2017 New Haven Preservation Trust Awards

Tuesday May 16th at Noon
New Haven City Hall
2nd Floor Foyer

Introduction by Toni Harp, Mayor
Welcome by Bruce Peabody, President NHPT
Awards presented by Duo Dickinson, NHPT Awards Chair

At Home With History
Living In New Haven

Everyone has a home. There is no more essential purpose for a building than as a place to live. New Haven has a remarkable housing stock of every type and style. Throughout history private residences are often a source of great pride no matter how modest. Shared accommodations, housing, has allowed people of modest means, shared infirmity or student status have been part of New Haven for over 200 years. Given the new focus on building places to live in New Haven, The New Haven Preservation Trust celebrates the history of urban living in this year’s NHPT Awards. Homes both grand and small, preservation of Yale’s lone mid-century Modernist residential college and a local hero of both neighborhood and single family residential preservation are honored in this year’s program.

The Award Winners Are:

“For houses as outstanding representatives of their period. They exhibit much of their original character and condition by virtue of continued appropriate maintenance or sensitive rehabilitation.”
Invigorating Perfection: Restoration of the Sargent House
By Duo Dickinson

Laura Sargent House (1912)
178 Bishop Street
New Haven, Connecticut

Owners: Betsy & Len Grauer
Architect: Originally 1912: Henry Killam Murphy, Murphy & Dana 2006: George Knight, Knight Architecture, LLC

Built in 1912 for the female offspring of a great New Haven Family, Laura Sargent of Sargent Hardware and by a leading society architect Henry Murphy of Murphy & Dana, this casually majestic home has been fully restored and updated by its current owners, Betsy and Len Grauer. Rather than reinvent and change, many of the home’s 2006 restoration returned features and finishes to their original condition. Under the tender ministrations by architect George Knight very careful updating made the kitchen, downstairs bath and existing possessions of the owners fully accommodated along with all of the technological updates needed for effortless utility in the 21st century.

It’s easy to think of an older home as a playpen for architect-ego and homeowner imposition. Nothing could be further from the truth in the meticulous restoration of a beautifully intact 1912 gem in New Haven, Connecticut.

The owners Len & Betsy Grauer started with s simple elegant appreciation of the home: “It is an honor to be the stewards of this wonderful house – to restore it, to care for it, and to live in it.” They chose a very new, but very experienced, architect, George Knight, also of New Haven. It was his first independent commission, after a distinguished career studying at Yale and then working for Cesar Pelli. This house restoration would be a gift for ant residential architect, but this project was special for newly on-his-own architect George Knight.

He describes the scope fully: “The project included reimagining a series of service spaces to accommodate a family kitchen; constructing a sunroom and patio where there had once been a service yard; creating a library; reorganizing bedrooms and bathrooms; fortifying the house’s envelope; discreetly introducing modern HVAC and electrical systems; introducing garages at the rear of the property; and better integrating the house to the expansive, romantic garden in the rear.”

But the effects of his new work are either completely restorative to the original design, or so discrete as to be invisible. Seamless invisibility while completely restoring the host structure is far more difficult than a wholesale gut-rehab that holds the historic design as a memory.

This goal fully embraced the homeowners’ veneration of the original Murphy and Sargent design. “We love the house for its classic lines and its grace and balance. There is a light and airy feel to complement the elegant architectural details which are present throughout the house.”

Knight constantly charged himself and the clients to “listen to what the house wants”. Two poorly considered windows were eliminated, precious original Grueby Faience Tiles were brought back from coverage by paint and time, existing glazed pocket doors where completely recreated and invisible storage enhancements made the interior glow again. The owners worked endlessly to find the correct Pullman lights, work with Knight to carefully create a new Powder and shift closets while completely maintaining the strong and simple entryway in its central position. The attic was civilized and all the systems, including lighting, was fine tuned to minimize ant invasiveness and be perfectly livable in the 21st Century.

On the exterior, Knight found fully appropriate measures to let a new lifestyle harmonize with the existing home and site. The rear entry was completely reworked from unseen simple service access to a contemporary informal side dining and entry. A new driveway and garage made the rear yard both useful and defined. Fulfilling the potential of the home’s site, Knight created a new trellis/pergola and walkway site design, reinforcing existing level changes and retaining walls – while providing subtle natural light controls and providing new ways to invisibly provide long term prevention of maintenance needs an early 20th century home imposed. Not incidentally a fully expansive garden was also part of final design – rendering the careful interior design full expression in the reinvigorated exterior.

