Photo: Dwight Street south of Chapel Street, Dwight Street Historic District, New Haven, CT. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Photographed by User:Sage Ross (own work), 2008, [cc-by-3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed June, 2017.
The Dwight Street Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The Dwight Street Historic District (also known as the West Village) is a roughly square, 20-block commercial and residential neighborhood of modest, 19th and early 20th century structures lying near the center of New Haven, Connecticut. The area, which is laid out in a traditional grid-pattern street plan, is traversed by Elm Street, Edgewood Avenue, Chapel Street and George Street, each of which is a major, east-west city thoroughfare. The Dwight Street Historic District is bounded on the north by heavily commercialized Whalley Avenue, which diverges from the regular grid street plan of the Dwight Street area; to the west, by the later-developed Sherman Avenue neighborhood; to the south by a large area of vacant land cleared for the proposed Route 34 connector; and to the east by the Yale University campus. The Dwight Street Historic District has 629 buildings.
The Dwight Street Historic District's street pattern remains largely unchanged since the resolution of its plan during the third quarter of the 19th century. The historical development of the area is apparent in the presence of many 19th century dwellings in the section closest to the center of the city, or the district's eastern edge, and in the predominance of later 19th century dwellings toward the western edge.
The Dwight Street District is characterized by a low, residential scale which is readily identified by a prevalence of two- and three-story, 19th century buildings. The north-south side streets are generally tree-lined, and feature closely set rows of 19th and turn-of-the-century frame or brick dwellings set back from the street by shallow front yards and paved sidewalks. In general, these streets retain a greater percentage of their 19th century building stock than do the east-west arteries. Many of the houses stand in rows of two or three nearly identical structures, reflecting 19th century real estate speculation patterns throughout the district. Traces of the area's history in light manufacturing are apparent in a few clusters of 19th century shop structures situated in the middle of some blocks. No significant industrial activity remains today.
Building uses and types in the Dwight Street Historic District are varied. The major portion of the building stock is residential and reflects development patterns associated with the carriage and other, lesser industries of New Haven during the second and third quarters of the 19th century. There is a wide range of housing types: single, two-family, and multi-residential houses and small apartment buildings, and larger, three-to-five-story apartment blocks. Many buildings along the major arteries of the Dwight Street Historic District have been converted for commercial use on the ground floor. One of the Dwight Street Historic District's large industrial buildings remains, as do some utilitarian structures associated with the building and carriage trades. The area also contains a few entirely commercial and office structures, most of which were built during the last 30 years. Institutional uses are also represented. The Dwight Place Congregational Church, an excellent example of the Romanesque Revival style, built in 1871, is a monumental neighborhood landmark situated near the center of the district.
It is the neighborhood's high proportion of Victorian dwellings that visually identifies the Dwight Street Historic District. A rich sampling of 19th and early 20th century New England residential architecture is represented, often in simplified, vernacular forms of the Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles. The multiple as well as single-occupancy residential form is exhibited in each of the architectural periods except late 18th century.
The Dwight Street Historic District's early to mid 19th century evolution as a working class neighborhood is clearly reflected in its wealth of modest, wood-frame, single and two-family houses. Most structures of this category were constructed by workers in the carriage or building trades, wishing to live in proximity to their places of employment, or by land speculators and housing developers, who foresaw the spread of the city westward. The first streets to be built upon in the Dwight Street Historic District were the east ends of Edgewood (then called Martin) and Elm, and the north end of Park Street, or at the district's northeast corner. Typical examples of the Federal and Greek Revival modes which remain from this early 19th century period are 234-236 Park Street and 91 Edgewood Avenue. The Park Street house is one of a few remaining duplex dwellings built in the Dwight area during the Federal period. Constructed during the early years of the area's establishment as a center of light industry, the two-family house type was the most popular residential building type of the neighborhood throughout the 19th century. A simple clapboard frame structure with a gable roof and windows set directly below the cornice line, typical of early 19th century residential architecture, here presents a double doorway, the only element belying its double capacity arrangement. Later additions of a gabled porch and 2/2 pane windows represent a fashion-conscious Victorian updating.
