Renovation of Davies Mansion, the promised home of the Yale Center for Globalization, finally began just a month ago. The center is temporarily being housed at 55 Whitney Ave. until Davies’ projected Aug. 15 date of completion — nearly a year later than the date officials had optimistically predicted it would be done.
Strobe Talbott ’68, a former second-ranking official in the U.S. State Department, left his position last year to head the globalization center, which opened this year. Yale officials hoped Davies Mansion would be ready this fall for Talbott’s arrival, but the project was delayed because extra planning complicated the process.
“These things are never easy, but it’s going,” said Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer.
Haynie Wheeler, associate director for the Department of International and Area Studies, said the current facilities at Whitney Avenue are “very good” and added that its location is not limiting to the center’s ability to carry out its function.
Yale founded the Center for Globalization with the hope of putting the University on par with similar departments at some other Ivy League schools. Talbott, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, said last spring the center aims at facilitating “collaborative research, scholarship and teaching in the public debate over globalization.”
Although the exact direction of the new center is still being discussed, Wheeler said it will hopefully host prominent members of the international community and provide a meeting place for people interested in international studies. The center will also “fill some holes” by meeting faculty needs regarding international issues as Yale enters its fourth century in an increasingly global environment, Wheeler added.
Wheeler said as the year unfolds and the restoration of the Davies Mansion nears completion, the center’s direction will become more clear.
The $7.5 million Davies renovation project — which, last winter, Yale predicted would be completed this fall — is in its beginning stages.
The French-style mansion, located on Prospect Street, had endured years of neglect and vandalism until the University decided to house the center there. After a fire in 1990, Yale restored the exterior of the mansion and a room on the first floor with money from an insurance claim. But more extensive work on the inside has yet to begin.
“We have not yet begun to work on the interior,” Director of Project Management Facilities Arch Currie said. “[The building is] in the process of structural revisions,” which entails the removal of floor assemblies and the repair of structural beams.
The structural framework of the mansion’s first and second floors, heavily damaged by the fire, is in need of improvements before decorative and restorative work begins. The majority of the building remains intact, but certain areas require extensive renovation.
“Now we are rebuilding the structure that was merely stabilized [after the fires],” University Planner Pamela Delphenich said.
The building has led a tumultuous life. The 20,000 square-foot edifice avoided being bulldozed many times: it was almost demolished in 1998, but a compromise between Yale and the New Haven Preservation Trust allowed two other historic buildings, Maple Cottage and Kingsly-Blake House, to be razed in its place.
“It’s one of the premier landmarks of New Haven,” says Ed Franquemont, president of the New Haven Preservation Trust. “We went to great lengths to save the Davies Mansion.”
Henry Austin and Dave R. Brown constructed the mansion for the private use of John H. Davies in 1886. Between 1945 and 1972, it accommodated a culinary institute. Yale purchased the property in 1972, and it sat vacant for 26 years.
“We’re really excited about [the renovation],” Delphenich said. “Everyone at Yale and in town are looking forward to it.”