Knight saw the site for its potential, but also saw the greater context: “The site epitomizes the civic order of the “streetcar suburb,” a development pattern of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century America reliant on public, rather than private, transportation. Eclipsed by the post-war explosion of automobile-oriented suburbs that proliferated throughout Connecticut and the country at large and that continues to predominate American residential development and the lovely houses that line it, might have been mistaken for a charming anachronism had not the pattern proved so enduringly logical, adaptable, and humane. “

If there is a style for this home its smooth and decoratively detailed stucco, elegant ironwork, brick walkways and low double-pitched roof it could it be cited as “classic”. The owners could not agree more: “We feel so fortunate to return every day to this treasure of a home. We feel like we’ve returned it to its former glory and in turn it has given us great happiness.”
Of course the craftsmanship is at the highest level. The detailing and finishes are keyed to the existing, but in the end the presence of the original home was fully honored by this meticulous, and complete, restoration. It’s been a decade since the work has been completed, and the home feels as fresh and healthy as it did when it opened its doors in 1912. “The flow from room to room is easy and natural for us and is also ideal for entertaining large groups for holidays and special events.” Note the owners.

For those who use the home every day that is a best-possible-outcome. But for those who are committed to historic preservation and the joy of history found in the result both transcends time and proves the viability of modern usefulness in intimate coordination with the antique.

“For historic buildings that have been authentically restored, or sensitively rehabilitated for adaptive use.”

Dedicated Stewardship of an 1871 Oysterwoman’s Italianate Pearl
By Channing Harris

The Lane-Hubbard House in City Point
84 Second Street
New Haven, Connecticut.

Owners: Hoffer-Schaefer Family
Builder: Andrew J. Ramsdell, builder & mason, 1871

Among the oldest and relatively unaltered houses in City Point, this small, well-designed structure was typical for the working class members of this neighborhood, built for a shell-fishing family in the post Civil War era. The current owner’s dedication to research, valuing renovation ‘discoveries’ and caring for the historic integrity of this special place is evident in every restored detail. The story can even be told of each small home improvement such as running water, gas and electricity, typical of so many early city houses. Today, in the face of expedient renovations nearby, to see these authentic materials and the age-appropriate appearance of this well-cared for gem, is to virtually step into the past.

This is a marvelous case of a loving restoration, where a homeowner researched the history of not only of this specific house and investigated its materials of construction, but also delved into the neighborhood origins and architectural period context. Learning restoration methodologies along the way, the owner made thoughtful decisions balancing historic appropriateness with contemporary materials and techniques, to adapt this 146 year-old house to 21st century needs. The result is an outstanding small gem in its neighborhood, where too often modern renovation expedients have covered-over original structures. Today, the ‘Lane-Hubbard House’ remains true to the form of its simple but expressive origins, even down to many original hardware details, while expressing its cultural and aesthetic pride.

Also remarkable is the record of the investigative process and research conducted, and it informed the basis for appropriate, minor modifications (such as salvaging doors from the first floor to reuse on the second). The story is documented from its 1871 construction as a home for Celia Lane, a member of one of Oyster Point’s shell-fishing families, through occupancy by an organ-builder, William Hubbard, employed in one of the city’s ‘harmonium’ factories. It remained for 60 years in one Irish Catholic immigrant family, the Oates, which included railroad workers. During this time it was converted from two ‘cold-water flats’ to a single family house at the end of World War II.

Dates are known for the introduction of gas lighting in 1900, cold running water in 1907 and indoor toilets in 1926. Some of the original electric light fixtures remain, from electricity’s installation circa 1915, 102 years ago. Coal-burning iron stoves in the kitchen and parlor provided the only heat until an oil furnace was installed in 1950. (Although there are decorative mantels at the iron stoves, no fireplaces would have been in a house of this style and date.)

The simple wood frame structure with its narrower, decorative gable end on the street is typical of hundreds of similar vernacular workers’ houses built all over New Haven in the 19th century. Italianate ornamentation enhances the street presence using features such as square, chamfered porch posts and decorative, bracketed, masonry-inspired projections over the windows. In this case, the porch reads as a smaller “portico”, the steep staircase of which is equally intended to create an impressive entrance. The slightly over-sized front entrance door adds to this effect. This “six-light [6 window panes] over two panel” door was one of the most common vernacular entrance doors in 19th century New Haven, although surviving examples are becoming increasingly rare.