Another characteristic dwelling type of the Dwight Street Historic District is the vernacular Greek Revival house. Featuring a three-bay front with a classical entrance porch and a closed-gable pediment, the house at 91 Edgewood Avenue typifies the early 19th century single-family housing stock of the area. Several such houses remain in the northeast section of the district, some as Greek Revival rows. Their concentration in the area conveys a vivid impression of the neighborhood's mid-19th century appearance. Many such houses in the Dwight Street Historic District are a slightly smaller-scale and less elaborate version of this house, while consisting of the same, formal features. The house may have been a popular type with the more prosperous resident workers in the area's carriage and building industries.
Drawn initially by the establishment of a branch of the carriage industry there in the late 1820s, the population of the area rapidly increased with the growth of other related and non-related light industries, such as the manufacture of carriage parts, daguerreotype case factories and the building trades. Accordingly, local stores, services and taverns were established, providing further growth. The second significant building phase reflects this period of New Haven's westward development, with speculators buying up whole blocks and constructing rows of two-family early Victorian houses to rent to district workers unable to afford building their own houses. These dwellings accorded their inhabitants a more elaborate facade in the Italianate and Queen Anne styles, providing one shared the house with another family.
Typical of the later 19th century is the multi-family Victorian house at 111 Kensington Street, built c.1880. Entire rows comprised of such houses remain, dominating the architectural character of the area. This particularly well-preserved example exhibits the cross floor plan and the steeply pitched gable roof characteristic of speculative housing of the 1880s. The decorative woodwork of the porch and the gables, including polygonal shingles and Stick style timbering, gives a sense of splendor and fashion to this working-class neighborhood. The multifamily aspect of this house type is visible in the presence of two entrances, either set side-by-side at the front, or with one situated in the front wall of a cross wing. The two- and three-family frame dwelling form continued through the early decades of the 20th century, in the Colonial Revival style. Scores of these two house types remain in the district.
A fourth residential building type which appeared in the area continued the early pattern of the multiple dwelling while introducing a more urban architectural character. This was the brick double house, often Italianate or Renaissance derived in its architecture, and three stories tall. Other multi-family structures of the time display bowed and projecting bays. This is a larger type which would have contained several living units, and would not have been considered as fashionable as the rowhouse.
Such structures, built as investments by developers, were to be partially or entirely rented out, and reflect the increasing need for cheap housing in the district beginning in the 1890s and continuing through the period of the First World War. The raised basement, the large window openings with stone trim, and the prominent, bracketed cornice are typical features of this building type and period.
While primarily working-class in population and physical appearance, the Dwight Street neighborhood did contain a few wealthy areas. Lynwood Place, opened after 1880, was developed largely by professionals associated with local businesses, industries and nearby Yale University. Built in response to new fire codes, the residences of this street are brick. The building at No. 40 Lynwood Place is one of the few originally private townhouses of the Dwight area. Unlike the rowhouse, this building type is freestanding and features more elaborate architectural detail.
Another upper-class pocket centered around Dwight Place, an area at the south end of Dwight Street. Today, several large, elaborate residences built by local, small-time industrialists remain in the area. These houses, built in the Italianate and Queen Anne styles, reflect a higher level of architectural sophistication than their working-class counterparts in the surrounding area. Representing the upper-class suburban ideal is the Sisk Funeral Home, built as a private residence on Dwight Place in 1894. Designed by the prominent New Haven architect William Alien, this house asserts its upper-class character through its size, elaborate surface woodwork, tall hip roof, exaggerated chimney stack heights and oversized Palladian windows.
A final, dominant residential type of the Dwight area is the World War I-era apartment building. One of the more elegant facades of this period is the limestone and brick-faced Richmond Building on Park Street, which displays Tudor Revival forms in its tripartite bays and stonework openings. Historical revival forms, as in the diluted Neo-Gothic doorway and parapets of the Lynwood Apartments, prevail in the early 20th century architecture of the district's large buildings.
Few industrial structures remain in the Dwight Street Historic District. The only major building associated with the area's light manufacturing history is the Mathusheck Piano Manufacturing Company, now converted to residential use. While extensively altered earlier in the century, the building's size suggests the importance of the piano manufacturing in the district during the period following the Civil War.
