2018 PRESERVATION AWARDS

2018 New Haven Preservation Trust Awards

Tuesday May 15th at 1:15PM Introduction by Toni Harp, Mayor
New Haven City Hall Welcome by Rona Johnston, President NHPT
2nd Floor Foyer Awards given by Duo Dickinson, NHPT Awards Chair

Saving New Haven
When buildings are torn down, history is lost – this year’s awards celebrate when (and how) history is saved. From the Hague house on Foster Street where the 1940’s equivalent of vinyl once killed the extraordinary work of a 1886 joiner, or the salvation of The lone original piece of the 1868 Trinity Home in the embrace of a brand new housing development, or the promise of reviving John Johansen’s extraordinary Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ when we save buildings we live history. And Karyn Gilvarg has lived history in perhaps the most personally effective way imaginable as one of New Haven’s most thoughtful parts of city government, saving untold numbers of history’s gifts to live into our cultural future. Awards recognize what has been done, but also can underscore our values, now and in the future: the 2018 New Haven Historic Preservation Awards do both.

THE AWARD WINNERS ARE:

NHPT LANDMARK PLAQUE
Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ
217 Dixwell Avenue
New Haven, Connecticut

ARCHITECT: John M. Johansen
DATE: 1967-68

The Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, New Haven, CT is believed to be the oldest African American Congregational UCC church in the world, founded in 1820, according to the church’s website. It is to the great credit of the church that they have carried on their mission for nearly 200 years, and that they have valued and been good stewards of this unique architectural heritage for now 50 years. This faceted, dynamic shape was designed as a place of worship, but also as a focal point for the avenue and the large adjacent Daniel Stewart Plaza, by the prominent modernist architect, John Johansen, in 1967-1969.

The essence of this unique structure is perhaps best described by Elizabeth Brown, writing when the church building was young, “… shaped like a crystal, the centralized form detaches itself from the plaza around it to dominate its own space.” The plaza was part of a ‘super-block’ planned for this urban renewal neighborhood by city developers at the time, as part of the New Haven Model City program. It included the adjacent 1965 “Virtue House” townhouses also by Johansen, as well as the Helene Grant Elementary School, the latter in partnership with Caproni Associates, 1964-68.

The church’s semi-circular form is created by a series of defining planes of vertical wall slabs, juxtaposed by radially placed walls which reach out from the center like fingers. The whole is set on a sunken flat grade, so it appears to rise and float above the rest of the site. The vertical walls are also contrasted by several flat horizontal elements, such as the entry steps, porch and its canopy, as well as the pedestrian walkway ‘bridges’ spanning the sunken moat to enter the building. Juxtaposing the vertical split-block walls are narrow windows set between the verticals which direct the natural light inside, illuminating the church interior (and shining interior light out at night, along the textured masonry surfaces.)

The sculptural form of the building is surmounted by a higher ‘lantern’ which draws light into the chancel, enriching this central, sacred space. Characterized in the broad category of ‘brutalist’ architecture (referring to concrete material), the church is in fact one of Johansen’s most interesting explorations, moving away from the rigid geometries of the ‘classic modernism’ of steel and glass rectangles. Its color and irregular, ‘organic’ orientation of wall planes and smaller exterior windows appears influenced by Eero Saarinen’s 1960 Morse and Styles Colleges at Yale. A part of this may also have inspired the ‘moat’ above which the building floats, however Roche Dinkaloo architects’ Richard Lee High School in New Haven, built the same year, also has pedestrian bridges linking the site.

Johansen knew Yale and New Haven, having taught at Yale’s School of Architecture from 1955 to 1960, under Paul Rudolf’s deanship. Rudolf too may have influenced Johansen as he also sought more organic forms and expression of the construction trades in built work. The Dixwell Avenue church is of a form that Johansen had investigated over some years previously in such buildings as the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Cowles Memorial Opera House in Indianapolis, Baltimore’s Morris Mechanic Theater and the Goddard Library at Clark University. Each of these have circular forms, a central focal space, utilize concrete for its fluid and strength properties, with carefully fitted windows integral to the forms, and very expressive geometries.

