Court Street Row Houses

Gabrielle Brainard 's historical account of the Court Street row houses touches upon many of the economic and social issues surrounding urban growth, decline and redevelopment. It was the industrial boom in the 1800's that spurred the development of the Wooster square area and it was industrial decline starting in the 1920's that spelled its decay. Throughout all of this, the city's architecture fluctuated in extent and size, and it is interesting to see how public policy, both on a municipal and federal level actively shaped this part of New Haven.

The urban renewal policy of the 50's and 60's was based on Corbusian ideals, the automobile-based, green, rational city that somehow combine the best of both worlds: the suburban pastoral and the urban densified. What this article reveals is that latent racist and biased beliefs that underlie the tabula-rasa approach of urban renewal...that "slums" needed to be cleared rather than rehabilitated and that ethnic, poorer neighborhoods were a blight that need to be either quarantined or razed, and that the ideal urban household was actually a grafted version of the suburban Leave It To Beaver family model. Among the neglected and displaced during this wave of renewal were the single and/or destitute and the poor, ethnic minorities.

Constructing the Ideal Urban Neighborhood. The city's process of handpicking families for the Court Street redevelopment demonstrates the aspiration of that era: the ideal neighborhood housed middle-class working families, primarily white but also somewhat racially integrated, and whose architecture borrowed from suburban, pastoral ideals: small streets, few cars, wide sidewalks and close-knit neighborhoods. It's hard to argue that neighborhoods like this could have grown organically without artificial intervention, and this posits a question: to what extents is this distinctly American ideal of urban utopia constructed reality or even achievable without external pressures?

Crown St
New Haven, CT 06510