One of the largest structures in the district and a prominent visual landmark is the Dwight Place Congregational Church on the corner of Chapel and Dwight Streets. The building's 1871 construction date reflects the presence of a prosperous Yankee population in the district during and after the Civil War years. The congregation hired David R. Brown, a Henry-Austin trained, New Haven architect, to design the building, which is Italian Renaissance Revival in style. The facade is composed of a center pavilion flanked by three-story square towers. The ground story consists of a series of broad, arched doorways which are set off by pilasters and smooth voussoirs. Tall two-story narrow arched windows rise in the pavilion and towers and are flanked by alternately reeded and smooth quoins. The upper towers, which are missing their spires, have quarter-round columns at the corners and denticulated cornice moldings. Attached to the back of the church is a two-story Renaissance Revival parish house. A third tower, with spire, originally rose over the apse of the church.
During the first quarter of the 20th century, buildings continued to be designed in historical revival styles. The Jessie J. Scranton School at 98 Scranton Street, built in 1905, a Neo-Colonial brick structure typical of institutional architecture of the time, and the Augusta Troup Junior High School, a Neo-Gothic building of 1923, are contrasting area examples of their eclectic architectural period. The latter structure is a massive, three-story brick block with broad, two-story, Neo-Gothic arched windows with concrete tracery. The large end pavilions are nearly blank wall planes, each detailed only by a tall, Neo-Gothic niche set at the second story. At the time of its construction, the building was the second of six public junior schools in New Haven. Like the larger apartment buildings of its time, the school's size mirrors the increase in the Dwight area's population from an influx of arms industry workers during and after the First World War.
Despite the construction of many five and six-story apartment buildings during the 1920s and 30s, and a number of public housing and institutional redevelopment projects of recent decades, the scale of the Dwight area has remained residential. The conversion of 19th century dwellings to commercial use has considerably affected the street-level appearance of some sections, but a situation of "benign neglect" and the continued residential use of the area has allowed the survival of a major portion of the 19th century working- and middle-class housing stock.
The Dwight Street Historic District is significant architecturally both for the quantity and quality of its 19th century housing stock. An extremely high proportion of its total building stock consists of a full range of 19th and early 20th century architectural styles, including notable examples of the Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival modes. Many dwellings appear in pairs or rows of three or four, a feature which contributes essentially to the historical character and scale of the neighborhood. Both single and multiple family dwellings are present, ranging from unusual, Federal period duplexes, to Italianate rowhouses and World War I-vintage, five-story apartment buildings. As a rich and varied representation of domestic building types, the housing stock of the Dwight Street Historic District serves as an exceptionally clear documentation of the area as it evolved from a light industrial community into an urban neighborhood of New Haven.
The Dwight Street Historic District is historically significant as one of the 19th century communities in New Haven which contributed importantly to the city's development as a leading, national center of carriage manufacturing. Two of the industry's largest factories, the Hooker & Osborne Co., and the Stephen M. Weir Co., operated here from the 1850s to the 1880s, as did several smaller carriage factories and supporting industries. In 1860, the Dwight Street area branch of the industry employed more than 200 area residents who are known to have lived primarily on Edgewood, Day, and Park Streets.
The Dwight Street area has continued to evolve as an area distinct from the center of New Haven, retaining its historically heterogeneous social complexion, and its mix of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional uses. Today this character is vividly reflected in the neighborhood's remarkable physical integrity.
Historical and Architectural Development
Described as "little more than plain farmland and plain farm building" from personal memory by Col. Gardner Morse in a lecture given in 1887, the area of the Dwight Street Historic District remained an expanse of open, flat, undeveloped land on the west edge of the Yale College campus until the late 1820s. The Derby Turnpike (Route 34 and Chapel Street) and Samaritan Street (Elm Street) already led west through the territory, roughly paralleling Whalley Avenue, by then a bustling commercial thoroughfare. Samaritan Street, so-called as it led to the City Almshouse, was marked by a scattered collection of lowly shacks inhabited by a poor Black population, probably workers on nearby farms. To the southwest lay the Town Farm, which no longer stands, a cluster of barns and buildings surrounded by open farmland.
The gradual transformation of this area into an early 19th century urban community of grid-pattern streets lined with small, two-story houses and shops came about with the rise of industry in New Haven following the War of 1812. The expansion of the city's early industries during this period, notably the manufacture of guns, clocks, hardware and paper, had called for increased access to major ports for the shipping of fuel supplies and raw materials. In response to this need, the Town of New Haven in 1825 embarked on an ambitious plan to link the port with northern New England and eventually the St. Lawrence River by way of a canal to lead up the Farmington River Valley. The construction of the New Haven to Farmington segment of the canal attracted hundreds of laborers to the city, and its completion in 1838 temporarily boosted the growth of the city's industry. The continued growth of the labor population and local economy were largely responsible for the development of the Dwight Street area. As the population swelled and the value of land around the center of town increased, speculators rushed to take advantage of the sudden need for housing, purchasing whole sections, laying out streets and subdividing blocks.