Rachael Carley, writing in “Tomorrow is Here: New Haven and the Modern Movement” , notes that Johansen, (1916 -2012), a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, had not only studied at Harvard with both Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius, but he also married Gropius’ daughter. He was one of the ‘Harvard Five’: the group of Gropius protege’s who came to New Canaan after the war and all taught at Yale and many practiced in New York: Breuer, Johansen, Eliot Noyes, Landis Gores and of course Philip Johnson. Carley writes of these heady days of the intellectual advancement of modernism and with jury debates pouring from Yale’s Architecture studios and “overflowing back to someone’s house in New Canaan, with Louis Kahn pounding out on the piano endlessly elaborate compositions of his own.” It was a time of intense intellectual engagement in the work of design, as well as dialogue between the best practitioners of the movement.

The Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, New Haven, Connecticut is believed to be the oldest African American Congregational UCC church in the world, founded in 1820, almost 200 years ago. They began as the African Ecclesiastical Society, formed by a small group including former slaves, who were seeking to worship at a time when they were not welcome in white churches according to church historical sources. Over the many decades since they have carried on their mission of serving God, providing spiritual guidance, promoting social justice and improving the quality of life of their congregation and the community at large. Church members were involved in advocating for captured Africans from the ship Amistad, whose case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841 and who were ultimately freed. The distinguished scholar, theologian and former Yale University Chaplain, the Reverend Frederick J. Streets, has been senior pastor of the church since 2011.

This faceted, dynamic shape was designed as a place of worship, but also as a focal point for the avenue and the large adjacent Daniel Stewart Plaza, by the prominent modernist architect, John Johansen, in 1967-1969.

The Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church is currently in nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and has been ‘accepted as eligible’ by the State Historic Preservation Office, a key step in the process. Its preservation is a blessing to our city and its recognition by this Landmark Award is in the hopes its presence continues for future generations.

Katherine Kuranda, architectural historian with R. Christopher Goodwin Associates, Inc., writes a perfect summary in the draft National Register nomination: “The design of the Modernist Style, split-concrete-block church illustrates the Brutalist architectural movement in the successful integration of site plan, building plan, scale, proportion, materials, and geometry to create a sculptural building that relates to its urban context, embodies Modernist design ideology, and achieves the aspirations of the architectural program for the creation of contemporary sacred space.”

Written by Channing Harris

NHPT MERIT PLAQUE
Trinity Church Home Chapel (Metro on Crown)
301 George Street
New Haven, Connecticut

ARCHITECT: Henry Austin
DATE: 1868
RENOVATION ARCHITECT: Greg Wies & Gardner, LLC
NEW PROJECT COMPLETION DATE: 2018
DEVELOPER: Metro 303, LLC, Milford, Connecticut

The developer of this site, which spans George to Crown Streets close to High Street, is Robert Smith, Jr., of Metro Star Properties, LLC. His architect, Sam Gardner, of Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects, LLC, has chosen to feature this preserved bit of Henry Austin by giving the Trinity Chapel a central visible presence from George Street, enhanced by a pocket park and passenger drop-off set on the ground plane in front of it. Original limestone fence posts and wrought – iron railings dated ca. 1875, have also been reinstated. The cleaned and partially restored exterior of the original chapel lets it now stand out as a jewel, flanked by the more subdued colorations of the adjacent buildings, the one to the left belonging to this Metro Star project which brings many welcome newly-constructed apartments to downtown New Haven. Metro Star will be mounting an interpretive plaque for both residents and the public to enjoy. History, through memory, survives.

