A Photo Journey through 135 Years of Public Service

Since 1930, Dwight Hall has operated out of 67 High Street in the heart of Old Campus. In 2017, Dwight Hall temporarily relocated so that the Hall and Chapel, originally constructed between 1842 and 1846, could undergo necessary renovation. When students and staff returned to 67 High in the summer of 2018, no one could have expected that the space would drastically change again not even two years later, when Yale University and the rest of the world scrambled to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. What follows is a photo timeline of how the Dwight Hall space has shifted, adapted, and transformed in response to each new leg of its history, including 2021, when the Hall conducted social change initiatives completely remote from the home it has occupied for more than a century.

The Beginnings

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Dwight Hall (then Dwight Hall YMCA) in its first location on Old Campus (1886-1931), as depicted in this circa 1905 postcard. Source

In the early 1880s, several college men (from Yale, Princeton, and others) attended a summer revival meeting in Northfield, Massachusetts led by Dwight L. Moody, a renowned evangelist. They returned to their campuses that fall and started their own religious associations. The Yale College Christian Association was given a building on Old Campus funded by Frederick Marquand (the namesake of Marquand Chapel at the Divinity School), which was named “Dwight Hall.” Dwight Hall was incorporated 12 years later as an independent, nonprofit educational and religious organization. The Hall was initially housed in Old Brick Row (pictured above) and served as the University’s YMCA, as part of a then-larger social movement toward Muscular Christianity.

The 67 High Street Transition

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Left:  An early floor and design plan of the Yale College Library, later renamed and repurposed to Dwight Hall and Chapel in 1930. Source
Right:  An early photo of the completed Yale College Library. Note the lack of buildings around or behind the Library’s Gothic Revival architecture. Source:  Yale Manuscript Library.

In 1930, Dwight Hall moved to its permanent and current location on 67 High Street. With this move, Dwight Hall replaced the Yale College Library, which had occupied 67 High Street since the building’s completion in 1846. The Library moved in 1930 to the recently completed Sterling Memorial Library on Cross Campus. As the building transitioned from the Library to Dwight Hall, a second story was added to each wing of the building.

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The Dwight Hall Chapel when it served as the Yale College Library. Source

As many early Yale buildings (including the original Dwight Hall building) were demolished to make way for residential colleges, Old Campus dorms, and Harkness Tower, the Dwight Hall and Chapel persevered in its original form, aside from the second story added onto each wing of the building.

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Left:  Dwight Hall in 1964. Source
Right:  Dwight Hall today

Dwight Hall and Adjusting to World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and May Day 1970

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Dwight Hall Chapel and the Dwight Hall buttery, circa 1947. Source: 1947 Yale Banner.

A week after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Yale shifted its course offerings to a year-round format, so students could receive their degree in three years. The campus became a makeshift military camp, and the Army Air Force Technical Training School students occupied the Old Campus, Silliman College, and the Law School. Dwight Hall served as a meeting space and chapel, as pictured above.

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A Yale soldier returns home to Old Campus, with Dwight Hall and Harkness Tower looming in the background. Source: 1947 Yale Banner.

Two decades later, as the Civil Rights Movement upended the US social framing, Dwight Hall served as an important meeting and organizing location for renowned speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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Left: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. poses with members of the Undergraduate Lecture Committee and Alumni Committee for lecture series in Dwight Hall (1959)
Right:  Dwight Hall Chapel, 1964. Source

During the May Day 1970 weekend demonstrations in New Haven, Dwight Hall was the epicenter of student planning and response to the Black Panther trials. Dwight Hall provided space for numerous workshops and planning meetings for Yale students, faculty, administrators, and staff, and sponsored discussions with neighborhood leaders, representatives of the Black Panther Party, and members of the Chicago Seven. Significant sleeping space was made available on the second floor, in the hallways, and in staff and student organization offices.

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Left:  Dwight Chapel poster in response to May Day weekend. Source: Yale Manuscripts and Digital Archives Library
Right: Protests during the Black Panther Trial

2017 Transitions and 2020 Transformations

Dwight Hall has operated out of 67 High Street for 90 years. In those 90 years, there have been few occasions where operations have physically shifted. From 2017 to 2018, for example, the Hall briefly moved to 143 Elm in order that 67 High Street, now almost 200 years old, could undergo much-needed renovations to better and more inclusively serve all students.

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Dwight Hall staff outside of 143 Elm, the Hall’s temporary home from 2017-2018

In Fall 2018, the board, staff, students, and friends of Dwight Hall cut the ribbon and celebrated a completely transformed space 

Dwight Hall Responds to COVID-19

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Some of the many signs that sprouted up around Yale’s campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, Dwight Hall, along with the rest of Yale University and the world, closed its doors to slow the spread of COVID-19. All work transitioned to remote and Zoom contexts.

After shutting down in-person learning completely in spring 2020, Yale welcomed a reduced number of students back to campus for the 2020-2021 school year, with the expectation that students sign a community compact and follow local and university health and safety guidelines, as the above signs reminded. For the 2020-2021 school year, Dwight Hall transformed into a COVID-19 testing site.

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Before and after: the Dwight Hall Common Room transformed

By Spring 2021, the Dwight Hall common room held six plexiglass boxes equipped with HEPA air filtration systems. Thousands of COVID-19 nasal swab tests occurred weekly, as all students in-residence tested twice a week to meet university requirements.

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Dwight Hall’s Yale Prison Education Initiative (YPEI) packed and shipped learning materials to its incarcerated students during the pandemic

Though the Dwight Hall space was void of Dwight Hall students and staff, the public service organization continued functioning remotely. YPEI shipped boxes of learning materials to its students. Dwight Hall programming transitioned to frequent online Zoom meetings.

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Homework Helpline volunteers in their remote classrooms, waiting for New Haven students to stop by

In response to challenges uniquely posed by COVID-19, Dwight Hall created a Homework Helpline to alleviate the burden on New Haven public school teachers by providing online homework assistance to local New Haven youth. The youth mentorship program J-Z AMP also transitioned to a remote context.

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On March 11, 2021, Dwight Hall held a virtual discussion on National COVID-19 Day, marking one year of life within the pandemic.

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In June 2021, the partitions and the common room COVID-19 testing boxes were taken apart. In August, the Chapel was converted into a meal pickup site for students fulfilling their quarantine requirements on Old Campus.

As Dwight Hall staff have begun returning to in-person work and as the university gears up to welcome students back for in-person learning, Dwight Hall reflects on its long legacy of transition and transformation. “This year…Yale can look back on a year, if not of normality, at least of recovery; recovery of delayed ambitions, postponed goals, cherished traditions.” In 1947, The Yale Banner writers reflected on Yale’s return to learning following World War II. Seventy-five years later, as Dwight Hall and the rest of the university transition back to in-person learning in somewhat uncertain public health conditions, a sentence on recovery has never felt more true. 

About the Author

Lydia Burleson

Lydia Burleson served as the Communications and Alumni Engagement Associate for Dwight Hall at Yale, Center for Public Service and Social Justice from June 2021-June 2022. A first-generation low-income student from rural Texas, Lydia graduated from Yale cum laude in 2021 with a degree in English and a nonfiction creative writing concentration. During her college years, Lydia increased awareness of marginalized voices with the public writing she did for The Yale Daily News and the Yale Admissions office. Her Dwight Hall experiences included free college advising with student-led member groups REACH and Matriculate. Dwight Hall empowered Lydia to uplift other disadvantaged students and to increase access to education for people who might not have otherwise received these resources. She is currently completing an English PhD at Stanford University with a Knight-Hennessy Fellowship.