One of the industries to arise from expanded trade was the manufacture of carriages. Improvements and refinements in the design of the passenger carriage by New Haven entrepreneur James Brewster had resulted in a convenient, alternative form of travel to riding horseback or driving by the cumbersome and uneconomical stage coach. The sudden popular appeal of Brewster's lightweight, stylish carriages soon prompted several others to set up carriage shops around the edge of New Haven's center. Early on, Brewster had sent one of his carriages to the south, precipitating, almost immediately, an eager new market which would grow to become the New Haven industry's major means of support until the Civil War. The Dwight Street area became the site of several carriage shops during the early 1830s when early successes and the need to expand drove their proprietors to relocate in the nearest undeveloped areas, such as along York, High, and Park Streets. The first few carriage factories established during the 1820s would soon spawn offshoot shops and parts manufactories throughout the city. The convenient rise of the Connecticut hardware industry was both stimulated by and facilitated the development of carriage manufacturing. The increased use of the lightweight carriage would itself contribute to the growth of the city by supplying a convenient, economical, and efficient mode of transportation, making new areas more accessible.
During the early 1830s, speculators were buying up large parcels of land west of York Street and laying new streets to attract the new working population interested in building homes near their places of employment. One of these was Sydney Hull, a retired New Haven tailor who bought land west of York Street and in 1831 proceeded to extend Crown and George Streets as far as Park and Howe Streets. With the newly created access to these north-south side streets, people began moving into the area. Lots on Park, Howe, and Martin (Edgewood) Streets drew the first wave of settlers, selling for $5 to $10 a foot. Several simple frame dwellings remain from this period, typically featuring Federal and Greek Revival style entrance porches. William P. Greene, a wealthy Norwich man, was another investor who acquired large tracts in the south part of the district, opening George and West Chapel Streets. Areas farther west were being opened as well. In 1835, J.C. Parker advertised "City Lots in New Haven at Public Auction...at his Sales Room Church Street, New Haven," leaving a map showing 73 lots located along Garden Street between Martin Street (now Edgewood) and Whalley Avenue. Development proceeded slowly during the 1840s and 1850s, concentrating around the area east of Orchard Street and south of Elm Street. By 1840, all the present cross streets in the area had been opened. In 1827 Henry Hooker and John V. Osborne had built a large carriage shop on the west side of Park Street, between Edgewood Avenue and Elm, thereby attracting residential development to the neighboring blocks .
One of the houses surviving from this period at 234-236 Park Street is an unusually early example of a multiple-family residence, a type which was to set the trend for much of the area's later residential construction. In this house, a street elevation displaying the symmetry and proportion characteristic of vernacular, early Federal domestic architecture is adapted to a vertically-stacked, two-family house plan by a doubling of the traditional central entrance. As in many Dwight Street area houses built later in the century, such a scheme made for more affordable, owner-occupied housing. This kind of housing would continue to draw workers into the Dwight area.
Another house type characteristic of early 19th century architecture in the district (and throughout New Haven) is the vernacular, single family, Greek Revival dwelling. This house type, one of which stands at 91 Edgewood Avenue, was probably built by a merchant or shop owner in the 1830s and is one of the more elaborate of its kind in the area. Although it features an entrance portico which is slightly grander than most, and a closed gable and accompanying brick sidewalk, this house nonetheless typifies the housing stock of the area as it appeared at the end of the second quarter of the 19th century.
Ongoing advancements in industrial processes lent essential impetus to the growth of the New Haven carriage industry during the 1830s. The introduction of steam power in the area during the 1830s allowed for the mechanization of formerly manual-powered processes. George T. Newhall, a New Haven carriage manufacturer, had observed the use of steam power in Providence, Rhode Island, factories, and was responsible for its introduction in New Haven as a more cost-effective and productive means of powering the machines of the carriage builders. By 1860, the general use of steam in area industries had made New Haven a leading national center of manufacturing. In the carriage industry, the mid-century adoption of specialization in the manufacture of parts, and the introduction of the assembly-line had helped boost New Haven carriage production to over 7,000 vehicles per year. A $1.6 million business by then, carriage production in New Haven was higher than in any states except Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. New Haven had become a leading world center of carriage production.
