The Upper State Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Upper State Street Historic District is located in New Haven, Connecticut, a moderately sized New England industrial city on the northern coast of Long Island Sound approximately thirty-five miles southwest of the mouth of the Connecticut River and one hundred miles northeast of New York City. The Upper State Street Historic District includes ninety-one major structures on twenty-three acres of land lying two-thirds of a mile northeast of the New Haven Green. Eighty-five of these ninety-one major structures were erected between 1848 and 1945 and contribute to the Upper State Street Historic District's historical and/or architectural significance; better than eighty percent of these contributing structures are first-generation buildings built between 1865 and 1900, the heyday of the district's development as one of New Haven's more important and bustling neighborhood commercial centers.
In terms of physical arrangement, the Upper State Street Historic District features a basically linear form. Its principal thoroughfare is upper State Street, which bisects the district as it runs its course from the Interstate 91/Trumbull Street interchange northeast to its junction with the Interstate 91 Mill River overpass. The extreme ends of those side streets which intersect upper State Street also fall within the district's boundaries. These streets include: Bradley, Eld, Pearl, Clark, Humphrey, Bishop, Edwards, Lawrence, Mechanic, Mill River, East, Beech and Wallace Streets.
From the southern to the northern boundaries of the Upper State Street Historic 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 nineteenth and twentieth century landfill projects.
For the most part, the basic outlines of the Upper State Street Historic District's boundaries were delineated on the basis of those 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 small, 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, this highway rises approximately twenty-five feet above the surrounding landscape, forming a highly prominent visual and physical barrier along the district's eastern and southern perimeters. These basic outlines were then adjusted through the application of the criterion of thematic unity in order to exclude vacant and non-contributing properties located on the edges of the District, such as the Mobile Gas Station on the southwestern corner of State and Humphrey Streets, and the land along the block between Wallace and Humphrey Streets on the eastern side of State Street.
The Upper State Street Historic District's architectural character is defined by its broad juxtaposition of building types and styles, a juxtaposition common to local neighborhood commercial centers which developed and prospered during the second half of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. 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 Upper State Street Historic District's structures stand as parts of substanially intact, late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century first-generation streetscapes. Most buildings range from two and one-half to three and one-half stories high, and are constructed close to both the street and each other on narrow, deep lots divided into small blocks by the intersecting side streets. 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. In conjunction with the interplay of colors and textures fostered by the varied use of brick, cut stone, and painted wood (the district's dominant building materials), this arrangement creates blocks which are individually distinct, yet visually related and cohesive when considered in the larger context of the streetscapes as a whole. The most outstanding of these blocks include: those on the southeastern side of State Street between East and Wallace Streets and south of Humphrey Street, and those on the northwestern side of State Street between Edwards Street and Mine Place, Hine Place and Bishop Street, Pearl and Eld Streets, and Eld and Bradley Streets. Another particularly notable group of structures is located near the northern end of the district on those portions of Mechanic, Lawrence and State Streets which flank the city's smallest park, the Veterans Triangle.
The Upper State Street Historic District maintains a relatively high degree of architectural integrity. A high proportion 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 to the superimposition of later siding materials, such as asphalt and asbestos shingles over original clapboards (frame buildings) or modifications to signage and first-story commercial fronts. Many modified storefronts retain significant proportions of their original fabric; in a number of cases, existing storefront modifications were executed prior to the 1940's and now form an integral part of the building's historic fabric. Particularly notable examples of this include the two Italianate style frame houses constructed by joiner Samuel Linsley ca.1868 at 972 and 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 program. However, the Upper State Street Historic District's boundaries have been drawn to exclude these now vacant 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 Upper State Street Historic District is the most intact and cohesive example of the type of outlying commercial districts which developed in response to the tremendous expansion of residential neighborhoods that accompanied New Haven's growth as a major industrial center during the second half of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Unlike similar commercial districts which developed during this same period along major thoroughfares such as Grand Avenue in the Wooster Square and Fair Haven districts and Dixwell Avenue in the Dixwell district of the city, the Upper State Street Historic District retains a broad admixture of first-generation buildings whose types and styles are commonly associated with such areas. These include a number of individually distinct as well as modest representatives of major urban architectural modes of the era.
