Phelps Gate

View of Connecticut Hall and Nathan Hale stature from window in Welch HallPhelps. Not just a gate, a gateway.

My first visit to Yale began with a campus tour leaving from Phelps Gate. A few steps through the archway… into a different world. At the end of that short passageway, the Old Campus created a vivid visual and visceral impression of something different. Different from my home. Different, pretty much, from my entire life experience. Palpably different.

A few months later, it was my home. Not just Yale. Not just the Old Campus. 138 Welch Hall, in the first entryway abutting Phelps Gate, with windows facing onto the quad. Each day reinforced the striking initial view from that campus tour, now from the vantage point of a fourth-floor overlook.

What a view. What a sense of connection not only to American history, but to extraordinary aspects of American history. In those days, the statue of Nathan Hale, Yale Class of 1774, faced directly at Welch. Hale’s stoic posture was the first thing I saw from the window every morning, the first thing I saw each time I raced down four well-worn flights of stairs and left the building.

Decades later, a painting on the wall of a colleague’s office instantly brought me back to 1966. Even before noticing the details, I instinctively knew it was the same view that had made such an impression on a skinny 17-year old. The artist had captured almost precisely the perspective my old suite shared. The visual memory was indelible. But the emotional response was altered. Now, I was looking at a familiar vista that felt like home. Walking through that gateway had made a difference. I’d discovered my new haven.

Jerry Ganzfried