The oldest residence in New Haven greets most visitors to Yale before any other building, and the University hopes renovations will allow this cozy 18th century home to give a better first impression.
Although there is no definite timetable, the University has committed to the renovation of this historic Pierpont home, which now serves as the Visitor Information Center on Elm Street, and plans to preserve as much of the 1767 structure as possible. The University decided to delay making definite plans for the renovation because of the increased tourist activity during the tercentennial year.
Although Yale had planned to begin the renovation earlier, University Planner Pamela Delphenich said physical construction will not start for at least a year.
“We put it on hold because of the approaching tercentennial. We need to pick up where we left off and need to rethink the scope of renovations,” Delphenich said. “We’re definitely committed to the project.”
Although architects have not drafted final plans yet, visitor center director Sheila Pastor said the final renovation plans will preserve as much of the building’s original structure as possible.
“I’m fairly confident it’s not going to be torn down and rebuilt,” Pastor said. “It’s really going to be saving as much as of it as possible.”
The building is a New Haven historic landmark, which complicates renovation efforts, and all preservation issues will have to be settled before construction starts.
“It’s one of the properties on the agreement between Yale and the New Haven Preservation Trust,” Delphenich said.
Smaller refurbishing efforts have already started in the visitor center with the additions of new furniture, plants and exhibits on Yale history.
“I can tell you that we are doing a lot of work on the interior with new furnishing and new interior,” Pastor said. “We are making an effort to make it look better.”
When the major renovation of the building starts, however, the visitor center will most likely have to relocate temporarily.
“We will probably have to move out for a year,” Pastor said.
Although Yale did not originally own the house, it had immediate ties to the school. The Rev. John Pierpont, grandson of Yale co-founder James Pierpont, first built the home as a private residence in 1767.
During the British occupation of New Haven in the Revolutionary War, troops used the Pierpont home as their headquarters and hospital. Bloodstains on the central staircase led to rumors that ghosts haunted the house, according to The Green Guide for New Haven.
“I haven’t seen any [bloodstains],” Pastor joked. “But there is a carpet.”
At the turn of the century, University Secretary Anson Stokes occupied the house and turned it over to the University in 1921. It first served as the Yale faculty club, then as the admissions office from 1977 to 1995 and finally as the Visitor Information Center, according to the Green Guide.
The house started off as a small colonial house, but 20th century additions — the most recent in 1963 — have greatly increased its size.
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