Ken Yanagisawa

Dixwell community leader Curlena McDonald remembers regularly going to the Q House to gather and dance with students from around the Elm City. Soon, this memory will be a reality.

The Q House has been a community center and cornerstone of the low-income Dixwell neighborhood for decades. Originally founded in 1924, the Q House provided social and recreational services to the New Haven community before it was closed in 2003. After a period of community activism, in 2016, the city received a $15 million grant from the state to reconstruct the center. Construction is expected to begin in the next few months.

This week, the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven announced a brick-buying fundraiser for the new Q House. To help fund the reconstruction, people can purchase an engraved brick for $100 that will line the center’s walkway.

“Because the Q House has been around for so long, we have had thousands and thousands of different people go in and out of its doors since 2003,” said Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison. “Because there are so many generations of families that have gone in and out of the Q House, what I thought would be good was to allow people to buy bricks so their names could be their forever as being part of the Q House, and at the same time we are able to raise some money.”

Morrison said that the goal of the brick-buying fundraiser is to raise $3 million and give community members a stake in a place that has impacted many people’s lives. She noted that the bricks will be the last components added during Q House construction.

The Q House was originally constructed as a settlement house for African-American residents who moved to New Haven from the American South. It eventually evolved into a multiuse community center, serving the largely black population of Dixwell as well as the greater New Haven community.

The new 30,000-square-foot Q House will include subsidized senior housing for Dixwell and Newhallville residents, the Cornell-Scott Hill Health Center, the Stetson Branch Library, a daycare and different arts and recreational spaces.

According to Morrison, even with these new additions, the new building will adhere to the original goals of the center.

“It still speaks to this initial mission where people came up here from the South to work in the factories that were in the Dixwell area,” she told the News. “The Q House served as a safe haven for children to be and for families to receive support and services and learn how to navigate the city at large.”

McDonald, co-chair of the Q House committee, is also excited for the role that the new Q House will serve in preserving history. Artifacts from the old building, which have been held at Southern Connecticut State University, will create a small museum commemorating the Q House’s historical significance in New Haven.

According to McDonald, the closing of the Q House was due to a loss of the center’s financial base. She emphasized that the goal for this iteration is to be “sustainable” and create a lasting sense of community in Dixwell.

McDonald said they expect to keep the center going with the funds they receive from senior housing rent and the health center, as well as money the Q House has already raised through the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven.

Leslie Radcliffe, a member of the City Plan Commission in New Haven and a longtime community organizer, also remembered attending programs at the Q House in her youth and is excited about the prospect of new opportunities at the center.

Radcliffe lamented the loss of the Q House as an alternative place for youth to turn to given “the negative things that society has to offer.” She said that while the City Plan Commission did not have a particular role in planning the new Q House, she is looking forward to the return of the “community spirit” the Q House provided.

The rebuilding of the Q House comes on the heels of an announcement to revitalize the business community on Dixwell. Last week, the New Haven Independent reported that a for-profit subsidiary of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology called ConnCORP has been buying portions of Dixwell Plaza, a group of stores across the street from the Q House. The Independent said that the organization is looking to potentially open a restaurant, media center and culinary training school in the space.

Radcliffe said she thinks the Q House will have a positive impact on the overall community. With many social resources located in a central location, she believes that more people will patronize local businesses.

“This is to me just a first step in the revitalization of the Dixwell Corridor,” Morrison added. “People that lived in the Dixwell community never went downtown for anything because everything they needed was right there. We are trying to bring Dixwell back to what I call its glory days.”

The Q House is expected to reopen its doors before 2020.

Carolyn Sacco | carolyn.sacco@yale.edu