Which One’s Goatville? Newhallville?

Despite desegregation efforts in the last half century like the Fair Housing Act, Sheff vs O’Neill, and Connecticut Statute 8-30g among others, New Haven – like many places – remains segregated along socio-economic lines. What’s more, neighborhood inequality has risen in Connecticut since 1980, with more residents living in either “very rich” or “very poor” neighborhoods and fewer living in “middle class” neighborhoods over the last 35 years.

With that in mind, this article will focus on two seemingly contrasted New Haven neighborhoods – Newhallville and Goatville.

Newhallville, a community bounded by Division Street, the base of Prospect Hill, the border of Hamden, and Beaver Pond Park, is typically described as a low-income neighborhood with high crime rates, decrepit buildings, and declining prospects.

Goatville, a small neighborhood nestled between I-91, the Mill River, Orange Street, and Bishop Street, will – for the purposes of this article – also extend to Trumbull Street. Goatville is considered a part of the East Rock High Income Area, which is often seen as a privileged enclave of wealthy households residing in large, private homes.

Development first pushed northward beyond the Nine Squares along Orange Street in the 1830s during the city’s short-lived Canal Era. By 1850, small houses and shops dotted narrow streets on the blocks south of Eld Street while land between Clark and Eagle Streets existed as farmland.

Although the Farmington Canal ran directly through what would become Newhallville, the area remained sparsely populated farming land prior to 1850.

With the arrival of railroads in the 1840s, New Haven transitioned from a mercantile and artisanal trading economy to manufacturing. This switch required that accommodations be made for the growing wealthy class of factory owners, middle class of shopkeepers and managers, and laboring class of immigrants. In Goatville, to meet this new demand, land north of Clark Street between State and Orange was subdivided for residential development. By 1860, blocks south of Bishop Street were populated with churches, shops, and residences with larger mansions concentrated on Orange Street, modest houses on side streets, and tenements on State Street.

By the 1850s, the Farmington Canal had been replaced by the New Haven and Northampton Company railroad, which led several small manufacturers to locate factories adjacent to the line. Among these first manufacturers was George Newhall, whose carriage factory and nearby worker housing inspired the neighborhood’s name. Although many of Newhallville‘s streets east of Dixwell had been laid out by the late 1860s, the neighborhood remained thinly settled.

The arrival of horse-drawn streetcars to New Haven along with the continued establishment of industrial facilities along the Mill River encouraged further development in Goatville. By the 1870s, housing had sprung up on a network of streets north of Edwards, including Mechanic, Nash, and Nicoll, that would eventually form a Polish enclave known for roaming goats and pigs. Meanwhile, rowhouses began appearing on previously undeveloped lots on the blocks south of Humphrey Street.

The 20th century brought electrified trolley lines, larger industrial plants, and continued growth in Goatville. Along State Street’s transit line, commercial development concentrated. By the 1930s, residential development had reached Canner Street, while wartime housing demand resulted in the construction of apartment buildings on any vacant land remaining throughout the Orange Street district.

The Winchester Repeating Arms Company began operating in Newhallville in 1870, bringing with it a demand for worker housing and auxiliary commercial enterprises like grocery stores, butcher shops, and bakeries to serve the growing residential population. The war years were particularly advantageous for weapons manufacturers as government contracts supplied a steady revenue stream, which in turn fueled more housing construction and commercial development in adjacent neighborhoods. At its peak, Winchester employed 19,000 people; many workers lived in Newhallville and either walked or took the trolley to work. By the 1920s, the automobile was pushing suburban development into Hamden – a phenomenon that would partially influence dramatic urban changes still to come at mid-century under the leadership of Newhallville’s own and childhood resident of Shelton Avenue, Richard C. Lee.

In New Haven, the Urban Redevelopment and Interstate Highway programs were coordinated with the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation by Mayor Lee’s Redevelopment Agency, which was headed by Edward Logue. Highway construction sought to alleviate traffic congestion within the city and entice suburban shoppers into New Haven’s Downtown.

The construction of Interstate 91 proved enormously destructive to Goatville where nearly every connecting street to Wooster Square east of State Street – save one or two – was completely severed. Furthermore, large swaths of housing, stores, and institutional buildings were demolished to make room for the highway.

In Newhallville, the urban renewal program managed to displace a total of 363 households even without running an expressway through the neighborhood. At the time, however, Newhallville’s problems were much more severe than demolition from highway construction. The force that pumped life into the neighborhood, Winchester Repeating Arms, decided to move the majority of its production line to an Illinois facility – producing a gaping wound from which Newhallville has yet to recover.

