Ninth Square Historic District photo gallery

The Ninth Square Historic District is located in the middle of New Haven’s downtown business district and is comprised of 78 structures, primarily well-preserved 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings. Centered around the intersection of Chapel and Orange Streets, the district includes three entire blocks and portions of five others, with Church, Court, State and Crown Streets forming the district’s edges. Throughout most of the district, buildings of various ages and styles are joined together to form continuous facades along both sides of the street. Part of the oldest section of the city, the district adjoins the southeast edge of New Haven’s historic green and encompasses almost all of one of the original nine squares set out at the time of New Haven’s founding.

Most of the structures in the district are three- to five-stories high, and there is little or no setback from the sidewalk. Brick is the predominant building material, though some facades are finished with brownstone (Palladium Building, 1855, 141 Orange Street), pressed-metal (Franklin Building, c. 1870, 53-57 Orange Street) and cast-stone (Simons Building, c, 1875, 81-83 Church Street). Many of the structures feature decorative treatments in terra cotta, or have cornice details and other wooden ornament. Architectural detail is confined to the stylish facades; rear elevations are utilitarian, with loading docks and freight doors.

Examples of most major architectural styles from 1820 to 1940 are found among the district’s buildings. The largest single group, about a fifth of the total, date from the last quarter of the 19th century and have the bracketed cornices, round and segmental-arched window shapes, and elaborate hoodmolds which indicate an Italianate derivation. Another large group of buildings were built around 1900 in one of several revival styles inspired by Classical, Renaissance and Colonial precedents; of these, the Georgian Revival designs are the most numerous. The remainder includes a scattering of Greek Revival, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Beaux-Arts, Neo-Gothic and Art-Deco/Modernistic designs, producing a rich diversity of style and architectural ornamentation within a compact area. Interspersed are a number of buildings, most put up after 1920, whose facades feature the wide window openings and restrained decorative treatment characteristics of the commercial architecture of the period.

The visual effect of the close juxtaposition of styles is best seen on Chapel Street, where large corner blocks from the Greek Revival period define the east and west ends of the district. In between, the pedestrian encounters arcades of round-arched windows, elaborate bracketed Italianate cornices, Romanesque corbelling, polychrome stone and terra cotta decoration, the Carrara glass of the 1940s, and many other details. The southern end of Orange Street presents a similarly diverse streetscape, while the northern end counts numerous historic buildings that are generally larger and more stylish than others in the district and date almost entirely from the first decade of the 20th century. The Court, Crown and State Street streetscapes are less complete, with more vacant lots and non-contributing buildings, but there are nevertheless numerous clusters of historic buildings and on Crown Street. One example is The New Haven Water Company headquarters (190, 100-106 Crown Street), a richly detailed and visually arresting brownstone building.

The Ninth Square Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1984.