Historical and Architectural Development
Upper State Street was one of the first "highways" laid out by New Haven's early inhabitants outside of the city's original nine-square settlement area; though not known as "State Street" until the 1850s, it has existed in some form since the late-1630s. The street's initial purpose was to provide the settlement's inhabitants with a common access route to the low-lying meadows along the upper reaches of the Mill River, meadows which provided an important natural source of fodder and pasturage for their livestock. With the construction of the first Neck Bridge at the junction of State Street and the Mill River about 1641, the importance of the road increased significantly; it provided the only bridge route to "The Neck" (now known as Fair Haven), a role which remained unchanged until the construction of the first Barnesville Bridge at the junction of Grand Avenue and the Mill River in 1819.
Despite the fact that upper State Street continued to be an important and relatively heavily-trafficked thoroughfare well into the first half of the nineteenth century, its semi-rural seventeenth and eighteenth century character as an unsettled access corridor to Fair Haven and the outlying towns to the north and east remained basically static until the 1850s. However, between the 1850s and 1890s, this character underwent a gradual but thorough transformation; by the end of this period, the area had become established as one of New Haven's most active and burgeoning neighborhood commercial centers. This transformation can be viewed essentially as a by-product of the development of the Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street residential districts which resulted, in turn, from the growth of New Haven into one of New England's foremost nineteenth century industrial cities.
Like many New England coastal communities possessing good natural harbors, New Haven emerged from the first quarter of the nineteenth century as an important port with an established, mercantile-based commercial economy. However, between 1830 and 1850, the principal focus of the city's economy shifted from mercantilism to manufacturing. Aided by advances in technology, such as the introduction of the railroad and the proliferation of both the number and types of mass production machinery, many of the small, semi-traditionally organized local carriage, gun, clock, and other hardgood producing shops of the 1820s had become medium-size factories utilizing modern methods of production and distribution. By the early 1850s, New Haven boasted over 150 of these factories employing several thousand workers.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw the full flowering of New Haven as a major manufacturing-based commercial and transportation locus. From 1850 to 1900, the number of factories in the city more than quadrupled. The scale of many factories also increased significantly. Huge new industrial complexes employing as many as a thousand workers apiece were constructed for a number of the most successful firms, such as Sargent and Company (hardware), the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (firearms), and the Strouse-Adler Company (corsets). New industries, including piano and rubber goods manufacturing, emerged and prospered along with the city's more established carriage, firearms, clock and hardware companies. The local railroad system, which had initially developed as an intricate web of private lines all converging at New Haven, was consolidated under the single, large corporate umbrella known as the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. Under the auspices of this corporation, which maintained its headquarters in New Haven, extensive terminal and storage facilities were constructed along Water Street adjacent to the harborfront.
New Haven's emergence and continuing development as one of the region's principal industrial centers sparked a dramatic and ever-accelerating growth in the number of its inhabitants. Between 1830 and 1900, the city's population increased more than tenfold (10,000 to 108,000). In response to the tremendous pressure which this population explosion brought to bear on housing, new residential neighborhoods developed. From the 1830s through the 1850s, virtually all of these new neighborhoods took distinct form in and immediately around the industrial districts which had arisen along the eastern, western, and northern perimeters of the city's early-nineteenth century urban core; these are the districts known today as Wooster Square, Dwight Street, and lower Orange Street. However, as the pace of New Haven's population growth continued to increase, these early neighborhoods quickly became densely built-up. By the early 1860s, newer and more outlying residential neighborhoods had begun to develop in adjacent, semi-rural areas, where a number of foresighted local builders and real estate speculators had acquired and subdivided vast tracts of former farmland into small building lots during the preceeding decades. Among the most significant of these new residential neighborhoods were the Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street districts.
Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street were two of the largest residential neighborhoods to develop in New Haven during the second half of the nineteenth century. Abutting the northern end of the Wooster Square district, the Jocelyn Square area included the bulk of the land lying north of Grand Avenue between the Upper State Street Historic District-and the Mill River; the upper Orange Street area included all of the land between the district and Orange Street from Eld Street north to Willow Street. Like the district itself, for much of the first half of the nineteenth century these areas formed part of the extensive farm holdings of Abraham Bishop, one of New Haven's most prominent gentleman farmers and business and civic leaders of the period.
