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Nathan Hale Slept Here
Students rooming in Connecticut Hall, where conditions were "necessarily untenable a great part of the yare," were survivors. So was the building.

Next month the U.S. Postal Service will mark Yale's Tercentennial by issuing a stamped postcard depicting Connecticut Hall, the oldest building in the Yale–New Haven community. The only remainder of the Old Brick Row campus of the late 18th and 19th centuries, Connecticut Hall has served the University well in many capacities during the past 250 years.

The building was born of necessity, for by the middle of the 18th century, the first and then only campus structure—a wooden edifice named simply Yale College—had become an overcrowded firetrap. President Thomas Clap saw the need to construct a new dormitory to accommodate all of the nearly 150 students, as the majority, a few as young as 12, had to board in private homes far from faculty supervision.

Funding a building project was a bit different in the past. The money came from the sale of a French ship taken as a prize in King George's War, as well as from a Connecticut lottery and a grant of the Connecticut Assembly, and the hall was named in honor of the colony. Yale's President also took a somewhat more "hands-on" approach to construction than is common today. Not only did Clap design the brick edifice, which resembled both the old college hall and Harvard's Massachusetts Hall, but he also surveyed the site and supervised the builders who were imported from Philadelphia and New York.

Construction began on the Georgian-style structure in April 1750 and was completed in the summer of 1752 at a final cost of 1,180 pounds sterling. Called the colony's finest building, the hall, 100 feet long by 40 feet wide, contained three floors of studies or parlors with two attached bedrooms each for students to share, a garret, and a kitchen. In addition to rent, students were charged a penny a week to cover the expense of sweeping the floors and making beds. Some of the interior remained unfinished however, and parents who could afford to finish their sons' suites were repaid by collecting the rent payments of future undergraduates, who were warned to take special care "that no Dammage be done by Cutting the Windows, Doors, Tables, or Carrying away the Tables."

Notable residents of Connecticut Hall include Nathan Hale (1773), whose statue stands nearby, James Hillhouse (1773), Noah Webster (1778), Eli Whitney (1792), and John W. Sterling (1864). Artist John Trumbull remodeled the hall in 1797, adding a fourth story and incorporating it in his design for the Old Brick Row—the first planned college campus in America—where it was known as South Middle College. In addition to serving as a dormitory, the hall was used for instruction and meetings and contained at various times Yale's first physics laboratory, art gallery, and natural history museum. The Yale Co-op did business there from 1887 to 1909.

When the Old Brick Row was demolished in 1900, Connecticut Hall was saved by a group of alumni under the leadership of Professor Henry W. Farnam, Class of 1874, as a memorial to Yale's past. Plumbing was installed, sagging beams were strengthened, and after restoration to its original three stories, the name Connecticut Hall was reinstated. In 1909 Yale College dean Frederick S. Jones moved his office there "to get to the center of his College." The Dean's office remained in the hall until World War II.

After the war the building was gutted and rebuilt by architects Douglas Orr and Richard A. Kimball, and in 1965 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today it houses a faculty meeting room, the offices of the departments of comparative literature and philosophy, seminar rooms, and a computer facility.

Connecticut Hall remains the cherished icon of Yale. An alumnus of the Class of 1884, in fact, spoke so fondly of rooming there that his widow donated a reproduction of the building in his memory. In 1925, she gave Edwin McClellan Hall so that future generations of students could replicate in some measure the experience of living in Connecticut Hall in centuries past. Happily, the new routine did not include chamberpots.  the end

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