The Dwight Street area was, by 1860, a community composed principally of resident artisans and laborers, of which approximately one-third were employed by one of the carriage firms in the district. The remaining two-thirds consisted largely of builders, blacksmiths, painters, and general laborers, some of whom may have worked in conjunction with the carriage factories. The Hooker & Osborne and Stephen M. Weir factories remained the area's leading carriage firms and were soon to generate several smaller shops in the northeast corner.
Of industrial sites remaining in the Dwight Street Historic District, the best encompass utilitarian structures associated during the 1870s and 1880s with the Stephen M. Weir Carriage Factory and the F.H. Russell & Company Lumber Yard. The remaining buildings consist of a long, single-story frame "repository" or shed used for the display of carriages for sale by the Weir Factory. To the east is a two-story brick building with a gable roof and cupola, far left), also associated with the carriage trade, according to an 1880 city map. Toward the middle of the block, and directly north of these buildings, is another frame shed and a two and one-half story brick structure, part of the Russell Lumber Yard. According to the 1860 New Haven City Directory, both the carriage industry, its supporting trades, and building concerns drew residents to the Dwight area. According to the Dwight Area Historical Architectural Resources Survey (1979),
"Men connected with the factories lived close to their places of employment. Carriage workers, the largest group — with more than 160 men — settled around Park Street. Daguerreotype case makers lived near Peck's Day Street factory. However, the approximately 80 workers in the building trades, the second largest single group, tended to work independently and thus lived throughout the Area. The Dwight Area was also home to these men's employers: Stephen Weir, Stephen Peck, the Blakeslee family and Elihu Larkins all lived within the neighborhood."
The Civil War recharged New Haven's arms industry, and while confederate losses had all but eliminated the Southern market for pleasure carriages, demand for military wagons and local customers were to sustain New Haven production. Post-war growth, adding 23,000 to the city's population between 1860 and 1880, pressed on the Dwight and other areas beyond the "nine squares," encouraging the construction of many, new multi-family houses. The establishment of the horse railroad in 1860, facilitated travel within the city and encouraged the development of the Dwight Street District.
Many rows of three and four duplex and triplex dwellings remain on Elm, Kensington, Day and Orchard Streets from this period of intense housing development. One of the district's major developers was Thomas N. Hotchkiss, an area contractor with a workforce of 70, who built 25 houses on Edgewood Avenue and Kensington Street between 1850 and 1875. Typically, the new houses were rented out to incoming workers and their families. The building trend continued with the establishment of several more carriage factories during the late 1860s. By 1870 the number of area shops had increased to 11, accounting for approximately one-quarter of the total number of carriage factories in New Haven, and the growth of the Dwight District.
Several multiple-family dwellings of the type built by Hotchkiss remain in the vicinity. Typical of the hundreds of post-Civil War houses built by such developers is 111 Kensington Street, a large, two-family, Queen Anne frame dwelling. Often built in rows of three and four structures, this multiple-family cross-plan house type still predominates in the district. The type is uniform in its basic plan and massing, but varies widely in the elaboration and design of its details. The present residential scale and character of the Dwight District is largely attributable to the extensive remaining collection of these houses. Another speculative housing type of the period was the three-story, three-family, railroad plan frame dwelling. Many remain in the Dwight area and are typical of New Haven's housing stock.
As no large carriage factory buildings remain in the area, their appearance is known only from descriptions by Elihu Atwater in his History of New Haven, written in 1888. He describes the Hooker and Osborn factory on Park Street as a "three-story wooden building, 78 by 200 feet in dimensions." Another Park Street shop, belonging to Seabrook & Smith, was a "five-story building, 66 by 116 feet in area, equipped with all the latest tools and machinery." This firm employed 30 workers and produced wagons and carriages of various types and styles. According to an 1879 aerial sketch of the City of New Haven, the Stephen M. Weir plant was a rectangular, four-story, gabled roof structure which faced Elm Street and extended back as far as a residential lot on Edgewood Avenue. One hundred men worked here during 1870s and 1880s.