During the late 1830s and 1840s, Bishop's Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street holdings were acquired by a number of local real estate speculators, who laid out a myriad of new streets and subdivided the land into small building lots for later re-sale and development as housing sites. Land records, city directories, and nineteenth century maps indicate that by the end of the 1850s, an extensive amount of residential construction had already taken place in the southern portions of both areas. As the pace of the city's population growth continued to quicken through the 1870s, the housing density in these new neighborhoods also rapidly increased, pushing further and further northward away from the city's commercial and manufacturing core. This pattern of physical growth was to have a profound effect on both the character and rate of development in the upper State Street area during the final third of the nineteenth century.
Although speculators had also acquired and subdivided the land in the upper State Street area by the latter half of the 1840s, only a handful of buildings were built in this district prior to 1865. With the exception of Saint John's Episcopal Church, which had been built on the northwestern corner of State and Eld Streets during the 1850s (no longer extant), this construction was strictly residential. It consisted of the small Greek Revival style houses erected for "shipmaster" Nathaniel Knowles and "chisler" Patrick Cooney at 795 and 813 State Street, the three small Second Empire style houses built by local real estate developer Benjamin Broomhead at 842, 846, and 850 State Street, and roughly a half-dozen small houses scattered along the southeastern side of State Street between Humphrey and Wallace Streets and above Mill River Street(no longer extant).
The pace of development in the upper State Street area continued to be gradual through the early 1870s. During this period, local grocer William Geary had the relatively plain and modest Italianate style building at 852-58 State Street constructed. Despite this building's residential scale and form, it proved to be the first structure in the area which was specifically designed for mixed commercial-residential use — city directories indicate that Geary ran his business from the first story and lived in the upper stories. The New Haven Pipe Company bought a small lot just south of the southwestern corner of State Street and Hine Place from speculator William Atwater in 1867; here the firm built a modest frame factory (no longer extant). During 1867 and 1868, the Waterproof Sole Company erected a 70 by 100 foot brick factory just below the southeastern corner of State and Humphrey Streets (no longer extant). In retrospect, all three of these structures were particularly significant, for they foreshadowed the type of development which was to dominate the upper State Street area during the ensuing decades. Nevertheless, development in the area continued to be dominated by residential construction during these early post-Civil War years. Sidney Mason Stone, one of New Haven's best known early and mid-nineteenth century builder/architects and real estate developers, erected four frame houses in the block encompassed by East, Wallace, Beech and State Streets (597 and 599 East Street, 67 Beech Street, and 987-91 State Street. Speculators David Thompson and Henry Andruss built the small Italianate style frame house at 13 Edwards Street, while local joiner Samuel Linsley constructed the two Italianate style frame houses which now form the rear wings of 972 and 974-76 State Street. Three other dwellings had also been built along the southeastern side of State Street between Wallace and Humphrey Streets by 1872 (no longer extant).
If one were able to look at a map of the upper State Street area in 1872, it would appear as if the area was developing principally as a late nineteenth century residential bridge between the more established and densely settled Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street neighborhoods. However, during the final third of the nineteenth century, residential construction in the upper State Street district became heavily overshadowed by mixed commercial-residential and light industrial development; it was during this period that the area emerged as the principal commercial axis of this portion of the city.
The reasons for the shift in the character of upper State Street's development around 1870 are complex and perhaps still not fully understood. However, several factors working in concert clearly contributed to this shift. First, even by the early 1870s, most of the land in the area remained available for initial development. Second, land records indicate that speculators generally charged a higher per-acre price for land here than in the adjacent Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street neighborhoods. It may well be that these speculators recognized the future potential for commercial development of upper State Street and were consciously attempting to foster this development as a means of maximizing profits; even in the nineteenth century, local merchants and shopkeepers were often willing to pay more for land where they wanted to establish businesses. Last and most important, upper State Street maintained an ideal central location between two of the city's fastest growing, outlying residential neighborhoods. As more and more people began to move into Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street, particularly the northern portions, there was an ever increasing demand for a more readily available "neighborhood" commercial district which could supply them with everyday necessities, such as meats, produce, baked goods, and liquor. Even though the advent of the horsecar railway during the 1860s greatly improved the accessibility of downtown New Haven, people preferred the convenience afforded by nearby markets, shops and saloons.
