District Overview Inventory List District Map

Wooster Square Historic District

LHD boundaries as described are approximate and subject to change. Consult the LHD Study Report on file with the relevant local district commission or municipal authority to verify district boundaries and whether a specific property, particularly one in proximity of a boundary line, is within the district. Also note that LHD boundaries may differ from those of State or National Register Districts.

New Haven
Year of Establishment:
District Authority:
Historic District Commission
Link to Commission or Municipal Website:
District Character:
Urban neighborhood

Buildings, Parks, Others- Statues

Architectural Style:

Italianate, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Others

19th century

The Wooster Square Historic District is an attractive and unique residential community located a few minutes walk from the center of New Haven. During the middle of the nineteenth century, it was a fashioable residential area which shipcaptains, wholesale grocerers and sucessful entrepreneurs found conveniently close to their places of business.The development of the square occurred primarily between the years 1830 and 1870. Some of the most notable buildings in the area were erected in the 1840s and the are the work of the well known New Haven architect Henry Austin. Critical to the setting of the pleasant houses in Wooster Square is the rectangular park at its center which is bounded by Chapel, Academy, Green Streets and Wooster Square. It is a large park criscrossed by paths, well-planted by trees, and ornamented only with a tall statue of Christopher Columbus in the center of the Chapel Street Side. [NR]

Architecture, Commerce, Urban Planning, Neighborhood Renewal and Social History: Wooster Square received its name from Major-General David Wooster who maintained a warehouse on Wooster Street prior to the revolution, and who lost his life in 1777 in Fairfield while leading his troops against the British. Until 1825 when it was purchased by the city and Wooster Place built, the square was a field used for ploughing contests. By the 1840's it was a fashionable residential area which attracted many of the prominent citizens of the town.

Before the turn of the century, the growth of industry around the square made it an increasingly less attractive neighborhood for the socially prominent and home ownership began to come into the hands of the Italian-American families, many of whom were able to make a living by using their homes as stores. Adaptation to commercial uses and the low incomes of the new owners downgraded the neighborhood so that by the 1930's urban renewal plans called for total clearance and later plans for the new Interstate 91 would have routed the highway through the park.

None of these things happened, however, due to a fortunate concatenation of circumstances in the 1950's which permitted the beginnings of neighborhood renewal. The Wooster Square Project emerged in 1950-60 as a major focus of the New Haven urban rehabilitation program at a moment when external events combined to spark a community-wide conviction that the neighborhood was worth saving.

From the point of view of public participation in the project one of its most important aspects was the construction of the Conti Community School – a first of its kind when it was completed in 1965; another was the rehabilitation of Court Street tenements which were the worst housing in the area.The Wooster Square Area project was an effort of national importance and is historically significant in its embodiment of the architectural trends and fashions of the nineteenth century and its social history as well. The social importance of the self-made men of the period is demonstrated by the architectural individuality of the buildings they inhabited. [NR]

[1] Assessor information retrieved from the website www.visionappraisal.com.
[2] District information and maps retrieved from the town website http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/.
[3] Additional information retrieved from http://www.nhpt.org/.
[NR] Luyster Constance, Wooster Square Historic District, National Register Nomination Number- 71000914 NRIS, National Park Service, 1971 - http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/71000914.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/71000914.pdf.

The boundaries of both the local history district and the National Register historic district are coterminous.

Date of Compilation:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation