New Haven

World Facts Index > United States > New Haven

New Haven and its environs boast Colonial charm, a rich history, and a sophisticated, eclectic mix of arts and entertainment, cultural attractions and gastronomical delights. For a city of its size, New Haven offers some of the most interesting experiences in Connecticut, if not New England.

The first thing most people associate with New Haven is Yale, one of the worlds great universities and alma mater of the last three presidents of the United States (Bush, Clinton and Bush). It has a great presence in the city, and the city of New Haven grew up around the heart of the campus, which is a commanding display of classic colonial and modern gothic architecture. Several world-renowned museums and theatres are located on or near campus, making Yale the cultural bastion for New Haven and all of Connecticut. Although there is much of New Haven that is unrelated to this Ivy League fortress, it is difficult to separate the school from the city. If your time in the New Haven area is limited, a visit to Yale and at least a stroll on campus is a must, and try to squeeze in a visit to the well known a Center for British Art or the Yale University Art Gallery, or a quick peek into any of the libraries: the Sterling Memorial Library, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments. It is an aesthetic treat to visit the campus and an architectural pleasure. Don't miss it.

The Green and Downtown
New Haven was the first planned city in the country, and the New Haven Green was part of the original city plan. The Greens 16 acres are the center of downtown New Haven, as well as bordering the eastern edge of the Yale campus. The Green hosts a variety of local cultural, entertainment and social events during the course of the year. Impressive municipal buildings face the green, as well as three churches: Trinity Episcopal Church, First Congregational Church of Christ (also known locally as the Center Church), and United Congregational Church, all built around 1813, and wonderful examples of Gothic, Federal and Georgian architecture. The New Haven Crypt, a must for history buffs, is located under the Center Church.

The area to the northeast of the green is packed tightly with office building including City Hall, the Hall of Records and the Federal Office Building. City Hall, with its 135-year-old facade, faces the green on Church Street. Next door is the sculptural memorial to the heroes and victims of the Amistad, the countrys only successful slave-led shipboard rebellion, Other buildings of note are the Art Deco SNET (Southern New England Telephone) building on Church and Wall Streets, and the Timothy Bishop House, which is the citys only surviving Federal-style mansion. Around the corner from the Bishop House is where Channel 8 TV has its studio and headquarters, on the corner of State and Elm Streets. The most recent development in the area is the Audubon Arts Center, on Audubon between Whitney and Orange Streets. Here you will find a brick-lined street lined with condominiums, restaurants, stores and the headquarters for the Greater New Haven Arts Council.

To the southeast of the Green is the section of downtown now known as Ninth Square, one of the nine squares that made up New Havens original layout. The area includes sections of Chapel Street, Church Street, George Street and State Street. Although this redeveloping area does not yet have much shopping and dining, some restaurants of note include the Malaysian favorite, Bentara, on Orange Street, and the popular and award winning gay hangout, Gotham Citi Cafe, on Church Street. The New Haven Coliseum, site of numerous sporting events, is close by.

Chapel and College streets bound the south and west sides of the Green, and these two streets are the center of the most vital and lively section of the downtown area. Most of the boutiques and restaurants of note are located in this area, as well as art museums and theatres, all within walking distance of each other. In warm weather, there are street festivals and sidewalk sales; in inclement weather, the numerous bookshops and cafes are cozy places to settle in and read or relax.

Church street runs along the east side of the Green. In its heyday not too long ago, the Church Street South area was the center of shopping in New Haven, with giant Macys and Malleys department stores. Now both buildings stand vacant, and many of the other stores are closed. The Knights of Columbus headquarters, a rather depressing-looking, rust colored, cylindrical building, makes a prominent statement in the Church Street area skyline, jutting into the sky. The most impressive building in this neighborhood is Union Station, opened in 1918. After years of deterioration, it has been restored to its former magnificence. Metro North and Amtrak railroads have depots here, as well as several bus lines.

Long Wharf
The Long Wharf area, on New Haven harbor, is disconnected from the rest of downtown, but nonetheless an integral part of New Haven. There is an industrial area, and a commercial harbor. The Long Wharf Theatre, one of the countrys best-known and most-honored regional theatres, is located here, as is the enormous Sports Haven, offering telecast horse and dog racing. The two main restaurants here are the Rusty Scupper, offering views of Long Island Sound as well as a menu of seafood delights. At Brazis Italian restaurant, near the theatre, patrons can enjoy a meal before or after a show.

Residential neighborhoods
Unfortunately, New Haven was hard hit by the flight to the suburbs that began after World War II, and large parts of the city, especially its residential areas, have been slow to recover and are considered unsafe for outsiders. Even though even New Havens worst neighborhoods are filled with honest, hardworking and friendly people, visitors should use common sense when traveling outside the downtown area. Here is a sampling of New Haven neighborhoods most often frequented by visitors:

East Rock
East Rock looks very similar to the way it did some odd 70 years ago, filled with a variety of homes in different styles and appealing to a variety of income levels. Many Yale graduates, faculty and staff live here, which makes it one of the more safe and stable neighborhoods in New Haven. Residences range from mansions on Whitney Street to multi-family homes on Foster and Nicholl Streets. Nearby East Rock Park offers a fantastic view from its summit.

East Shore
The East Shore neighborhood is probably best known for Lighthouse Park, on the Sound. There is a landmark lighthouse, built in 1840, a beautifully restored carousel, and lovely views. The East Shore neighborhood has a colorful history. On July 5, 1779 the British landed on East Shore, overcame a small, colonial garrison at Black Rock Fort, and marched into New Haven for their one-day occupation of the city. East Shore is home to the Pardee-Morris House, built in 1680 and the survivor of the British Invasion and three centuries of waterfront storms. Another sites worth noting include the Raynham House, built in 1804, and Fort Nathan Hale. Efforts are underway to restore this early-19th-century harbor fortification .

Fair Haven
Fair Haven is another neighborhood on the Sound, and its earliest history is connected to oystering. The first European settlers took up oystering from the native Quinnipiac Indians. Today, because of pollution, oysters harvested here are moved to cleaner waters for several weeks before being served in local restaurants, where they are considered quite safe to eat. Other Fair Haven highlights include the highly regarded New Haven Brewing Company, Fair Haven Woodworks, offering a remarkable collection of hand crafted furniture, and the small Riverside Park along the Quinnipiac River, where some gentrification has begun to occur.

Upper State Street
Upper State Street, running to the northeast of the Green, is one neighborhood that grows more prosperous each year. Over the past two decades, new retail shops, outstanding restaurants, Gennaros Ristorante D'Amalfi, Christopher Martins and J.P Dempseys among them, and professional offices, along with a growing population, have moved into the neighborhood. Coffee shops, pizzerias and cute boutiques are springing up everywhere.

West Hills
The northwest neighborhood of West Hills is mainly comprised of the 625-acre West Rock Ridge State Park, offering beautiful vistas of the city. You can see all of New Haven and, if the air is really clear, all the way to Long Island, 30 miles away across the Sound. West Rock is famous for its Judges Cave, the hideout of three of the men accused of abetting the beheading of King Charles I. There is also a nature center at the park and numerous cemeteries in and around the area.

CityPoint/Oyster Point
Howard Avenue, along the water in Oyster Point, also known as City Point, reminds you of a small fishing village. Many grandiose homes built in the 1880s have been restored to their original beauty. Although there was a period of decay after the neighborhood was cut off from the rest of the city by Interstate 95, this quiet sea-side neighborhood has become one of the more pleasing areas to visit in New Haven. The Inn at Oyster Point is located near the water on one of the quaint streets. At one of the docks at the end of Howard Avenue is the Sage American Bar and Grill, formerly the Chart House, where you can enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the sights and sounds of the harbor. The 90-foot schooner Quinnipiac is docked here.

Prospect Hill
Prospect Hill is the most exclusive and elegant neighborhood in New Haven, close to downtown and home to the Yale Divinity School and the Peabody Museum. The neighborhood, in the northern part of the city, encompassing Science Hill, is also home to several small industries and the Grove Street Cemetery, where tire magnate Charles Goodyear, lexicographer Noah Webster, and inventor Eli Whitney are buried. Mark Twain was to have said that Hillhouse Avenue was the most beautiful street in America, and much of that stately beauty has been preserved, though many of the areas graceful and palatial homes have been acquired by Yale and Albertus Magnus College.

