United States of America, Connecticut, New Haven County, New Haven
Phelps Triangle (New Haven, Connecticut)
ca 1879-1901 ca 1950s-2011
In 1824 Temple Street was extended to Whitney Avenue creating a triangular, detached piece of property at the intersection with Trumbull Avenue. In 1850 the owners, heirs of the Hillhouse Estate, presented the one-tenth acre "common" to the city which was fenced in and sodden the following year. The "common" was referred to as Temple Street Square or Temple Square until 1943 when it was renamed "Phelps Triangle" in honor prominent Yale professor William Lyon Phelps, whose house faced the triangle. Dutch elm disease killed the seven elm trees, which were replaced by three utility poles. Starting in 1968 the Garden Club of New Haven allocated its fund raising proceeds for a complete renovation of the Phelps Triangle to create a sitting park. The Garden Club worked on the planning, negotiating, and overseeing of the project in cooperation with the New Haven Parks Department. The city and utility company performed the preparatory site work, opening of the fence, and removal of the utility poles. All other work was performed by Glen Terrace Nurseries, a local landscape contractor. An in-ground fountain was built in the center of the pavement, and an irrigation system was installed as well. The fountain was vandalized after 1975 and it was filled with earth and replaced with a one foot tall planter. In 1992 two pink granite benches were installed on either side of the center piece. Four more pink granite benches were added in 2001 and 2003. In 2008 the triangle underwent a major overhaul. Landscape designer Amy Sampson created a four season interest component, whereas before the garden had been mainly a spring garden. Bricks and flag stones were replaced and the irrigation system was converted to a drip system. In 2011 a committee was formed with the intent to replace the planter and basin with a sculpture.
The landscape design incorporates continuously curved planting areas to soften the rigidity of the long site. Gently sculpted forms of low plantings reinforce this effect. Rhythm is established by textural contrasts of broad and narrow leaved evergreens, by trees spaced regularly and by the variation of tree heights. The paving with undulating edges of brick along the axial center was executed in brick and flagstone to give interest and subtle direction and relates in scale and context to the size of the park. An in-ground fountain was built in the center of the pavement. Six moveable benches which could be relocated into sunny or shaded areas were placed throughout the park. The original plantings included 12 Cherry trees, 140 rhododendrons, 78 azaleas, 150 cotoneaster, 1 pear tree and 96 yews. The cherry trees succumbed to pollution and severe weather and were replaced with pin oak, flowering pear, star magnolia, and hybrid crabapple. In 1995 a severe windstorm badly damaged two of the three flowering pear trees which were removed in 1996. In 1999 all rhododendrons had to be replaced. In 2008 the triangle was again under construction for a major overhaul. Ninety percent of the shrubs and ground covers had to be replaced. A lace bug and southern red mite infestation had attacked the azaleas and rhododendrons. In 2011 more ground cover plants were added like Deutzia, Rowdy Lamb Herb, Lentenrose, as well as daffodil bulbs in the fall.
Persons associated with the garden include Hillwood Estate (former owner, 1850); City of New Haven (current owner); Glen Terrace Nurseries (landscape company, 1969-2001); Amy E. Sampson of AES Landscape Design and Consultation (landscape designer, 2008).
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The Garden Club of New Haven facilitated the submission of this garden's documentation.
The folder includes worksheets, site plans, plant lists, and photocopies of articles.
This property has been featured in the New Haven Register (issues published between 1970-2002)
Smithsonian Gardens, PO Box 37012, Capital Gallery, Suite 3300, MRC 506, Washington, DC 20013-7012