Left on the drawing board

The university has scrapped many major building proposals in the past 130 years. What would the campus look like if it hadn’t?

Mark Alden Branch ’86 is executive editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine.

The sites of the unrealized Yale buildings described on the following pages are indicated on this map—adapted from a vintage birds-eye view of the campus created in the 1970s by Cynthia Tauxe ’74, ’77MArch, and Heidi Humphrey ’75, ’78MFA. View full image

Spend enough time studying Yale and its history, and you’ll find it hard to walk around campus without sensing its palimpsest of bygone buildings and reordered spaces. The university’s first set of buildings—the Old Brick Row on the Old Campus—is all gone, except for Connecticut Hall. And a whole generation of Victorian buildings on and near Old Campus came down in the 1920s and ’30s, when Yale rebuilt much of the university.

But there are other kinds of architectural ghosts at Yale, plans that were proposed but, for various reasons, never came to fruition. Some would have made a big difference: in 1919, John Russell Pope offered a grand Gothic makeover that would have changed Yale and downtown New Haven dramatically. And would we have Woolsey Hall today if Scroll and Key had added a residential wing to its tomb on College Street?

On the following pages we feature a few of the major proposals of the last century and a half. Some were missed opportunities, but some were bullets Yale was lucky to dodge.