Yesterday’s announcement that Charles Ellis ’59 has withdrawn his proposal for improvements to the Grove Street Cemetery is both a setback and an opportunity for those of us who care deeply about Yale and New Haven.
The plan that Ellis commissioned from the firm of Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, the dean of the School of Architecture and the architect of the two new residential colleges that will be built just north of the cemetery, was flawed in that it was too timid. Ellis and Stern proposed to insert seven small sections of iron fencing, similar to that on the cemetery’s Grove Street front, in place of about 5 percent of the undistinguished wall that looms over Prospect Street.
That plan, no doubt, would have made the walk from Commons to the site of the new colleges more pleasant. But, more importantly, a bolder plan would make one of New Haven’s greatest treasures more accessible to the community. Some of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries sit at the heart of the cities that contain them; the Grove Street Cemetery is indeed a landmark and a more inviting wall, sheltered from street noise by trees along Prospect Street, would make the history within it more important to the lives of those who pass by each day.
We hope a new plan will come along to replace the entire sandstone wall along Prospect Street with iron fencing.