One of my earliest quests was to find a place to study with minimal distraction. My room in Bingham was out for obvious reasons. The small seminar rooms in Connecticut Hall offered some seclusion, but the wooden chairs had a brace that jabbed you in the back, and you never knew when some other guy(s) would come in and disturb your peace. You could go to L and B in Sterling Library, but the room’s comfy chairs and heating and ventilation anomalies often induced drowsiness until, inevitably, the bizarre behavior of some fellow denizen jolted you awake.
Toward the end of our first year I discovered the perfect spot. Somehow, while aimlessly exploring Woolsey Hall one day, I came across a place called the President’s Room. The door was unlocked and I peeked in. It was handsomely appointed and held a substantial conference table surrounded by cushioned chairs that didn’t jab you anywhere. I had found my lair. Repairing there several times over the next few weeks, I studied for exams and wrote term papers in splendid solitude, as I brought my freshman year to a close.
As sophomore year began, I was back at the room within a week. But the door was locked; indeed, I never found it unlocked again. I understand that you can now rent the space for events for a hefty fee, but I shall always remember the President’s Room as my sumptuous, if momentary, personal scholar’s cell.
– Chuck Calhoun
The Commons, especially in the early morning, has always been a draw for me. I arrived at Yale from a West Coast public high school and was a bursary student working the breakfast shift in the Commons several days a week during freshman year. In the stillness of the early morning, the lights of the hall, the vaulted ceilings, and the deeply varnished wood throughout offered a warm welcome as night turned to dawn. Although the Commons was mostly deserted at that hour, it was always brimming with anticipation and opportunity, and—important to a young man far from home—the memories it held of the storied students who went before.
– Doug Young
I have always been fascinated by places that evoke memories of great deeds and watershed events of the past. I came from Seattle, a relatively new city where few buildings were more than 75 years old, and colonial style buildings were rare. One of the reasons I came to Yale was to live in a region where buildings and places instrumental to our colonial past could be experienced firsthand.
Imagine my delight to find such a place a stone’s throw away from my freshman room in Welch Hall. My Introduction to Philosophy discussion section met on the second floor of Connecticut Hall. One day after classes were finished for the day, as I took a break from reading Plato’s Apology, I noticed a plaque on the wall that said Nathan Hale had resided in this room. How cool was that for a kid from the Pacific Northwest to sit and study in a Revolutionary War hero’s room! Maybe he read Apology there as well, though he would have read it in Greek, not in English as we did. I tried to imagine how he had lived there: where were his bed, washstand and writing table? Who was his roommate? Looking out the window, I imagined his unobstructed view across College Street to the New Haven Green, since his dorm, then known as New College, along with First Chapel and College House were the only significant buildings on the campus in the early 1770’s.
I imagined Connecticut Hall must have always looked as it does today: a colonial style, four-story, gambrel-roofed brick structure with beautifully proportioned sash windows and doors and a row of dormer windows above the steep-pitched lower roof. I later learned that it had gone through numerous changes since Nathan Hale’s time, including the addition of a fourth story with a Federal Style roofline that lasted through the 19th century, restoration of the Gambrel roof in 1905, and a complete interior renovation shortly before we came to Yale. Even the name had been changed twice. It was alternately loved and hated by students, faculty and architects. More than once it had been slated for demolition, only to be saved by dedicated alumni and historic building preservationists.
I loved Connecticut Hall for its unpretentious elegance, and for its links to the early years of the New Haven campus and to the heroic days of America’s past. My interest in history led to my eventually getting a BA in the subject, and to a lifelong love of traveling to historic places and reading about the past. My time spent in Connecticut Hall, and the sense of the continuity of the human story that those hours aroused in me, helped to guide me along that path.
– Bruce Miller
The features of the Yale Campus which stand out in memory are the stone carvings of human figures, various creatures and assorted grotesques on the corners, capitals and faux buttresses of the Gothic buildings. The Law School in particular had a rich trove of them. I remember one of a policeman clubbing a criminal, a tribute to the more vigorous, less legalistic enforcement of the law in centuries past.
On Saturday mornings in the fall I would take that weekend’s date on a tour of the carvings. They never failed to occupy pleasurably the slow time between breakfast and the afternoon’s football game.
– Jay Clasgens
The Robert Taft Library, housed in the old Weir Hall (1912) which was later incorporated into JE in 1965. This hideaway of a library was my place of study, contemplation, escape and a not so occasional nap. Windows overlooked the old sculpture garden of the Art Gallery; day dreaming was easy, especially gazing at the seldom used garden in Spring.
– George Lowe
The TV Room housed in a small square building off the JE courtyard was the place to gather nightly after dinner to watch Walter Cronkite deliver the sad and bad news from Vietnam and to glimpse a feared slice of our immediate future. At last visit (2010) this little building was used for storage for JE maintenance and gardening crew.
– George Lowe
One place critical to my Yale experience is Woolsey Hall. I was overwhelmed while sitting in attendance there during the welcoming speech by Kingman Brewster. Like many of us, I wondered what I was doing there. Could I possibly succeed or be accepted? As a member of the Yale Glee Club, I felt the majesty of the hall. I remember concerts surrounded by gorgeous music and architectural beauty.
– Fred Edelman
“The Lipstick,” a modern sculpture perpetrated by Claes Oldenburg, appeared unannounced one day in 1969 just outside Commons on Beinecke Plaza. I remember the assault of architectural contrasts, all in my one eyeful, of the Beinecke Library, Commons, Woodbridge Hall, and the Law School (neo-Gothic or something like that), then suddenly the pleasant shock of The Lipstick. The contrast was jarring and delightful, and repeated every day. I remember thinking that if Yale could accommodate styles from over 1000 years past, and now the simple forms of everyday life, that was somehow educational and worthwhile. Having thought through these profundities, then of course I went on to what was really important – the nature of the next meal at Commons.
– Bob Nath
The New Haven Railroad had a single-track line that ran through the campus, on its way to Northampton, Massachusetts. The line was built on the towpath of the abandoned Farmington Canal, which I believe was constructed to bypass rapids on the Connecticut River above Hartford. By the late 1960’s, the rail line was seeing very little traffic or may have been abandoned altogether, although I recall that the rails were still in place. I used to find walking along the old, overgrown towpath very calming in the midst of the urban noise and congestion of New Haven. I’m told that it is now a very popular rail-trail, although I do not believe that the sections along the Yale Campus were saved. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.
– Paul Ceruzzi
I was physics major first, then a math major, and then an early participant in Yale’s Five Year B.A. international Program. After returning from a year in Ethiopia, I resumed my studies of math, but without much enthusiasm. Then one day I wandered into the Peabody Museum on Whitney Avenue. Inspired by archeological and cultural richness of the Peabody, impressed by the affability of the anthropology professors, and deeply imbued by my experiences in Ethiopia, I readily changed my major to anthropology. Over the next year and a half I returned to the Peabody Museum on many occasions and to the life-changing inspiration it provided.
– Phil Thorn