Settlers built homes in Westville, once a separate town to the northwest of downtown, as early as 1640, but it remained fairly underdeveloped until the mid-1800s when it underwent rapid expansion. Westville residents fought long and hard to keep their independence but the town was annexed in 1897 and incorporated into the city in 1923. The Yale Bowl and Connecticut Tennis Center are here, as well as Edgewood Park, a popular spot to shoot hoops, feed the ducks or just hang out and explore the tree lined paths. You might also run into one of the neighborhoods celebrity residents, such as Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, or long-time New Haven mayor Richard Lee. Westville boasts wide streets and elegant houses off Yale Avenue, as well as middle class, multi-family homes. There is a bustling retail sector on Whalley Avenue (named for one of the accused regicides who hid out in Judges Cave in East Park), with dozens of antique stores and upscale boutiques, salons and restaurants, making Westville one of the more popular residential neighborhoods in New Haven.

Wooster Square
Wooster Square was named after the New Haven Revolutionary War hero, David Wooster. It was once a neighborhood of elegant brownstones surrounding the square, but many of the houses were razed for factories and tenements for Irish workers in the mid 19th century. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants replaced the Irish, creating the "Little Italy" we know today, commonly referred to simply as Wooster Street. Wooster Street and Wooster Square engender thoughts of New Havens famous pizzerias, Frank Pepes and Sallys, which vie each year for the title of best-in-the-world pizza. The first pizza in the country was served here, and it is still home to some of the best Italian food around; as such restaurants as Consiglios, Lucibellos, and Tre Scalini. Wooster Street itself is unassuming but, in the summer, the street is alive with festivals and celebrations when locals and everyone else come out to party. It is one of New Havens more lively and colorful neighborhoods.

History of New Haven

Some four hundred years ago, a small tribe of Native Americans, the Quinnipiacks, lived in the area of present day New Haven. They lived along Long Island Sound, catching seafood and local game and growing corn, the staple of their diet.

On April 24, 1638, 500 settlers arrived from England. They were led by Theophilus Eaton, a wealthy merchant, and his boyhood friend, the Rev. John Davenport, a British cleric who had left his pulpit and his country to more freely pursue his Puritanism. The settlers had two dreams: to create a Christian utopia and to establish a thriving commercial center. They thought they had found both when they sailed into New Havens natural harbor, and found a tribe of native Americans willing to sell their land in exchange for protection from raiding bands of Mohawks and Pequots.

The new colony was named Quinnipiac; Eaton became its first governor and Davenport its first pastor. In 1640, they changed the name to New Haven and laid out a town plan with a central green and nine squares, making New Haven the first planned community in the American colonies. By 1641, the growing town had 800 residents.

Boston and New Amsterdam (New York) proved stiff competitors in the contest to be the dominant port on the Atlantic seaboard. In 1646, in a dramatic attempt to build the image of the fledgling port, a large ship filled with local produce set sail from New Haven for England. The crew and vessel were never heard from again, and the disaster ended the dream of seafaring dominance.

One of New Havens most famous landmarks is Judges Cave in West Rock Ridge State Park. Here, in 1661, Davenport hid three of the signers of the death warrant that had led to the beheading of King Charles I of England. Edward Whalley, William Goffe and John Dixwell fled England and the vengeance of King Charles II. Not only did the three survive royal bounty hunters, they live on in the names of three New Haven streets.

Learning and invention
Another of Davenport and Eatons dreams died in 1664, when New Haven relinquished its independence and became part of the Connecticut Colony. But if New Haven took several blows to its ego, other things were happening in these early years that would lead to later glory. One was the relocation of the Collegiate School from Saybrook to New Haven in 1716; it would be renamed Yale two years later in exchange for a donation of books, a portrait of King George I, and assorted goods from wealthy London merchant Elihu Yale. The other portent of grander things to come was the fledgling growth of small workshops as craftsmen took advantage of the areas abundant water power.