In the late 1860s, railroad magnate and philanthropist Joseph Earl Sheffield (1793-1882), gave these three buildings, consisting of a home and a school, each flanking a chapel for the occupants’ use, in trust to Trinity Episcopal Church, located on the New Haven Green, for “the comfort and spiritual welfare of the fatherless and the widow,”. Trinity’s Rector (from 1859-1895), the Reverend Dr. Edwin Harwood, soon expanded these ministries to include outreach to immigrant populations, and the chapel became a gathering place for its neighborhood.
Henry Austin (1804-1891), one of New Haven’s many well-known architects, had been hired by Sheffield as architect for the project, which was completed in 1868. It is the Trinity Chapel that is preserved within this newly developed 2018 site, the other two Henry Austin buildings having been lost to normal wear over time by three owners once Trinity sold the property in 1905 to the Italian Baptist Church. The top two tiers of the Chapel’s steeple were removed when the building became Congregation Tefereth Adas Israel shortly after the end of World War I. The Salvation Army purchased the buildings during World War II, selling them in 2015. The City of New Haven and the New Haven Preservation Trust (NHPT) are grateful for the preservation of this Henry Austin design.
The original threesome, of which the chapel is our preserved element, exemplifies well Henry Austin’s fluency in the visual language of the Venetian Gothic espoused in the last half of the 19th century by John Ruskin (1819-1900), Britain’s renown art and social critic, many of whose concepts came to be embodied in the Arts & Crafts Movement in the United States. Austin was adept at the vocabularies of a variety of au courant styles and is best known in his New Haven body of work for his Egyptian Revival gate to Grove Street Cemetery (1845) and his City Hall (1861), also in the Venetian Gothic. Austin’s Trinity Chapel reminds us well of the vital sources available in the 19th century for the thoughtful application of meaning to architectural form through the considered choice of style by architect and client.
The developer of this site, which spans George to Crown Streets close to High Street, is Robert Smith, Jr., of Metro Star Properties, LLC. His architect, Sam Gardner, of Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects, LLC, has chosen to feature this preserved bit of Henry Austin by giving the Trinity Chapel a central visible presence from George Street, enhanced by a pocket park and passenger drop-off set on the ground plane in front of it. Original limestone fence posts and wrought iron railings, which can be seen in the print below, dated ca. 1875, have also been reinstated.
The cleaned exterior of the original chapel lets it now stand out as a jewel, flanked by the more subdued colorations of the adjacent buildings, the one to the left belonging to this Metro Star project which brings many welcome newly-constructed apartments to downtown New Haven. Metro Star will be mounting an interpretive plaque for both residents and the public to enjoy. History, through memory, survives.
In the context of architectural history, particularly in urban environments, it is interesting to note how the site appeared around 1875, by which time Mr. Sheffield had exercised his right as owner of the property to develop the George Street edge, building four symmetrically identical row houses, two to each side of the central focus on the Trinity Chapel, to house each of his four daughters. Urban density always rules! In its own way, this Metro Star project has brought the site full circle.
Written by Margaret Chambers
NHPT HOUSE PRESERVATION AWARD
The Hague House
23 Foster Street
New Haven, Connecticut

BUILDER: Benjamin Hague
DATE: 1886
EXTERIOR RENOVATION: 2017
OWNER: Robert W. Grzywacz

photo credit by Robert Grzywacz
In 1886, Benjamin Hague created a home on Foster Street in New Haven. 41 years ago a Yale graduate student in architecture name Bob Grzywacz saw that now sadly unloved home, and managed to purchase it, no doubt due to the fact it was greatly devalued by its red asphalt roof shingles and cast asbestos-laden dull gray wall siding. Although inexperienced as an architect, Grzywacz saw that the home’s guts were not only sound, but beautiful. Over the next ten years, there was just enough money to remove the cast siding, repair rot and prime paint the exterior, staunching further degradation. When the roof turned 60 years old a few years ago the leaks became disastrous, now architect Bob Grzywacz removed all 3 layers of asphalt shingles and the original wood shingles under them and fully reinstated new wood shingles. Two years ago, he launched into the painstaking recreation of the home’s pristine Stick-Style-from-Queen-Anne exterior in a mix of colors that took 6 months to implement. 40 years of thoughtful devotion has seen an extraordinary realization: beauty can be restored!
Queen Anne homes in New England are not uncommon. But the Queen Anne home owned by architect Bob Grzywacz literally sparkles. Of course, the design is now both thoughtful and delightful, but more, the home looks far fresher than its 140+ years.

That is because Grzywacz saw the beauty of this place 41 years ago. It was, like so many homes, shrouded in “composite” materials. Undoubtedly asbestos entrained, the laminated shingle overcoat swaddled all but the shape of this proudly concise architectural statement.

“It had a good shape.” Says Bob. The roof had 3 or maybe 4 layers of shingles layering over the home’s geometries, the shingles were already 20 years old when then grad-student Grzywacz bought the home.

According to Bob, the old saw in New Haven is “Either you pay your taxes or you can pay for a new roof and painting your home” So many homes are left to deferred maintenance or a quick vinyl overcoat. Or , here, 60 years ago, the “composite” version.

The home’s provenance is a bit murky, but Bob Grzywacz, a noted preservationist himself, has spent time, and enlisted the time of others, in the forensics of the facts of this home’s creation. First, 23 Foster Street was first listed occupied by Richard W. Waite in 1886.

And, 84 and 88 Lawrence are nearly identical to 23 Foster. The consensus is that all three homes were built by the same person. Benjamin Hague who is listed as the builder of all three homes, but no designer is noted anywhere – so it is not unreasonable to think a stock design, perhaps from a pattern book was loved into being by Hague. Benjamin Hague is listed in city records as a “joiner”. A joiner was a skilled craftsman in the 19th century – often making windows, doors, including furniture and the “fittings” of a house, and Hague himself is listed nearby as living at nearby 31 Clark St.

