Brief History of 406 Prospect

November 25, 2016

In October, the ISM announced plans to renovate and relocate most of its offices to the building at 406 Prospect St., across the street from Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. | read story

The property at 406 Prospect was built as a single-family dwelling in 1909 by the American architect (and Yale College graduate) Grosvenor Atterbury (1869 – 1956), known not only for building gracious mansions for the east coast social elite, but also for being one of the first architects to come up with a cost-effective method to provide a higher standard of housing – and health – for the less privileged, pioneering the use of some of the first prefabricated concrete housing plans.

“Grove,” as he was called, was born in Detroit, where his father was a prominent lawyer, where his grandfather had been an Episcopal priest and his grandmother a church organist. The family moved to New York in 1874. Upon completing his education, the young Atterbury began work as an architect in the pre-eminent New York firm of McKim, Mead, and White, whose work applied the principles of Beaux-Arts architecture, the adoption of the classical Greek and Roman stylistic vocabulary as filtered through the Parisian École des Beaux-Arts, and the related City Beautiful movement after about 1893.

Resisting the call of modernism, Atterbury dedicated himself to classical forms and pragmatic building techniques; his career grew quickly and it is not surprising that he gained multiple contracts in New Haven, the town of his first alma mater. In addition to 406 Prospect, two other homes of his still stand: Stoeckel Hall (1897) that houses Yale’s Department of Music, and the Walter Mally house at 305 St. Ronan Street (1909), now the parish house of Bethesda Lutheran Church.

The house at 406 Prospect Street was built first for Wilbur F. Day, a New Haven businessman, and then bought in 1921 by Burton Twitchell, Yale’s Dean of Students. In 1948, the house was bought by Dwight Hall at Yale and converted into apartments for the International Student Center and functioned in that way until the university purchased it in 2005. It has sat, essentially unoccupied, ever since.

The massive influx of immigrants in the late 19th century meant overcrowding in many urban dwellings. The Tenement Act of 1901 was passed to improve housing conditions, standardizing indoor plumbing and appropriate light and ventilation. Atterbury and his colleagues devised some of the first pre-fabricated, concrete housing plans, such as that executed for the Phipps House [photo below courtesy of the New York Public Library].

Note: much of the historical information is taken from the The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury (New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 2009) by Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker, with a foreword by Robert A.M. Stern, former dean of Yale School of Architecture. Mr. Pennoyer is the uncle of recent ISM grad Robert Pennoyer (M.Div. ’16).

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