Crown Street Parking Garage, New Haven

Stacked Deck

New Haven really stacks up.

For example, in this city, you don’t have to work too hard to find a good stack of food. Vito’s sandwiches are reliable and comforting. Meat & Co.’s are complex and gourmet. Fryborg’s are sinful. At Book Trader Cafe (1140 Chapel Street), where used books are sold and food is served, enjoy a stack among the stacks. Rummage through the shelves in search of a copy of East of Eden, then order the “Feast of Eden,” a big lentil/quinoa patty served with a thick slice of tomato and fresh greens on chewy ciabatta, smeared with a mustardy sauce that pops (pictured third above).

At 900 Chapel, the weight stacks of the machines at New Haven Fitness (pictured fifth above), downtown’s only full public-facing gym, can help you work off that hunk of ciabatta, and at the mouth of the Quinnipiac River, a new stack at the New Haven Harbor power plant (1 Waterfront St) is helping you breathe a little easier. That stack handles emissions from three state-of-the-art, clean “peaking” turbines, engaged during periods of high power usage—like this severe cold spell we’ve been having—to cushion an overtaxed grid.

Yale has power plants, too, but they’re part of their own grid, supplying university facilities only. Some 90 years ago, the dark brick stacks of its Central Power Plant (120 Tower Pkwy, pictured first above), located right next to Grove Street Cemetery, sent old-timey coal emissions into the ether. Today Central uses natural gas to produce “electricity, steam heat, and chilled water” for the campus. Fifteen minutes away, at South Frontage Road and College Street, the Sterling Power Plant’s dueling pairs of stacks—one gleaming metal, the other a fiery matte brick—provide a strong jolt to the Yale medical campus’s skyline, standing out amid smaller vents emerging from nearby rooftops (pictured fourth, above).

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But the university’s most impressive stacks are probably in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (121 Wall St). The delicate documents there, including a large collection dating from before the year 1500, are understandably cloistered; would-be researchers must submit specific research requests in advance just to have a chance of examining any of the one-of-a-kind tomes. Still, any of us is free to walk around inside the large open space, where you can’t miss the illuminated, glass-encased, six-story mega-stack of shelved rarities rising up the center.

The shelves at the main Ives branch of the New Haven Free Public Library (133 Elm St) stack up in their own right, stocked with a large, expectedly more modern collection. Expectedly more accessible, too: simply walk in and start thumbing to your heart’s content. To attain a library card, and consequently the right to take books and movies out of the building with you, offer proof of local residence and complete a short application.

Of course, with a library card comes a creeping danger: late fees. Conveniently, Church Street, home to untold stacks of cash in ATMs and teller drawers, is right down the street. The number of banking options in a few-block stretch along Church is an embarrassment of riches: People’s, Chase, Liberty, Citizens, Webster, Wells Fargo, First Niagara and Sovereign Banks, plus Citibank and Bank of America. TD Bank is right near there on Chapel, too.

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On well-worn concert stages around town, amplifier stacks are their own form of currency. A Marshall rig, like one seen last night at Toad’s Place (300 York St), suggests a need for speed and a craving for crunch. A Fender rig projects a softer, more classic edge. An Orange stack, meanwhile, indicates an individualistic streak. All command respect in their own ways and, if nothing else, give roadies something to talk about.

Finally we come to some of New Haven’s most important stacks: its multi-level parking garages (like the Crown Street Garage, pictured second above). We all know they’re a vital alternative to, and overflow for, limited street parking. But they also offer some of New Haven’s best views of itself, if you’re willing to huff-and-puff your way up to the top levels.

They’re decks, and they’re stacked in New Haven’s favor.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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