The John H. Davies mansion will not be ready for occupation when former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott ’68 arrives at Yale this fall to launch the new Center for the Study of Globalization.
The interior of the mansion — the globalization center’s future home — is in a state of disrepair, but renovations will not begin for another one to two years, University Planner Pamela Delphenich said. Yale officials must now decide where Talbott and his center will be located in the interim.
Associate Provost Lloyd Suttle said the globalization center will be installed in “some sort of swing space” for the next few years, but the University does not know where.
Yale administrators are keeping Talbott well-informed of the delay, Deputy Provost Charles Long said.
Talbott will direct the new globalization center, which is being created to enhance Yale’s commitment to the study of international diplomacy. Talbott could not be reached for comment.
Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief financial and academic officer, said in November that the University was hoping to finish renovating the seriously damaged building at 393 Prospect St. in time for the center’s fall opening. But now it is unlikely that construction will have begun by then.
But two months later, Delphenich is only able to estimate that the project will start within the next one to two years.
Richard said, “There’s no timeline locked in.”
University officials said the project will be delayed because how Talbott decides to organize the globalization center will influence the layout of the interior.
“There’s a crosswalk between the program and the facilities,” Richard said. “The cookie-cutter approach became implausible.”
Yale has selected but not announced an architect to oversee renovations of Davies. The University will spend between five and eight million dollars to overhaul the building, Delphenich said.
Last year, the University completed a limited renovation to prevent further damage to the deteriorating mansion. Yale restored the facade of the building and one of the front rooms, rebuilt the collapsed roof and installed minimal heating. The University also added fire and burglar alarm systems to prevent damage by intruders.
“We needed to stabilize the building to avoid further deterioration,” Delphenich said.
But the interior of the building needs to be intensively renovated before it can be used as office space. In this stage of the overhaul, planners will attempt to preserve “architecturally significant” details on the first and second floors and reconstruct the third floor, Delphenich said.
“The third floor was almost totally destroyed — it’s a clean slate,” Delphenich said.
The mansion has lain largely empty since Yale purchased it in 1972, but it was vandalized and apparently occasionally occupied, Delphenich said. In 1990, two fires threatened the integrity of the structure.
The University has been waiting for the perfect program to fill the mansion since a 1998 deal with the New Haven Preservation Trust prevented Yale from just tearing it down.
The deal allowed the University to raze Maple Cottage, formerly located at 85 Trumbull St., and the Kingsley-Blake House at 88 Trumbull St. In exchange, Yale promised to renovate four crumbling historic buildings — the Davies mansion, the John Pierpont House at 149 Elm St., the Abigail Whelpley House at 31 Hillhouse Ave. and the Skinner-Trowbridge House at 46 Hillhouse.
Architect Henry Austin designed and built the 20,000 square-foot Davies Mansion in 1886. Davies was a partner at the Winchester Repeating Arms Factory, then one of New Haven’s largest employers. The building was used from 1945 to 1972 by the Culinary Institute of America.
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