Courtesy of Jose Davila IV

This summer, a 200-year-old historic building previously located at 87 Trumbull St. was moved to make space for a new Yale economics center on Hillhouse Avenue. 

Named the Tobin Center for Economic Policy, this center will allow all of Yale’s economists to work under the same roof, instead of being spread out between four buildings.

“Historic preservation was the key concern,” Leslie Radcliffe, one of the commissioners on the City Plan Commission, said of the building move. “According to all the information that was provided for us, it was going to be a careful move. It just seemed like a win-win for everyone.”

87 Trumbull will be replaced by a new economics center, but specific plans for the center’s construction timeline and style are still undecided. According to Tony Smith, the chair of the Economics Department, the center will include one new building and will also connect two existing buildings, 28 and 30 Hillhouse. 

On Aug. 8, the building was moved just down the block to 85 Trumbull Street, where there was previously a parking lot. That lot was built in 1999, following the demolition of the former Maple Cottage –– another historic building.

Unlike the move of 87 Trumbull, the Maple Cottage demolition was met with vigorous opposition and protests.

“It was an extremely important building by Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the most important architects in American architectural history,” Anstress Farwell, GRD ’78 and New Haven Urban Design League President, said.

Davis was a notable 19th century architect who designed other buildings in Connecticut. Architectural historian Patrick Pinnell even speculates that he designed the Skull and Bones tomb on High Street.

Farwell thinks that the decision to move the building previously at 87 Trumbull –– rather than demolishing it –– indicates a change in Yale policy regarding historic preservation.

“I think that their policy started to shift to how they approached preservation planning,” Farwell said. “The hard battle that we fought led to not consistently, but generally, better planning at Yale when it comes to historic structures.”

Radcliffe also supported the move because the space on 85 Trumbull was underutilized. She said she felt that the addition of a new economics center would add to the University’s rich architecture, as the building is planned to exhibit a modern style. Additionally, the University did not have to purchase new property for the move or for the creation of the new economics center.

Radcliffe told the News she was pleased that the move did not increase Yale’s property ownership in the city. Her only concern — that traffic might be disrupted — was solved by planning the move for a weekend, when there is less traffic in the area.

Last month, the building was moved by the Wolfe House and Building Movers company from 87 to 85 Trumbull. The process of moving the building including lifting it off its foundation with jacks, then placing it on dollies to transport it down the block to its new location.

According to University spokeswoman Karen Peart, the COVID-19 pandemic did not complicate the move.

“Because of careful planning, coordination and teamwork between Yale Facilities personnel, and City Officials, the process went smoothly and was completed ahead of schedule,” Peart said. “Preparations for the move occurred over several weeks.”

The building that previously stood at 87 Trumbull and now stands at 85 Trumbull was first constructed in 1807 and was rebuilt in 1871.

Sharla Moody | sharla.moody@yale.edu