The owner’s restoration efforts have been on-going for 30 years and include significant work on basement masonry and brick walls, chimney, sill replacements, wood clapboard siding refinishing and painting, window and door treatments, and two roof replacements, including most recently eaves and gutters. The exterior olive green paint color is based on evidence that this is close to original. Interior refinishing and minor wall and door modifications have been consistent with period treatments. Where possible, original door hardware has been salvaged and reused, including that of New Haven-manufactured Mallory and Wheeler Lock Company.

Additional more recent fencing and gates, a brick driveway, and landscape plantings are historically-styled, are consistent with the house and the 19th century decorative expression.

Thus this house, among the oldest and relatively unaltered houses in City Point, is the perfect recipient of New Haven Preservation Trusts’ Merit Award, given “for historic buildings that have been authentically restored and sensitively rehabilitated.” Christopher Schaefer, thank you for lovingly saving this gem, indeed this 1871 Oysterwoman’s Italianate Pearl.

“For buildings or sites of outstanding and enduring architectural and historical significance.”

Renewing an Iconic Presence
By MJ (Peg) Chambers

Morse & Ezra Stiles Residential Colleges, Yale University—addition and renovation with care and attention to issues of preservation

Morse & Stiles Colleges (1960),
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Building Architect: Eero Saarinen (with young César Pelli at his side)
Renovation Architect: Stephen Kieran, principal, KieranTimberlake
Built: 1962
Renovation and Addition: 2011

The underlying literal and figurative strength of form of Eero Saarinen’s original 1962 design for Morse & Stiles Residential Colleges at Yale is clearly apparent in the renovation work completed there by KieranTimberlake in 2011. Eero designs with repeated modules reflecting functionality, all to be read as architectural elements playing with one another in vertical undulation of skyline silhouette across the rise and fall of the site’s ground plane. Stephen Kieran, in his restorative renovation of Morse & Stiles, deftly and sensitively underscores Eero’s intents. Functionalities and undulations are supplemented, giving contemporary relevance to Eero’s sense of poetic wonder in architectural form.

Any college building that has undergone about fifty years of continuous student use, serviced only by required maintenance, inevitably needs refurbishment. So it was with Morse & Stiles Residential Colleges at Yale, designed by Eero Saarinen and opened in 1962. Increasing shabbiness and ever-changing student needs did not, however, extinguish at any point the underlying literal and figurative strength of form of Saarinen’s original design. Sensitivity to that reality is clearly apparent in the renovation work completed by KieranTimberlake in 2011 at the Morse & Stiles complex.

It is helpful to realize that Eero was a 1934 graduate of Yale School of Architecture, a student there at the same time James Gamble Rogers was steeped in the design of Yale’s first residential colleges. Rogers’ grant of instant history and charm, through student-scaled mini-campuses built one after another in the 1930s, had proven its worth to Yale by the 1950s. That very worth surely contributed to the determination of need of two new Yale residential colleges. Post World War II impulses in architecture were embracing modernist attitudes that had begun emerging post World War I. Yale was ready to engage forward-thinking Eero, whose artistry in architecture was already well documented, even on the Yale campus with the launching of the Ingalls Rink in 1957.

At Morse & Stiles, Eero designs with repeated modules reflecting functionality, a hallmark of modernism. Two large, highly fenestrated communal areas (dining halls) are nestled between towers & blocks containing student rooms. All are to be read as architectural elements playing with one another in vertical undulation of skyline silhouette across the rise and fall of the ground plane. Contrast is further established from the exterior vantage by the light-inviting vertical window slices punctuating the solid masses of towers & blocks and the warm tones of stones embedded in the cold concrete of the structural walls.

The art and craft of embedding the stone in the concrete lends a sense of carefully handmade, malleable felt form finally frozen in place. Yet the continuous textured surfaces of the exterior walls seem like a skin, unifying the whole two-college campus. The interior courtyards and Crescent Lawn paths with their multiple respite points verge on the Picturesque, providing all participants with a range of visages replete with kinesthetic sensory opportunities. Herein lies the unique poetry of Eero’s sculptural architectural forms set in a responsive landscape. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and any of Modernism’s sub-labels are defied.

Stephen Kieran of Kieran Timberlake understands Eero’s original poetic impulses as they manifest themselves at Morse & Stiles. The challenge of both the renovation and preservation of this campus centered on Yale’s recognition that times and students’ needs have evolved. Before 1969, all Yale undergraduates were young men, and in the 1950s a significant number were veterans of World War II. As has been noted in Yale Daily News (2009, 2011) and The Yale Herald (2010) articles and blogs, students of the 1950s had a preference for single rooms, not 3-4 bedroom suites with a central small common space as was welcomed in Rogers’ designs of the 1930s. Aside from the large scale dining halls of each of the colleges on the Morse & Stiles campus, there were originally also subterranean gathering spaces, termed “rathskellers” by the 1960s students, or as they might be called these days, “man-caves,” precincts of male reinforcement of outlook and attitude.