By the time the Revolutionary War began, New Haven had a population of around 3,500. The town was raided and sacked by the British on July 5, 1779, but recovered quickly enough to incorporate as a city in 1784. Its first mayor was Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In the 19th century, New Havens small workshops developed into centers of entrepreneurial and technological innovation. This star of this movement was Eli Whitney, a graduate of Yale, the citys other major claim to fame. Whitney is best-remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin, a machine that revolutionized the cotton industry, but he also built the countrys first factory, The Whitney Arms Company, based on principles of mass production. The factory would eventually become the Winchester Arms Company. Winchester and rival Colt would make New Haven one of the worlds centers of small arms manufacture. Other local developments included vulcanized rubber, sulfur matches, and, not to be sniffed at, model trains and erector sets.

By the Civil War, New Haven, with a population of 40,000 had become a center for the manufacture of carriages, rubber goods, clocks, beer, pianos and, of course, weapons.

The Amistad
One of the most famous episodes in the citys history actually began thousands of miles to the south, in Cuba. On June 28, 1839, the Spanish ship Amistad left Havana with 53 Africans who had been kidnapped from their homeland. They were being sent to another part of the island, destined for a lifetime of slavery. Before the Amistad reached its new destination, the Africans, led by Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinque), seized control of the ship and demanded that the surviving crew set sail for Africa, using the sun as their guide. But, at night, the navigator would sail northward, hoping to reach a Southern port where slavery was legal. Instead, the ship entered Long Island Sound and was taken into custody by the U.S. Navy.

The Africans were incarcerated in New Haven, but their cause was taken up by the nations abolitionist movement. At trials in Hartford and New Haven, and eventually before the U.S. Supreme Court, former U.S. president John Quincy Adams argued that the Africans should be set free rather than returned to Cuba. The Africans were finally granted their freedom in February, 1841 and, in March, were sent to live in Farmington, Connecticut, while funds were raised by private benefactors to send them back to Africa. In November, the 37 surviving freed slaves set sail, arriving in what is now Sierra Leone in January, 1842.

The Amistad Memorial, dedicated in 1992, stands at the site in downtown New Haven of the jail in which the slave were held. A reconstruction of the Amistad can be seen at Mystic Seaport, not far from New Haven.

Decline and growth
By the end of the 19th century, New Havens population of 108,000 was 28 percent foreign born. The many thousands of immigrants drawn by the citys burgeoning industries would leave their mark in many significant ways, not the least of which include such landmark eateries as Frank Pepes, which introduced the pizza to America, and Louis' Lunch, home of the countrys first hamburger. After World War I, with the passage of restrictive immigration laws, most newcomers were African Americans from Southern states and Hispanics from Puerto Rico.

After World War II, New Havens economy began a long slow decline, thanks to automobiles and superhighways. Shops and factories followed the mass movement of the middle class to the suburbs. Deprived of their economic base, once thriving neighborhoods turned into slums. In 1957, under eight-term mayor Richard Lee, New Haven launched one of the countrys first attempts at urban renewal, but the forces working against it were too great. The The Shubert Theatre shut down, major chains like Macys and Malleys shuttered their downtown flagships, and several hotels closed, leaving the core of the city barren and depressed.

Revitalization has come slowly. Wooster Square, formerly a slum, is now home to a thriving Little Italy, where hoards of patrons wait in long lines to sample the neighborhoods world-famous pizza. Restaurants and shopping have returned to many other parts of the city. Areas like Science Park, the East Shore, the Harborfront and Upper State Street are being rejuvenated. New Haven now calls itself the "Livable City," and is taking the initiative to restore historic neighborhoods and buildings. The beautiful Shubert is now a performing arts center, there is a new Audubon Arts Center downtown, a new American Hockey League franchise, and a restored Union Station. And, of course, a city could ask for few better anchors than Yale University, alma mater of the nations last three presidents.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 36 38 48 58 70 78 84 82 75 64 54 40
Avg. Low 18 20 28 37 46 56 61 60 54 42 34 24
Mean 28 30 38 48 58 68 74 71 64 54 44 32
Avg. Precip. 3.8 in 3.4 in 4.2 in 4.6 in 4.6 in 4.2 in 4.2 in 3.9 in 4.0 in 3.9 in 4.4 in 4.2 in


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