Far from immune to de-industrialization, Goatville also entered a period of decline in the wake of urban renewal. Inexpensive mortgages were more difficult to secure in Goatville – having been designated as “a low yellow” area in 1937 by the Home Ownership Loan Corporation (HOLC), which was notorious for its redlining practices. By the 1980s, many buildings north of Edwards and along State Street were is in a serious state of disrepair as a result of vacancy, deferred maintenance, or unsympathetic renovations. Adding to the problems of the neighborhood were drug-dealing and prostitution along State and East Streets. To address these issues, the city implemented community policing centered around neighborhood walking beats along with establishing a community development target area, which encouraged property owners to apply for loans to rehabilitate building exteriors.

HOLC was similarly discriminant to Newhallville in 1937 – blanketing the neighborhood with a yellow, C-grade rating. The effects of de-industrialization, however, were much less kind to Newhallville than its neighbor on the other side of Prospect Hill. By the early 1990s, dozens of abandoned buildings populated streets like Thompson, Starr, Hazel, and Winchester. Used as drug houses, popular for arson, or structurally unsound, these buildings served as hazards to the neighborhood. To make matters worse, violent drug gangs like the Newhallville Dogs, The ‘Ville, Read Street Posse, and the Mudhole operated throughout the neighborhood – responsible for numerous murders and fueling property crimes committed by drug addicts. In a fit of desperation and in stark contrast to the method employed in Goatville, the City of New Haven – through the Livable City Initiative (LCI) – went on a demolition spree in lower Newhallville in 1996.

With inexpensive rents, a variety of shops, and close proximity to Downtown and Yale University, Goatville has become a popular destination for graduate student housing, young professionals, and families. Recent development projects in the neighborhood such as the adaptive re-use of the Lovell School and Star Supply, go along with countless renovations undertaken by individual homeowners and investors. Speaking to the success of the neighborhood, Goatville was identified as a “non-impacted area” where scattered site public housing units managed by the Housing Authority of New Haven could be located in accordance with a Connecticut District Court decision. Reaffirming that success, was a 2011 citywide revaluation of property values, which showed Goatville’s properties rising an average of 35% in value since 2006.

Newhallville, on the other hand, saw property values decline by 15% over the same time period. The neighborhood, however, appears to be slowly coming back from the brink. Notable projects include the redevelopment of the Winchester Repeating Arms property adjacent to Science Park. On another front, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven (NHS) has been hard at work in Newhallville acquiring distressed properties, applying for preservation funding, and rehabilitating the neighborhood’s building stock for affordable housing while providing invaluable home-ownership counseling. Abandoned for decades, the former Farmington Canal has now been converted into a trail – complementing bike lanes recently added to Dixwell Avenue. Many of the vacant lots created by LCI have since been turned into community gardens or purchased by adjacent property owners for use as side yards and driveways. While much work remains to be done, Newhallville’s worst days appear to be in the past.

Conventional analysis of Goatville tends to lump the neighborhood in with the East Rock real estate area that includes the wealthier Whitney-Orange corridor. As a result, the neighborhood’s working class history and period of decline following urban renewal are often forgotten in favor of discussing elitism, gentrification, and the relative wealth of East Rock compared to other parts of the city.

Meanwhile, Newhallville is often dismissed as a lost cause whose fate was too intertwined with Winchester Repeating Arms leading its beautifully detailed and ornate housing stock to be overshadowed by vacant lots and poorly maintained slumlord-owned properties. Newhallville’s future success or failure will depend heavily on the perceptions of families, investors, and employers.

The future of Goatville also depends on places like Newhallville; will property values and taxes continue to soar in Goatville leading to increased inequality through unaffordability, or can a type of equilibrium emerge where investment is indiscriminant and access to every neighborhood remains open to all incomes levels?

To illustrate the point that Newhallville is often dismissed and overlooked, this article has been structured in a way that may lead viewers to assume that the top image of each pair corresponds to a street scene in Newhallville, while the bottom view is from Goatville. In fact, every image with a red negative (minus sign) can be found in Goatville and every picture with a green positive (plus sign) is from Newhallville.

While it is vital to discuss growing income inequality and neighborhood segregation in Connecticut, it is equally important not to over-generalize places – losing important details and nuances. Hopefully, this article has expanded our knowledge about two New Haven neighborhoods while shedding some light on how conventional narratives can shape our perception of those places.