The numerous merchants and shopkeepers who gradually established themselves in the upper State Street area during the final decades of the nineteenth century provide an important manifestation of the area's close ties to its flanking neighborhoods. City directories indicate that a majority of these businessmen either moved their residences here from Jocelyn Square or upper Orange Street or continued to live nearby in one of these two areas. For example, Thomas Clerkin, a local sash and blind maker who had 892-94 State Street erected in 1874 for use as his shop and residence, formerly lived on Humphrey Street. In 1885, saloon keeper Hermann Armbruster moved from Franklin Street into the upper stories of the building which he had erected to house his business at 969-71 State Street earlier that year. Peter Landroth, a shoe dealer, moved his residence and business to 962-64 State Street from Lawrence Street in 1895. Following the construction of 938-40 State Street in 1895, Thomas Kilbride and his wife Mary opened a small meat market in the building's first story while continuing to live several blocks away on Wallace Street.
As the size of the populations living in the Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street neighborhoods continued to expand during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, physical and economic development in the upper State Street area became extensive. During this period, the number of structures standing in the upper State Street area more than tripled. The designs of virtually all of these new structures incorporated the popular urban building forms and styles of their day. Most of the buildings erected along State Street south of Lawrence Street featured the row building form. Buildings dating from the mid-l870s through the mid-l880s are generally constructed of brick and reflect the influence of the Italianate urban commercial style. Particularly good examples of buildings of this type include the Elijah Palmer Building at 860-64 State Street, the Hermann Armbruster Building at 969-71 State Street, and the Michael Hessler Building at 896-98 State Street. Many of the buildings erected in the district between the mid-l880s and the mid-l890s were built in the transitional late Italianate-Queen Anne commercial style, such as the Henry S. Johnson Building at 816-20 State Street and 410 Pearl Street, and the John Dornheimer Building at 978-80 State Street. During the 1890s, fullfledged Queen Anne and Romanesque style structures also began to appear in the upper State Street area. In 1893, local brewers' agent Joseph Gilch had the apartment building at 8 Mechanic Street erected. Gilch moved into the building from the Romanesque style structure which he had built at 1013-17 State Street to house his business and residence in 1891. The Queen Anne style William Costello Building at 1010-12 State Street also dates from the 1890s.
Though a high proportion of the commercial-residential structures constructed in the area during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s were built of brick, a number of wood frame structures were also erected. Included among this group are the Karl Preuss Building at 317-19 Wallace Street, a prominent Italianate style corner building where Preuss lived and ran a tailoring business, the building erected for Peter Landroth at 962-64 State Street, and the two buildings erected for local merchant John Shuster at 991-and 993 State Street. However, the finest example of late-nineteenth century commercial frame architecture erected in the upper State Street area prior to the turn of the twentieth century is the Queen Anne style Mary A. Kilbride Building at 938-40 State Street.
While the physical development of upper State Street during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was dominated by commercial-residential architecture, a few light-industrial structures were erected near the northern end of the district during the 1880s. These buildings include the large complex erected for Thomas Forsyth's Elm City Dye Works and Laundry at the intersection formed by State, Mechanic, and Lawrence Streets, and the small brick factory erected for hardware machine manufacturer John Adt at 1041-51 State Street.
Some wholly residential development also took place on a sporadic basis during this period. In the southern end of the district along the southeastern side of State Street, developer John Brill erected two small and one large Queen Anne style frame houses at 815, 817, and 819 State Street. Milton J. Stewart built a row of twelve, small tenant houses along the northern side of State Street just south of the Mill River bridge in 1881 on land which the City of New Haven had given him as compensation for its assumption of title to the land which now forms East Rock Park. Later known as the "Dirty Dozen," a referrence to Stewart's reluctance to properly maintain these houses, the entire group was condemned and demolished in 1915. Several of the houses erected in the area during the late-nineteenth century were built for those who ran nearby businesses. Notable examples of this include the Thomas and Rose Maher House at 605 East Street in 1888 and the William H. Doolittle House at 806-08 State Street. The Mahers ran a saloon in the building next door to their house (607 East Street), while Doolittle opened a branch office for his "stage line" business in his house.
By the early 1900s, the upper State Street area had become firmly established as one of New Haven's most bustling and prosperous, as well as densely built-up outlying neighborhood commercial districts. The area boasted well over sixty-five small businesses, including nine grocery markets, eight saloons, seven shoe stores and shoe repair shops, seven confectionaries, four barber shops, four drygoods stores, three bakeries, three drugstores, three tailors' shops, two dressmakers' shops, and two delicatessans, as well as a jewelry store, a clothing store, a print shop, a fish market, a cigar and tobacco store, a photography studio, an eyeglasses shop, a tin smithy, a variety store, a stove brick store, a coal dealer, and a milk dealer.
