National Register Historic District
Upper State Street
The Upper State Street Historic District includes 91 major buildings on 23 acres of land lying two-thirds of a mile northeast of the New Haven Green. Eighty-five of these 91 major structures were erected between 1848 and 1945 and contribute to the district’s historical or architectural significance; more than 80% of these contributing structures were built between 1865 and 1900, the heyday of the district’s development as one of New Haven’s bustling neighborhood commercial centers.
The boundaries of the district run along State Street, between Bradley Street and Mill River Street. From the southern to the northern end of the district, the natural landscape rises approximately ten feet toward the north and west in the form of an inclined plane. At the extreme northeastern corner of the district, the landscape gradually begins to drop off toward the former meadows and marshes along the western bank of the Mill River, most of which were substantially raised as a result of late 19th-and 20th-century landfill projects.
The district was delineated on the basis of the physical characteristics, which visually distinguish it from the surrounding portions of the city. The western and northern perimeters of the district are bordered by an extensive expanse of relatively level land dominated by several hundred modest frame houses erected between 1840 and 1900. The single most-dominant physical feature associated with the district’s boundaries is Interstate 91. Constructed through this portion of the city in conjunction with New Haven’s “Model City” urban renewal and redevelopment program of the 1950s and 1960s, the highway rises approximately 25 feet above the surrounding landscape, forming a barrier along the district’s eastern and southern perimeters.
The Upper State Street Historic District’s architectural character is defined by a broad range of building types and styles, similar to other local neighborhood commercial centers which developed and prospered during the second half of the 19th century. Building types represented include mixed commercial-residential, light industrial, religious, educational and residential; architectural styles include various interpretations and combinations of Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Gothic Revival, and Classical Revival.
The vast majority of the district’s buildings stand as parts of substantially intact, late-19th and early 20th century streetscapes. Most buildings range from two and a half- to three and a half-stories in height, and are constructed close to the street and each other on narrow, deep lots divided into small blocks. The corners of these blocks are generally anchored by prominent commercial-residential, light industrial or religious structures, while intervening sections display differing combinations of building types and styles.
The district maintains a relatively high degree of architectural integrity. Many of the buildings retain the bulk of their original exterior features, including such trim details as terra-cotta, prominent bracketed cornices and frieze panels in wood and pressed-metal, and decorative window trim and string courses. Alterations to most structures are generally limited later siding materials, such as asphalt and asbestos shingles over original clapboards, or modifications to signage and first-story commercial fronts. Many modified storefronts retain much of their original fabric. Particularly notable examples of this include the two Italianate style frame houses constructed by joiner Samuel Linsley (c. 1868) at 974-76 State Street; both of these houses had major brick storefront wings added to their facades in 1929.
The area has suffered some losses from demolition, particularly along the southeastern side of State Street between Wallace and Humphrey Streets, where a large brick sausage factory and several commercial and residential structures were torn down as part of the city’s 1968 State Street redevelopment lots. The only other major post-World War II change in the area’s character is a direct result of the construction of Interstate 91. When this highway was built in the 1960s, most of the side streets which had extended outward from the southeastern side of State Street into the extensive Jocelyn Square residential neighborhood were cut off or completely eliminated. These streets included Bradley, Summer, Franklin, Wallace, Beech, and Mill River Streets. (Note: The northwestern end of Summer Street formerly intersected State Street between 843 and 855 State Street; Franklin Street formerly intersected state Street at the southeastern corner of Humphrey Street.) Today, the small houses along Mill River, East Beech, and the southeastern side of State Street across from Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church are the only significant vestiges of the district’s historic relationship with the Jocelyn Square area.
The district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 7, 1984.