Historic Structures

New Haven City Hall and Courthouse, New Haven Connecticut

Date added: January 31, 2011 Categories: Connecticut Courthouse Gothic Revival

The Courts were all held in the State House until in April 1861, Messrs. Alfred Blackman, John S. Beach, Charles R. Ingersoll, Norton J. Buel, Dexter R. Wright, and William B. Wooster, were appointed a committee of the bar to consider the expedience of removing the courts to the new City Hall, then nearly completed. Messrs. Wright and Wooster being absent, and Mr. Buel declining to act, the plans were prepared by the first three named, acting with the County Commissioners, Messrs. Edward Parker, A. E. Rice and Charles Ball, and at the December terra, 1862, the rooms were occupied.

The Superior Court continued to occupy the rooms in the City Hall at an annual rental of $500. On the 30th of Nov., 1870, the County Commissioners having been notified that their lease, expiring May 1, 1872, would not be renewed, the bar appointed Messrs. Alfred Blackman, Dexter R. Wright, Arthur D. Osbome, John S. Beach and Luzon B. Morris, a committee to confer with the County Commissioners on the subject of providing other accommodations for the courts.

This committee met the County Commissioners, Messrs. A. E. Rice, Richard Dibble and Charles F. Brockett, in December, following, when Hon. Alfred Blackman presented the matter to them in a statement so full and convincing that soon after this conference the Commissioners came to the conclusion that a new courthouse should be erected.

To carry out this purpose the representatives of the county were assembled in the Superior Court room, June 2d, 1871, and a tax of two mills was laid, payable January 1, 1872, for the purchase of a lot and erection of a court house in New Haven. The tax amounted to $168,100.

Messrs. James E. English, Morris Tyler and Luzon B. Morris were appointed a committee to advise with the Commissioners as to the selection of a site. They unanimously agreed upon the lot adjoining the City Hall, formerly the residence of the late Dr. Jonathan Knight, as the site, and it was purchased for about $48,000.

The committee of the bar were also requested to advise with the Commissioners in regard to the construction of the building. The interior arrangement and the location having been determined upon by them, David R. Brown, Esq., of New Haven, architect, was employed to prepare plans. How successful he has been can be judged from the beautiful facade, harmoniously united to the City Hall, and the pleasing interior of the building.

The mason work was done by Messrs. Perkins & Chatfield, the builders of the City Hall, and the carpenter work by Patrick Kennedy.

The entire cost of the building was about $120,000, and including the furniture throughout and the pavement, curbing, and all extras, about $134,000.

The Court of Common Pleas held its first session in the new court house, January 20, 1873, and the Superior Court, January 27, 1873.

The front is sixty-six feet, including that part which unites it with the City Hall, and the depth is about one hundred and twenty feet. On the first floor are the offices of the Sheriff, County Commissioners, Clerk of Court of Common Pleas, and vault; also, the Common Pleas Court room, with retiring rooms for the judges, the jury and the members of the bar, opening into it.

On the second floor are the offices of the State Attorney, Clerk of Superior Court, and vault, a library and committee room 44x16, and the Superior Court room with retiring rooms similar to those on the first floor.

The third floor furnishes apartments for the Yale Law School consisting of a library, with librarian's and professors' rooms connecting, and a lecture-room 58x25; also, a Supreme Court room, with lobby and ante-room.

Overall dimensions:
City Hall: The facade is 165'-3". The three asymmetrical sections measure a total of approximately 100' across facade.
Courthouse: The Courthouse, which is set back 26'-10" from the front plane of the City Hall tower, measures 64'-10' across the front -- exclusive of an arched passageway which is set back from the Courthouse on the north. Above arched opening between City Hall and Courthouse is a blind screen wall rising to height of Courthouse cornice and forming a ligature between the two buildings. The Courthouse facade is designed with matching flanking sections and a two-bayed center section with a shallow recession above the first floor.

The City Hall and Courthouse each have three and one-half stories. The tower, which is placed asymmetrically on the north comer of the City Hall has four and one-half stories.

City Hall, first floor: On the center axis there is a hall divided by a screen of three blunted arches on wide piers, with a grand staircase leading up to the council chambers.

City Hall, second floor: Large offices flank the hallways on both the first and second floors.

Courthouse, first floor: Three pointed arches with square piers ending in plaster foliated capitals partition the hallway and frame the cast-iron stairs.