To the Editor:
I’m sure Andrew Smeall is better at dating Elisabeth Kinsley than he is at dating buildings around New Haven. Smeall makes several factual errors in last Friday’s “Smeallin’ and Dealin.”
There are three mistakes in his initial assertion that the Puritan founders of New Haven “started by building three churches on the New Haven Green.” First, two of the churches on the Green were established over 100 years after New Haven’s creation, in 1742 and 1752. Second, all three of the church buildings that now stand on the Green were built between 1812 and 1816. Finally, only one of the churches on the Green was Puritan. United Church was founded after a rift in the New Haven religious community, and Trinity Church is Episcopalian, much closer to Catholicism than Smeall would like to admit. Thus, the churches on the Green are not evidence of a united Puritan effort dating back to New Haven’s establishment.
Smeall also points to Old Campus buildings as churches and meetinghouses built as fortifications in response to a riot on the Green. If this is so, it was a terribly slow fortification process: Farnam was built in 1869, but Phelps wasn’t completed until 1896. Also, including Bingham is historically inaccurate: Bingham replaced Osborn Hall (1888-1926) in 1929. Osborn, in fact, featured prominently in New Haven souvenirs for the 38 years it stood because it was an architectural marvel, a far cry from Smeall’s assessment that “architecture had not progressed significantly in the 300 years since the invention of the meetinghouse.”
Smeall ends with the line, “Don’t listen next time you hear a tour guide explaining the history of Yale buildings; you know the real story.” As a tour guide, I can assure you that this history, not Smeall’s, is the “real story.”
David Reiman ’05
Oct. 2, 2004