Chabad at Yale buys Palmer House

The Palmer House has been occupied by varsity swimmers for three years.
The Palmer House has been occupied by varsity swimmers for three years. Photo by Joseph Breen.

Starting next fall, the Palmer House will host a different kind of party.

The house at 36 Lynwood Pl. — a popular social destination leased by varsity male swimmers for three years running — was purchased Monday by Chabad at Yale, the local branch of a Hasidic orthodox Jewish movement and host of well-attended Friday night dinners and services. Rabbi Shua Rosenstein of Yale Chabad said the house will provide his organization with much-needed space to grow, and he already has plans for significant renovations of the space.

The transfer of ownership — mainly orchestrated by Rosenstein, members of Chabad’s advisory board, and the landlord, Second Century Corporation — caught current tenants of Palmer House by surprise. Kyle Veatch ’11, the men’s swim team captain and an occupant of Palmer House, said he did not know about the sale until contacted by a News reporter.

“I vaguely remember hearing something last year, but I thought it was a rumor,” Veatch said. “It was just a shock. We didn’t know it was going to happen.”

David White, the president of Second Century Corporation, said he and Rosenstein had discussed the transaction for the past couple of years and that the timing “was right” for the sale. White, who said he is not personally involved with Chabad but is a friend of Rosenstein and knows many people in the organization, said the Palmer House was never formally put on the market.

Rosenstein said the Palmer House was the only space Chabad seriously looked into purchasing. The organization approached the owners of the space on the corner of Elm and Park streets formerly occupied by Cosi and also briefly explored buying Mory’s before it reopened, but Rosenstein said he never moved past initial conversations about those properties.

Chabad’s Yale chapter began in 2003 when two Yale undergraduates and two New Haven rabbinical students, including Rosenstein, gathered to hold Shabbat dinner in the Taft Apartments. The organization quickly moved beyond informal dinners in the Taft, and it has resided in a house on 37 Edgewood Ave. for the past five years. Chabad has since outgrown the roughly 1,100-square foot Edgewood location, Rosenstein said.

Finding a new property with a reasonable price, adequate size and good location, Rosenstein said, was “like finding a needle in a haystack.” But Palmer House fit the bill.

“That house addresses [Chabad’s needs] in every single way,” Rosenstein said. “It’s a very, very large home, which is in line with our identity of being a home away from home. It’s in a great location and it’s seven times the size of our current location.”

Rosenstein said 36 Lynwood Pl. will undergo extensive renovations, which will begin next year at the earliest. Chabad plans to build a large dining room, library, synagogue, lecture hall, student lounge, and two guest suites, among other modifications to the building.

The money used to purchase and renovate Palmer House is still being raised, Rosenstein said, adding that donations from alumni and parents of current students involved with Chabad are the two primary sources of funds.

Brad Berger ’77, a member of the Chabad advisory board, called the purchase of 36 Lynwood Pl. “fantastic” and said Chabad has grown every year, despite its small location on Edgewood. The new property, he said, will meet the needs of the expanding community.

“Purely from a physical standpoint, there is a tremendous need for an increased facility,” Berger said. “Right now they’re turning away people for Friday night dinners and it’s a shame if people are thirsty for knowledge and meaning and you’re not able to accommodate them.”

Chabad President Zachary Fuhrer ’11 said Palmer House, in addition to providing more space for Chabad, will also offer a warmer environment for students.

“Friday night dinners [at Chabad] feel like family dinners where you sort of put your Yale life aside,” Fuhrer said. (Fuhrer is also an Arts & Living editor for the News.)

As for Veatch and the other current tenants of Palmer House, Rosenstein said Chabad will honor their leases until they are up in June. Veatch said he and the other tenants are meeting with their landlord Tuesday, and that the swimmers will eventually begin a search for a new property.

Comments

  • SillimanAlum

    This article misses a couple of interesting points:

    First, the “Palmer House” was always known as the Beta House (after its occupants, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity) while I was at Yale (2004-08) and, I assume, long before that.

    Second, the Beta House became the Swim House (or “Palmer House”?) after the New Haven Police Department raided the House in the summer of 2007 to seize the remarkable cache of automatic weapons and explosives possessed by a Beta brother, hastening the demise of the fraternity and leading to a one-year prison sentence. See [link text][1] and [link text][2] for details.

    Third, the Beta brother in question was, according to the YDN reports, President of Chabad at the time. Full circle!

    [1]: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2007/jul/19/light-09-arrested-for-illegal-weapons-possession/
    [2]: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2008/apr/01/light-serving-jail-time-for-gun-charges/

  • RIPPalmer

    It is a shame that the Palmer House, such a wonderful social center, is forced to move locations. It has been a source of tremendous enjoyment for Yale students of all backgrounds for several years. Its friendly and welcoming atmosphere has put hundreds, even thousands, of smiles on student’s faces from all over campus.

    Palmer, you will surely be missed.