The New Haven Preservation Trust has undertaken a survey of sites related to the historical and architectural development of New Haven between 1931 and 1980. In the second phase, the Trust has identified approximately 150 sites and completed Historic Resource Inventory forms for 123 sites, compiling descriptive and historical and architectural information as well as photographs. In addition, recommendations are provided for potential State and National Register listings and other preservation actions.

The goals of the survey have been:

  1. To recognize and document an important era in New Haven’s history, one that brought drastic change in the shape of the city and that had national, if not international, repercussions.
  2. To recognize and document New Haven’s extensive collection of Modernist architecture of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, much of it designed by leading practitioners.
  3. To encourage careful renovation and adaptation of significant Modernist sites. The recognition afforded by a survey and, where appropriate, State or National Register listing, along with potential tax and code incentives, can make such work easier to accomplish in ways that preserve historic character.
  4. To promote New Haven. The city’s architecture represents a potential source of local pride and an attraction for visitors that we do not take full advantage of.

In the future, the Trust plans to continue the work in this survey with additional phases focusing on public education and preservation advocacy. Publications and events can make the information produced by the survey available to the public. Technical assistance and advocacy will help encourage and guide the reuse of significant Modernist sites in the city.

The Modernist era brought transformational changes to New Haven, some for the better, some for the worse. By recognizing and understanding the significance of the era, by preserving its best sites, and by adapting others to meet the human needs of the city, we can honor our past and build a better future. 

A team was assembled under the overall management and oversight of Preservation Services Officer John Herzan, with Charlotte Hitchcock as survey director. Other Trust staff members, Anita Buckmaster and Jean Pogwizd, provided considerable administrative support.

The survey team was made up of volunteers and graduate students in historic preservation and public history. Team members and their qualifications were:

  • A. H. Chadderdon, retired professor of English
  • Amy Gagnon, graduate student in public history
  • John Herzan, architectural historian and preservationist
  • Charlotte Hitchcock, historical architect and preservationist
  • Lucas Karmazinas, historian and historical consultant
  • Frank Pannenborg, architect
  • Julie Rosen, graduate student in historic preservation
  • Christopher Wigren, architectural historian and preservationist

To begin the inventory, the team compiled a preliminary list of possible survey subjects, with the understanding that the list would be refined and that more sites would be added during the survey process. The list was drawn from materials collected by Trust volunteers; among its principal sources were Rachel D. Carley’s overview essay, “Tomorrow is Here: New Haven and the Modern Movement,” Elizabeth Mills Brown’s book, New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), publications by the Alliance for Architecture, and architectural periodicals from the survey period.

The next step was to compare this list with existing surveys, which revealed that some significant sites from the era had already been identified and surveyed. Others were incomplete; occasionally providing nothing more than a photograph and an address.

As the survey progressed, a decision was made to favor sites of architectural significance, as this fit the strengths of the survey team. Products of New Haven’s urban renewal program — an historic event — were included in this focus, because Modernist architecture and planning were integral to the program.

It was also decided that in most cases the priority would be to add buildings to the existing inventory rather than revise existing forms. The exception to this principle was to prepare new inventory forms for sites that had modern-era significance not recognized in earlier surveys (for instance, 19th-century buildings rehabilitated under urban renewal).

Other priorities were identifying the work of local architects, paying attention to landscape architecture and urban planning, and, in a few cases, documenting threatened resources. At least one inventoried building was demolished while the survey was still underway. Some buildings initially identified were not inventoried because it was readily apparent that they had been substantially altered.

The original proposal for this survey outlined a time period from 1931 to 1980. However, the sites un-covered in actual work fell in a somewhat narrower period, from about 1935 to 1975. A few buildings were constructed later but had been planned during this period.

In consultation with John Herzan and Charlotte Hitchcock, team members chose sites which they would survey. Initial assignments were clustered by neighborhood, but as work progressed, researchers were assigned buildings by the same architect, in order to save research time. In addition to her oversight duties, survey director Charlotte Hitchcock also completed inventory forms for a number of sites.

In addition to field work, research for the survey took place in libraries and city offices. In addition, researchers consulted contemporary newspaper articles, architectural periodicals, and other primary and secondary resources. City records, particularly the City Plan Department’s library and Building Department and Assessor’s records, were especially rich resources.

Once written, forms were reviewed by John Herzan, Frank Pannenborg, and Chris Wigren. Revisions were made by Charlotte Hitchcock