One area of industry unrelated to carriage manufacturing was the production of daguerreotype cases at the Samuel Peck factory on the southeast corner of Day and Chapel Streets. The firm, which operated from 1852 into the 1890s, employed at least 35 area residents in 1860. The size of the plant in 1879, a large, three-story, multi-bay structure built around a central courtyard, suggests that either the total number of employees was considerably larger than 35, or that the firm grew substantially between 1860 and 1879. Certainly the factory's presence contributed importantly to the development of the Dwight District's west end.
Standing among the carriage factories on Park Street was the Matusheck Piano Manufacturing Company, a large, four-story brick structure built in 1868. From 1878 to 1888 the J. Newman Company used the building for the manufacture of corsets. Further down Park Street, between Elm and Chapel, stood an oleo margarine plant.
A few of the area's wealthier manufacturers and professionals lived within the district, and some of their residences remain in the Dwight Place section (now lower Dwight Street) and on Lynwood Place. Dwight Place was not developed until the early 1860s, when land on its west side was sold and subdivided into larger house lots. A few leading New Haven professionals, such as Sherman F. Foote, an officer in the New Haven Seamless Rubber Company, and a prosperous merchant, Smith Merwin, built large, 19th century Queen Anne style residences in the area. In 1894, another affluent resident, Frederick P. Newton, built the large house at 128 Dwight Street. Once part of a row of stately, late-Victorian residences set back from the street on spacious lots, the Newton House is an exceptionally well-preserved and outstanding example of the late Queen Anne style, and is one of the few residences of New Haven's 19th century industrialist class remaining in the Dwight area.
One section which vividly documents the increasingly urban residential scale and character of the district during the 1880s is Lynwood Place. Opened and developed in 1880 on land sold by the Hooker and Osborne Company, Lynwood Place became a fashionable enclave of expensively built, brick dwellings and townhouses designed to comply with new city fire laws. One resident of the street was Walter B. Law, Vice-President and Treasurer of the Booth & Law Company, manufacturers of paint, varnish, and oils. His elegant townhouse, 40 Lynwood Place, clearly reflects the taste for a more sophisticated, urban house type. With its projecting bays and prominent, bracketed cornice, the well-preserved Italianate townhouse is a valuable reminder of New Haven's prospering upper class during this period of post-Civil War industrial expansion. The presence of seven other brick houses built as multiple dwellings contributes to the street's urban character. Rental units on this street, however, were decidedly middle class, and were often leased out to people associated with Yale University.
More typical of the area's urban development, however, were simpler rowhouse structures containing lower-cost apartments and rental rooms. Built throughout the district in response to the housing shortage after the turn of the century, many were of the bow-front type, as in No. 98 Scranton Street. The Dwight Street area remained largely Yankee until after the Civil War, with a small Black population that increased steadily following the war. In 1850, two churches, the Baptist Immanuel and St. Luke's, served this community which, according to the Dwight Area Architectural and Historic Resources Survey, was scattered throughout the district. City directories after 1860 show that Blacks lived on nearly every street in the area, revealing an integrated neighborhood. Many came from New York City, some having been driven away by competition from arriving European immigrants. It appears that Black settlement in New Haven was not associated with any specific activity in the Dwight area. Most factories did not hire Blacks until the 1860s, and few were permitted to apprentice as artisans; hence many Blacks worked as laborers, waitresses, barbers or domestic servants.
Among the newcomers to New Haven during the last two decades of the 19th century were large groups of Jewish, Italian and Polish immigrants. Oak Street, now the vacant area bordering the district on the south, was one of the three, major Jewish settlements in New Haven in the 1880s. By the 1890s, many of the new residents had moved into two and three-family dwellings on Gilbert Avenue, Greenwood, Orchard and Waverly Streets. This southwest section of the Dwight district became a stable, mixed Jewish-Yankee neighborhood with its own synagogue, school and stores. Today, Beth Israel Synagogue, founded in 1914 (232 Orchard Street), and the Scranton Street School are institutional landmarks of this period in the neighborhood's history. As a group, the Jews did not enter the carriage or other existing New Haven industries; rather, they worked independently as merchants, craftsmen or peddlers. Waverly, Day, and Scranton Street remained heavily Jewish until the turn of the century, when Italian and Polish immigrants began moving onto Gilbert Street. As the more prosperous second generation of area Jews moved west into the more fashionable, suburban Sherman Avenue and Edgewood Park neighborhoods in the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish population of the southwest area dwindled. Further influxes of native and immigrant workers were drawn by the area's arms industry, resulting, as in many Northeastern cities, in a severe housing shortage. During this World War I period many revival-style apartment buildings and "triple-decker" structures were built along George, Chapel, and Howe Streets to house these foreign-born populations.
