To Lay Out Fine Streets

To Lay Out Fine Streets

Gain some insight into New Haven’s little green signs with these selections from Doris B. Townshend’s The Streets of New Haven: The Origin of Their Names.

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Beacon Avenue
The street leads to Fort Wooster Park, which was once called Beacon Hill. … The beacon consisted of brush piled on the summit of the hill, which would be lit in case the British fleet was sighted in the sound. Other fires were lit as beacons on interior hills, thus forming a relay system into the surrounding countryside so that the militia could gather and come to New Haven’s aid. On July 5, 1779, the beacon fire flared up as the British landed troops at Morris Point and the West Haven shore. Beacon Hill then became the scene of an uneven battle when the large enemy force attacked the few patriots who made a stand there.

Beaver Hill Lane
This one-block street near Beaver Ponds Park takes its name from the industrious beaver, which used to inhabit the swampy area. The once-wild tract was set off in colonial days as a general commons for the pasturing of oxen and cows. West of these meadows rose the Beaver Hills to a height of one hundred feet.

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Button Street
Named for William Button, a confectioner and candyman early in his career. Later he became a well-known realtor, acquiring much property all over the city but chiefly in the Oyster Point Quarter, popularly known as The Hill. He died in 1903 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Cold Spring Street
Named for the cold spring that used to well up from the north bank of the Mill River just where Orange Street crosses into East Rock Park. … For many years a tin cup hung on a chain there for people to take a drink. In 1908 John Heaton had the spring raised and rebuilt in honor of his ancestor, James Heaton; two stone staircases curved down to the road and there was a stone wall with a plaque over the niche. During Prohibition the pure water was in demand by ginmakers as well as teetotalers. In 1970 pollution took its toll and the spring was closed because of the high bacteria count.

Grove Street
For a long time, this was the outer limit of the city on the north. James Hillhouse and Eli Whitney owned most of the land from Grove Street to the Hamden line where Whitney’s armory was. Named for the grove of trees on the Hillhouse property; he named his substantial home at Grove and Whitney Grove Hall. Later this was turned into a ladies’ finishing school, irreverently called The Nunnery by frustrated Yale students.

Level Street
Named for the level, a workman’s device for obtaining a horizontal line and the symbol of a Masonic ritual. This section was developed by the Masons, who also named Lodge and Wayfarer Streets. The plumb, square, compass and level are used by the order as symbolic of working tools.

Marvel Road
Named for Ik Marvel, the pen name of Donald G. Mitchell (1822-1908). … A landscape designer, self-taught architect, civic leader and author, Mitchell led in the efforts to lay out fine streets, erect attractive homes and encourage improved gardening in Westville after the Civil War.

Mechanic Street
John M. Marlin established the Marlin Firearms Co. in New Haven in 1870, and houses were built on this street for his mechanics.

Melrose Drive
Named Melrose by a developer from New York, to give the street “a little class.” These postwar houses were low-cost, but since then they have been upgraded with alterations, additions and landscaping.

Sargent Drive
Named for Sargent & Co., manufacturers of hardware. In 1858 Joseph B. Sargent purchased the Peck & Walter Manufacturing Co. in New Britain and six years later moved to the business to New Haven, where a large building was erected on land bounded by Water, Wallace and Hamilton Streets.

Wilbur Cross Parkway
Named for Wilbur Lucius Cross. Born in Mansfield, CT, 1862; died in New Haven 1948. Graduated from Yale 1884 and received his Ph.D. from Yale 1888. Cross was a professor at Yale Scientific School for many years and was honored as Sterling Professor of English. He wrote many books on English literature. One of the most popular members of the Yale faculty, Cross was called Uncle Toby from a fancied resemblance to the captain in Tristram Shandy. He was best known to Connecticut citizens as their governor for four terms: 1931-39. He took an active part in the celebration of New Haven’s tercentenary in 1938.

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The Streets of New Haven: The Origin of Their Names by Doris B. Townshend
Published in 1984 (second edition 1998) by the New Haven Colony Historical Society.
Available for purchase at the New Haven Museum Shop.

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