From an architectural and economic standpoint, the years between the early-1900s and World War II were primarily years of consolidation and stabilization in the upper State Street district. With the exception of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, a late Gothic Revival style brick structure erected at 855 State Street (south) in late 1904 and early 1905, the few remaining open sites in the district were filled in by new commercial-residential structures. Several of the pre-l870 buildings along the street were demolished and replaced by more "up-to-date" structures, while a number of the houses which had been built in the district in the 1860s and 1870s were substantially modified for mixed commercial-residential use.
The most architecturally significant of the new in-fill structures built on the few remaining undeveloped sites in the Upper State Street Historic District during the early-twentieth century is the George Ratner building on the northwestern corner of State and Edwards Streets. Designed by the prominent New Haven architectural firm Brown and Von Beren, this building is particularly notable for the tapestry-like detailing found on the exterior brick wall faces. This type of exterior detailing is often found on many of the brick commercial, industrial, and institutional structures designed by this firm and erected in New Haven during this period.
One of the most important structures built on a redeveloped site during these years is the Hygenic Ice Company factory on the southwestern corner of State and Humphrey Streets. This large, brick industrial complex replaced the factory building erected here in 1867-68 for the Waterproof Sole Company. Like the Ratner Building, this structure features tapestry-like brick detailing on its exterior walls, suggesting that it may have also been designed by Brown and Von Beren. However, it is also possible that this building was designed by Leoni W. Robinson, another of New Haven's foremost early-twentieth century architects, who designed the small brick office building next door to this factory for the Hygenic Ice Company several years earlier.
The two most significant examples of earlier houses which were converted for partial commercial use are 972 and 974-76 State Street. The rear wings of these two buildings consist of Italianate style houses built by joiner Samuel Linsley during the late 1860s; in 1929, both of these houses had major brick commercial style wings superimposed over their original front elevations. Other examples of this conversion of older houses include the two Second Empire style houses built by Benjamin Broomhead at 842 and 850 State Street in the 1850s and 1860s, where small, single story commercial fronts had been added by the early 1930s.
While the basic architectural and economic character of the upper State Street district changed relatively little during the first half of the twentieth century, the social character of the area changed fairly dramatically. Prior to 1900, the ethnic makeup of the upper State Street, Jocelyn Square and upper Orange Street districts was overwhelmingly dominated by people of "Yankee", Irish, and German backgrounds.
"But then the ethnic composition of the population began to change, especially during the 1920s. The popularization of the automobile during the 1920s meant that people had increased mobility beyond anything known before. The increased mobility allowed some of the more affluent members of these neighborhoods to escape to less congested areas of the city or to suburban towns. (Many continued to shop on State Street because shopping facilities in suburban areas at that time were frequently inadequate.) As these persons, usually of Irish, [German], and Yankee stock withdrew, new residents arrived. They tended to be Italian-Americans or Polish-Americans."
As Thomas Farnham further suggests in Upper State Street, most of the in-migration of Italian-Americans to these areas during this period appears to have originated from New Haven's Wooster Square industrial district. (By the first few decades of the twentieth century, Wooster, Square had emerged as the city's principal Italian-American enclave.) The major source of new Polish-American residents was the James and Ferry Street area of Fair Haven.
Among the most important stimuli accounting for the extensive influx of these two ethnic groups into the area were the construction of Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church (Italian) on Edwards Street slightly northwest of the upper State Street district, and the construction of Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church (Polish) at 790 State Street. A particularly fine example of early twentieth century Romanesque style religious architecture currently standing in New Haven, Saint Stanislaus Church was completed in 1913 on the former site of Saint John's Episcopal Church at the northwestern corner of State and Eld Streets. "The establishment of the church eventually brought more than a thousand Polish families to the neighborhood." Both the extent and rapidity of this in-migration of Poles to the area were evidenced by the construction of the large Saint Stanislaus School built on the lot abutting the northern side of the Church property in 1923.
As in many of the state's urban commercial districts, the years immediately following World War II proved to be years of physical and economic decline in the upper State Street district. The increasing use of the automobile and the subsequent urban traffic congestion which this caused, the accelerated out-migration of a substantial portion of the city's middle and upper income population to the suburbs, and the rapid growth of suburban shopping centers and supermarkets all contributed to the relatively rapid deterioration of the area.
