineteenth century. Side streets such as Eld, Clark, Pearl and Humphrey almost invariably feature the smaller and far more modest and vernacular hip-roofed and gable-roofed versions of this style. A number of good and well-preserved examples of Italianate-style brick rowhouse complexes similar to those found along lower Orange Street and Trumbull Street also stand along some of these side streets.
The third most common architectural style found within the Orange Street Historic District is the Queen Anne mode. The largest and most elaborate examples of houses designed in this mode are, like their earlier Italianate-style counterparts, located along the southernmost portion of Orange Street and Trumbull Street; these buildings include some of the finest examples of high-style Queen Anne residences in the city as a whole. Varying forms of smaller and more simply detailed examples of this style, including single- and multi-family frame houses as well as frame duplexes and a handful of brick rowhouse complexes, stand along most streets in the area; however, structures like these tend to be more numerous in the northernmost portion of the district, which experienced more extensive development during the latter decades of the nineteenth century.
The Orange Street Historic District also includes a number of well preserved, typical examples of the Second Empire style. While most of the buildings in the district which fall into this stylistic category were initially designed in this mode, roughly 15 percent appear to have originally been built in the early or mid-1850s as hip-roofed Italianate style dwellings and stylistically "updated" by the addition of a mansard roof during the late 1860s or early 1870s. Like other nineteenth century styles found within the Orange Street Historic District, the Second Empire style is represented in multi-family as well as single-family forms covering the full range between the high-style and the vernacular.
Though few in number, the Orange Street Historic District also includes some significant examples of Gothic Revival style residences. The Wayland Gatehouse at 135 Whitney Avenue and the Aaron R. Kilborn House at 12 Lincoln Street are two of the finest examples of Gothic Revival style cottage architecture in the district as well as the city as a whole. Significant though generally less ornate examples of buildings of this type are also scattered throughout the remainder of the district. A number of good, representative examples of houses designed in the Stick and early Colonial Revival styles are also scattered throughout the district.
Like most large residential neighborhoods which developed during the nineteenth century, the Orange Street Historic District includes several excellent ecclesiastical and institutional structures constructed in the latter portion of the nineteenth century to serve the needs of the area's rapidly expanding population. These structures include the Humphrey Street Public School and the Edwards Street Public School, both of which are significant examples of the work of Rufus Russell, one of the city's foremost late-nineteenth century architects, and Temple Mishkan Israel and the Humphrey Street Congregational Church.
Atwater, Edward E., ed. History of the City of New Haven to the Present Times. New York: W.W. Munsell and Company, 1887.
Brown, Elizabeth Mills. New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976.
Dana, Arnold Guyot. "New Haven Old and New: Its Homes, Institutions, Activities, Etc." Mss. 145 Volumes. Unpublished Scrapbooks. On file in the New Haven Colony Historical Society, New Haven, CT.
Loether, Paul and Maynard, Preston. New Haven Historic Resources Inventory, Phase II; Eastern New Haven. New Haven: The New Haven Preservation Trust, 1982.
Loether, Paul and Penar, Dorothea. New Haven Historic Resources Inventory, Phase III: Northern New Haven. New Haven: The New Haven Preservation Trust, 1983.
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"New Haven Building Department Records." 1910-Present. On file at the New Haven Building Department, Kennedy Mitchell Hall of Records, New Haven, CT.
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New Haven Colony Historical Society. Inside New Haven's Neighborhoods. New Haven, 1982.
"New Haven Land Records." 1638-Present. On file at the New Haven Town Clerk's Office, Kennedy Mitchell Hall of Records, New Haven, CT.
Seymour, George Dudley. New Haven. New Haven: Private Printing, 1942.
Maps and Atlases
Atlases of the City of New Haven, Connecticut. Philadelphia: G.M. Hopkins, 1888.
Beers, Frederick W. "Map of the City of New Haven and Fair Haven from the Records and Actual Surveys, etc." New York: Beers, Hellis and Soule, 1868. Copy on file at the New Haven Colony Historical Society.
Doolittle, Amos. "Plan of New Haven." New Haven: A. Doolittle, engraver, 1812. Copy on file at the New Haven Colony Historical Society.
Hartley and Whiteford. "Map of the City of New Haven from Actual Surveys, etc.."Philadelphia: Collins and Clark, 1851. Copy on file at the New Haven Colony Historical Society.