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posted by: anonymous on July 20, 2015  4:33pm

Structuring the images in this order is a brilliant way to identify perceptions.  It would be helpful to add to that approach with more information on the actual percentage of blight and disinvestment in each neighborhood to show that the structural issues are also real (or not, if that’s the case).

posted by: Esbey on July 20, 2015  4:59pm

Very clever and informative.  I didn’t figure out the “trick” until more than 1/2 way through.  At the bottom of the article, once the point is made, it would be nice to include addresses of the blocks show

posted by: robn on July 20, 2015  5:29pm

Alternative headlines for those who don’t get the joke of JH’s cleverly unbalanced comparative photos.

“Goatville…you ain’t all that”

“Suck it Goatville! Love Newhallville”

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 20, 2015  6:11pm

This article was meant to spark a discussion about how conventional narratives can impact a neighborhood’s perception, but I agree that a more in depth and comprehensive study would be great to expand the discussion.
A couple years ago, a preliminary study was completed on the block conditions of Newhallville, which is pretty good. It determined that the majority of the neighborhood’s blocks are “somewhat unattractive” or “very unattractive”.
http://www.nhsofnewhaven.org/sites/default/files/Karolina Ksiazek_Analysis of Block Conditions_Newhallville.pdf
I think many over-generalizations have some truth to them - I often catch myself speaking about very diverse and complicated neighborhoods in simple terms. My hope with the article was to add nuance to discussions about gentrification, income inequality, and neighborhood segregation that can often be simplified to the point of misrepresentation.

Esbey, I hesitate to include street names because of some of the hyperbolic and disparaging descriptions I use to caption some of the images, but I’ll consider posting a list of the streets at some point, although I think commenters might begin to fill in those blanks themselves.

I considered putting a note at the end describing that many of the Goatville images were purposefully cropped and described in a negative fashion in order to illustrate the point that our perceptions of places can be influenced by cherrypicked presentations of neighborhoods. As a resident of Goatville for several years now, I hope I’ve earned a bit of credibility to present the neighborhood in that way.

posted by: Bradley on July 20, 2015  7:09pm

An informative, albeit long-winded, article.

One quibble - the article cites Goatville’s low rents as one of its attractions. Historically, rents east of Orange were less than those west of Orange. But rising rents are encouraging Goatville residents, notably graduate students, to consider other neighborhoods. On the whole, this is good for the city, but it does have some negative consequences for East Rock and the neighborhoods receiving its émigrés (as 3/5ths has repeatedly noted - some of his “gentrification vampires” are friends of mine who have moved from East Rock).

posted by: Adelaide on July 20, 2015  8:09pm

Ty for the history lesson! I really enjoyed that! Could you do “The Hill” next?? I would love to see the history of The Hill..and what has led to its decrepit state.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 20, 2015  8:10pm

I think JH has the + and - wrong on the uncoordinated porches and uniformly set-back townhouses.  The upper photo is more inviting and friendly—the quirkiness signals home ownership; the lower is bland and institutional, signifying rentals.

posted by: Adelaide on July 20, 2015  8:12pm

What a great history lesson thanks! I didnt catch on to the twist until it was mentioned. Can you do The Hill next? I live here and I would love to know how and why it is now in its decrepit shape.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on July 20, 2015  8:38pm

Neat stuff. Being a State Street buff I recognized the photos right away but it was fun to see the contrast. A quick point: 1041 State Street (white ‘abandoned factory building’ is not abandoned and houses a furniture maker and carpenter.  The building that is in the background, Starr Supply has been leveled for high end residential.  To that point it will be fascinating to see if any of the decaying Goatville buildings are still decaying in 10 years.  It will also be fascinating to see if the neighborhood redevelopment in Goatville spreads past 91.  Times they are a changing in NHV.

posted by: rat2013 on July 20, 2015  9:25pm

Great article. One of the things I enjoy about living in Goatville is the mix of housing types, but that brings with it the inevitable absentee landlords who don’t maintain the properties or do even minimal landscaping.

I also love the image structure as a way to challenge our pre-existing perceptions of neighborhoods. However, I think it’s a little disingenuous as you’ve included the abandoned and blighted property on Foster between Canner and Willow twice without saying it’s the same factory. I still love the concept, but it can be done without this subtle over-blighting of Goatville.