With the acceptance of women to Yale beginning in 1969, there was naturally a shift to more gender-specific as well as gender-neutral spaces throughout undergraduate Yale. Eero’s single bedroom layouts and the dark, perhaps mysterious, nether reaches of the original below-grade common spaces, were seen by students to be unresponsive to their late 20c and early 21c needs.

Stephen Kiernan’s design team, after study of Rogers’ recently renovated Yale residential colleges, configured suites of student rooms each with their own small common space where structurally possible at Morse & Stiles and in numbers reflective of the new balance sought. Regarding shared large-scale common areas, it became clear a significant value-added could be obtained at Morse & Stiles by reconfiguring and extending by 25,000 sf under the Crescent Lawn along Tower Parkway the existing below grade areas spanning each college.

As noted on the architectural firm’s website, “libraries, lounges, fitness and dance rooms, art and music studios, (and) theater (space)” differentiated the original caverns, and were infused with skylight illumination via forms piercing through the Crescent Lawn and interior courtyards adjacent to each dining hall. These new skylights, engaging as they do the landscapes above, reinforce the poetic kinesthetic experiences inside and outside the two colleges’ buildings. Eero’s design, founded in unified interconnection of verticality with the undulations of the ground plane, is wonderfully underscored.

Morse & Stiles now performs in eloquent and revitalized contrast to both its Yale residential college campus predecessors and its newer followers, currently under construction along Prospect Street. Eero Saarinen’s Morse & Stiles is not stage-set, but heart-felt form. The renovation and preservation efforts of KieranTimberlake reinforce the strength of Eero’s formal messaging while firmly bringing Morse & Stiles back into the continuum of Yale college architecture, long fostered by Yale’s reinvigorated early 20thc philosophy of education. A longer view of history allows all of us to now see Morse & Stiles with a deeper understanding. Going forward, Morsels and Stilesians, as they proudly call themselves, can more easily appreciate the historic and aesthetic value of their residential college campus.

“Given to an organization or individual whose support of preservation in the City of New Haven has contributed to the integrity of the community, the protection of its historic structures, and an appreciation of its history.”

Breathing New Life Into New Haven’s Abandoned Neighborhoods
By John Herzan

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven
333 Sherman Ave
New Haven, CT

Since its founding in 1979, and under the continuous and capable leadership of Jim Paley, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven has worked diligently to acquire blighted houses and transform them into affordable and energy-efficient homes. In 37 years, NHS renovated and sold more than 275 houses, many of which are located in New Haven’s partially abandoned historic neighborhoods. This year, during National Historic Preservation Month, the New Haven Preservation Trust is pleased to present its most prestigious prize, the Margaret Flint Award, to Neighborhood Housing Services in recognition of their long-standing commitment to historic preservation. Congratulations!

Since its founding in 1979, and under the continuous and capable leadership of Jim Paley, Executive Director, Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) has worked diligently to increase home ownership in New Haven by acquiring abandoned and blighted houses and transforming them into affordable and energy-efficient homes. What distinguishes NHS from other housing initiatives is their long-standing commitment to historic preservation. In 37 years, NHS renovated and sold more than 275 houses, many of which are located in neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, 75 NHS renovations qualified for Connecticut’s Historic Homes Tax Credit Program because the work undertaken met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Following home purchase, NHS goes the extra mile to help residents take charge of their neighborhoods. By offering resident leadership programs, by working to facilitate neighborhood strategies for community revitalization, and by organizing year-round events such as street clean-ups, community gardens, and block parties, NHS has worked to reinforce and strengthen neighborhood pride, the backbone of historic preservation in New Haven.

In conjunction with its active housing rehabilitation program, and with the support of the Preservation Trust, NHS has promoted our understanding of local history. The organization initiated the historical documentation and listing of two New Haven neighborhoods on the State Register of Historic Places: the Fairlawn-Nettleton Historic District and the Redfield-West Historic District. In addition, NHS prepared the application form to list the Winchester Repeating Arms Historic District Boundary Increase on the National Register of Historic Places, an ambitious undertaking encompassing more than 1200 historic resources, and the largest designation of its kind in the State of Connecticut. NHS also availed themselves of the Preservation Trust’s Community Heritage Date Plaque Program to proudly recognize the construction date of many of its newly renovated historic houses.