So, when after decades of patching, painting and fixing, Grzywacz decided it was time to reveal Hague’s presence in the home he had built. A full exterior restoration was effected, but not after the same kind of love and care Hague had applied to the creation of the home’s orginal skin. The first round of “composite” cloak removal and essential repairs was effected 10 years ago, but the final finishing was a the recent, last act of resurrection. The refinishing took two full years, but the covering over of so much kept much of Hague’s original work intact.

“So began the battle of the yellows” said Grzywacz, who labored to start the refinishing with the “absolutely essential” testing of what had been applied to what he found under the “composite” blanket. Bob reviewed scores of options, but in the end, found an exquisite palette of colors that reflected the depth of thought present in the subtle repairs and restorations of the home’s exterior he had so long contemplated and so carefully oversaw.

The results speak for themselves, because architect Grzywacz gave voice to a once-muffled home’s architecture. Grzywacz’s restoration reveals fulsome Queen Anne aesthetics, the variant of Victorian fancy, with the hint of a stringent Stick Style evolution in home design that has a revived life at 23 Foster Street.

The home could have simply been chocked into an easier Vinyl Zombie Coma, like so many of its contemporaries, but reviving the life created by its original builder was clearly worth all architect Grzywacz’s effort.

Written by Duo Dickinson

MARGARET FLINT AWARD
For individuals or organizations whose extraordinary support of Historic Preservation deserve recognition.

Karyn M. Gilvarg served as Executive Director of the New Haven City Plan Department for more than 23 years, with integrity, fairness, and encyclopedic knowledge of the City. She was responsible for framing the City’s comprehensive plan and for providing staff support to the City Plan Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Historic District Commission. She advised two Mayors and dozens of City and regional colleagues on details of Federal, State, and local projects that changed the face of the City. In that span of time, Ms. Gilvarg reviewed and made recommendations on approximately 1,500 applications for construction, development, and land-use changes. It is safe to say that since 1994 no one has worked harder or been more successful in maintaining the quality of the built environment of New Haven.

Karyn M. Gilvarg came to New Haven in the early 1970s, just after the Dick Lee era. She earned a Master of Architecture degree from Yale University and then practiced architecture, raised a family, and served the City wisely and well in economic development and city planning.
Evidence of her influence and talent appears all around us, from the high-arching Church Street South Bridge over the railroad tracks connecting downtown and the harbor, to the allied medical facilities filling in the once-vacant Route 34 corridor west of Park Street, to the Farmington Canal Line pedestrian and bicycle path beginning at State Street and stretching north to Cheshire.
Karyn had two stints with the City of New Haven, separated by ten years of private architecture practice. She first worked in the City Plan Department from 1978–80, followed by a more than a year in the City’s Office of Downtown and Harbor Development and two years in the Office of the Development Administrator. She was responsible for managing development initiatives in the downtown area and around the harbor and, later, for establishing city-wide policy and project implementation. Her City positions required liaison work with developers and cooperation with other City officials and State and Federal government agencies. These early years as a City employee became the basis for a brilliant career of public service.
After ten years in private practice, Karyn was called back to public life by Mayor DeStefano in 1994. As Executive Director of the City Plan Department, Karyn filled a head-spinning number of roles. She led the staff support for the City Plan Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Historic District Commission. The Department is the City’s land use planning agency, charged with developing long and short-range plans for the whole City or any part of it. It is also the review agency for inland wetlands projects, coastal area management, and environmental clearances for Federal agencies. Above and beyond her City duties, Karyn represented New Haven at the South Central Regional Council of Governments and the Regional Plan Agency.
Karyn has been a volunteer director of several non-profit agencies including a term as president of the New Haven Preservation Trust in the 1990s. She is a member of the prestigious Historic Preservation Council of the State of Connecticut. She also has direct construction experience, building three passive solar houses in Ireland, Iowa and New Hampshire long before environmentally-friendly domestic architecture became popular.
Karyn’s outstanding tenure as the City’s chief planner will endure in a number of significant plans for current and future development such as Downtown Crossing, the Long Wharf Growth Plan, and the entire Quinnipiac River waterfront. Beyond the hard evidence, however, she will be hard to match for the breadth of her knowledge about the City, her calm and fair demeanor, and her rich sense of humor.
Written by Susan Godshall