"As old residents left, traditional shopping patterns changed. Supermarkets came into their own, attracting shoppers away from independent meat markets, bakeries, and produce dealers. Many [upper] State Street merchants could no longer survive. Stores were now standing vacant for longer and longer periods between tenants, and when they were occupied, they were often taken by a new kind of tenant, not one who provided for the neighborhood population... but rather one that catered to the mobile population that passed through [upper] State Street coming to or going from the center of New Haven. Antique and second-hand dealers in particular came to [upper] State Street, many of them forced to leave the Oak Street area because of the urban renewal going on there."
Although the upper State Street district was not included as part of New Haven's initial post-World War II Short Approach Plan (urban redevelopment and renewal), it was nonetheless greatly effected by two of the principal elements called for in this plan. The first of these was the demolition of the entire southern half of the Jocelyn Square residential district in preparation for the creation of a wholly new industrial park encompassing this area and the eastern portion of the Wooster Square district. The second of these two elements was the construction of Interstate 91.
Interstate 91 was built as part of an overall traffic planning scheme designed to make it more convenient for the greater New Haven area's burgeoning suburban population to reach the city's core downtown commercial district. It was intended, at least in part, to allow suburban shoppers to bypass the now congested major urban thoroughfares leading into the city from its hinterland to the north and northeast, particularly upper State Street. Unfortunately, the highway accomplished this purpose all too well; as the traffic flow continued to decrease along upper State Street so too did the area's ability to attract and sustain a viable merchant community. The construction of this highway had another detrimental effect as well. Aligned on a course roughly parallel to and slightly east of upper State Street, the highway's construction forced the closing off of most of the streets which extended east and southeast from upper State Street into the remaining portion of the Jocelyn Square neighborhood. In short, built to benefit downtown New Haven's renewal efforts, the construction of Interstate 91 served to hasten an already deteriorating situation along upper State Street.
By the mid-1960s, the growing plight of upper State Street had been officially recognized by the city of New Haven. The area was included as a target district for future renewal and revitalization under the city's 1968 State Street Redevelopment and Renewal Plan. However, the progress called for in this plan remained extremely slow throughout most of the 1970s, limited primarily to the city's acquisition of the lots slated for reuse along both sides of State Street just north of Humphrey Street, and the demolition of the severely deteriorated late-nineteenth century buildings on these sites. In the late 1970s, the city began to review its overall renewal plans for the area. About this same time, a group of residents, merchants, and property owners from the district and its surrounding neighborhoods, concerned about the increasing physical deterioration of the neighborhood and high crime and vandalism rates, as well as the slow progress of revitalization efforts, banded together to form the Upper State Street Association. The city and the Association then formed what is best described as a partnership — new concept in development — to bring about the rebuilding of the street.
"Mayor Biagio Dilieto, in March 1980, cited an 'overwhelming level of commitment' to the restoration of their area by the residents and merchants in announcing the designation of upper State Street as the city's first district in the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Program. The program required that a majority of store owners and landlords redevelop their buildings according to strict design standards and that the city, for its part, improve the streets and sidewalks and give direct grants to the program's participants."
With the advent of this revitilazition program has come a dramatic improvement in physical conditions throughout the Upper State Street Historic District. Over eight of the Upper State Street Historic District's buildings which had been either severely vandalized or burned-out in recent years have already been rehabilitated, and rehabilitation is currently  underway or in the planning stages for an additional six area structures. The City of New Haven completed improvements to the streets and parking areas in 1983, and new architecturally compatible structures are either in the progess of construction or planned for the future, with a eye toward filling the existing gaps along upper State Street to bolster the street's rythmic architectural continuity, This rehabilitation has sparked a dramatic economic rebirth of the area, as more and more new merchants and shopkeepers continue to move into the increasing number of rehabilitated historic buildings.
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Loether, Paul and Dorothea Penar. New Haven Historic Resources Inventory, Phase III. New Haven: The New Haven Preservation Trust, 1983.
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Maps and Atlases
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‡ J. Paul Loether, New Haven Preservation Trust and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Upper State Street Historic District, New Haven, CT, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Beech Street • East Street • Edwards Street • Eld Street • Lawrence Street • Mechanic Street • Mill River Street • State Street • Wallace Street