On that note, I have complained about this particular property (actually two properties - the yellow house has a different owner, according to property records) to both LCI and my alderperson and gotten no response. The whole thing is in clear violation of the anti-blight ordinance. While I hope that this doesn’t get attention simply because it’s in Goatville rather than in Newhallville, blight is blight and these property owners need to be held accountable.

posted by: Tilsen-Haven on July 21, 2015  6:50am

The tangle of overhead wires and cables makes both neighborhoods look backward and unattractive.  Basic utilities—electric and communication cables—need to be protected underground, as are gas and water lines, to insure their integrity and leave the above-ground free for trees, people, bikes and other animals.

posted by: TheGhostOfRogerSherman on July 21, 2015  7:39am

I recognized the Newhallville photos. I’ve been to crime scenes at most of the locations pictured. Some of the locations, many times over.
The Goatville photos, although not a picturesque, not so much.

posted by: Bradley on July 21, 2015  9:18am

Tilsen-Haven, it is relatively easy to bury utility lines in undeveloped areas. Burying above-ground lines also makes sense in areas that are being totally rebuilt, such as European cities after World War II. But in urbanized areas (not just New Haven, but also much of the inner ring of suburbs), there are only two places utility lines could be buried - in the tree belt or in the street. Burying the lines in the tree belt would require removing the trees, which would be an environmental and esthetic disaster. Burying them in the streets would require tearing up the pavement and would take years to accomplish.

In either case, burying existing lines would be incredibly expensive. About ten years ago, Yale offered to bury the lines along its proposed new science building on Whitney Avenue. I spoke with the architect of the project, who estimated that undergrounding about one-half mile of lines would cost about $1 million. Utility regulatory commissions in several states have come up with similar estimates.

posted by: Edward Francis on July 21, 2015  11:56am

“In a fit of desperation and in stark contrast to the method employed in Goatville, the City of New Haven – through the Livable City Initiative (LCI) – went on a demolition spree in lower Newhallville in 1996”.

Actually LCI did not act alone. A vacant building committee was formed to address all the vacant structures in the city and headed up by the New Haven Fire Department. Monthly meetings were held. Detailed reports and photos of the properties were reviewed before decisions were made.  Represented on the committee were the Corporation Counsel, NHPD, Aldermen from the district of the buildings being reviewed, building officials,the Fire Marshall, LCI representatives and the cities demolition officer.  Many of the structures in poor shape had fire damage. Many of the buildings looked at eventually were rehabbed after action taken with identifiable properties owners.

posted by: NewHaven111 on July 22, 2015  8:30am

I feel like these photos of “Goatville” were taken 5 years ago and found using Google’s Street View which hasn’t been updated in forever. Who took these pictures? Why isn’t there a credit to them? Did I miss this?

posted by: wendy1 on July 22, 2015  9:29am

Both neighborhoods need a lot of work.  Many empty buildings and apts. could be used for housing homeless.

Many middle class folks can’t afford to fix up or rehab their property these days.  I got a very close look at Goatville when I did door to door for Bryson or Elicker.

Also segregation in this town is substantial.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 22, 2015  11:01am

Thank you everyone for the feedback.
Here is the fixed link to that study on block conditions in Newhallville:

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was disingenuous that the same building is seen in two images since the focus of those two images are different things - one is focused on a vacant over grown lot flanked by two abandoned buildings where the factory happens to be barely visible in the background, and the other focuses solely on that factory.

Edward Francis,
Thanks for the more detailed description of the process around 1996, though I don’t see how it contradicts with my brief description of events.

The maps at the beginning were compiled from a combination of Google Earth, UCONN Magic maps, and from Yale’s digital databse.
The images were edited from Google Earth/Maps streetviews that were taken this past fall - about 10 months ago.

Yes, that portion of the Starr Street factory has recently been demolished.

I tend to agree with your point, but I think if you were to ask most people to compare those two properties knowing nothing about them except those two pictures more people would say they prefer the blue townhouses.

posted by: Edward Francis on July 23, 2015  11:42am

I thank Jonathan for contributing this article on the NHI.  I was born and raised in Goatville and in recent years it has somewhat lost its identity and been referred to as East Rock. The NHI has also picked up on the neighborhood ID and many people are now referring to it properly. During the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s fast pitch softball was a major sport in New Haven.  Blake Field, in the heart of Goatville, drew thousands of people from all areas to view many exciting games.  Even the great Mel Allen who was the radio voice of the New York Yankees made an appearance at a major game there.  The lights that are on the main diamond was a result of longtime Aldermen Bart Guida who went on to become Mayor of the City. Goatville has a unique history and Jonathan has opened the door for future articles and discussion.