New Haven Courthouse: How Teamwork and Craftsmanship Brought Back a Beaux Arts Landmark

Jcj Newhavencourthouse 11 (JPG)

by Roy C. Olsen

At the northeast corner of the historic New Haven Green sits the New Haven County Courthouse. Designed by Allen and Williams, this 1914 Beaux Arts masterwork was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. By the turn of the century, the effects of pollution, sporadic maintenance, occupant-driven alterations, and the passage of time left this graceful structure in a dramatic state of deterioration. After establishing the need to comprehensively address building envelope issues, the state of Connecticut assembled a team of professionals to bring this stately landmark back from the brink.

As project manager and project architect, I can say that the two most important factors that brought this complex project together successfully were seamless teamwork combined with outstanding craftsmanship. Examples are just too numerous to share here, but there are some key highlights that illustrate the point.

While the project was complicated by the downtown urban site and active courthouse operations, we were lucky to have a sophisticated client who understood the importance of working together, consultants who were passionate about restoration, and a GC who had the expertise in historic preservation. JCJ Architecture had the privilege of working with the State Dept. of Construction Services as the owner, representatives from Judicial as the operator, and Kronenberger & Sons Restoration as the general contractor.

Key to our success was the state’s insistence on setting a high bar for the qualification of the general contractor with subs. Our collective goal was to bring back the original design intent and to sensitively repair with as much restoration as possible. Because of the historic nature of the building and the sensitivity of operations, the state encouraged development of outline qualifications for subcontractors — setting specific parameters for craftsmen that were to undertake various aspects of the project as well as disqualification of low bidders if they did not have qualified subs in all areas.