With the post-World War II migration of upwardly mobile residents out of the district and the conversion of many buildings to multi-residential use, the district gradually evolved as a poorer residential and commercial area. A low owner-occupant ratio and the growing transient population contributed to the area's decline during the 1940s and 50s. During the 1960s, the area's Black population, representing the latest influx of ethnic groups to move into the area, rose from 7 to 20 percent, an expansion of the "Hill" community, situated south of the Dwight area. Altogether, however, the movement to the suburbs, the increased commercialization of the district and the deterioration of its building stock caused the population to decrease by 35 percent between 1940 and 1970.
Various city plans to improve the area developed during the 1950s and 1960s resulted in the clearance of large, block-size tracts, such as the Oak Street neighborhood at the district's southern border and several blocks at the center of the district. While the Oak Street area has remained vacant, the interior tracts were developed largely with low-scale, residential modern housing complexes for low-income families and the elderly. The Timothy Dwight School was built in 1964, replacing the 100-year old structure on the Edgewood Avenue site. Another city project was the re-routing of University Place as a U-shape street and the relocation and restoration of several late 19th century houses around its outer edge. Some private rehabilitation and restoration efforts exist in isolated cases throughout the Dwight Street Historic District; however, the building stock of certain areas, such as Orchard and Kensington Streets, remains extensively deteriorated.
While decline and demolition have characterized the recent history of the Dwight area, "benign neglect" has allowed the survival of many buildings and the retainment both of block fronts and architectural details.
The Dwight Street Historic District is a historically and architecturally significant 19th century residential neighborhood whose fabric vividly documents its evolution as a working-class community and its important contribution to the industrial and social development of the city of New Haven.
Atwater, Edward E. (ed.). History of the City of New Haven. New York: W.W. Munsell and Company, 1887.
Clark, Victor S. History of Manufacturers in the United States. Vol. 1. New York: Peter Smith, The Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1929.
Dwight Area Historical and Architectural Resources Survey. Vol. I, II & III. New Haven: The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, 1979.
Hegel, Richard. Carriages from New Haven. Hamden, Conn: Archon Books, 1974.
Morse, Col. Gardner. "Recollections of the Appearance of New Haven and its Business Enterprises and Movements in Real Estate between 1825 and 1837." Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Vol.5 (1887) , pp.89-108.
Osterweis, Rollin G. Three Centuries of New Haven, 1638-1938. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953.
Sanger, David B. "New Haven Business Directory & Advertising Circular for 1850". New Haven: David Sanger, 1850.
Shumway, Floyd M. and Richard Hegel, (ed.). New Haven; An Illustrated History. New Haven Colony Historical Society. Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, 1981.
Benham's New Haven City Directories, Annual, 1850-1870. New Haven: J.H. Benham.
Patten's New Haven Directory, 1840 and 1845. New Haven: James M. Patten.
1840 — Patten's New Haven City Directory, 1840. New Haven: James M. Patten.
1851 — Hartley and Whiteford. "Map of the City of New Haven and Vicinity. 1 Philadelphia: Collins and Clark, 1851.
1868 — Beers, Frederick W. "Map of the City of New Haven and Fair Haven." New York: Beers, Hellis and Soule, 1868.
1879 — Bailey and Hazen. "The City of New Haven, Conn. 1879." Boston Bailey and Hazen, 1879.
1888 — "Atlas of the City of New Haven, Connecticut". Philadelphia: Ct. M. Hopkins, 1888.
‡ Adapted from: Alison Gilchrist and John Herzan, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Dwight Street Historic District, New Haven, CT, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Beers Street • Chapel Street • Dwight Street • Edgewood Avenue • Elm Street • George Street • Gilbert Avenue • Greenwood Street • Howe Street • Kensington Street • Lynwood Place • Orchard Street • Park Street • Platt Street • Sherman Court • University Place