Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Lower Dixwell Tour

Goffe Street Special School for Colored Children and Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons

106 Goffe Street

(and/or commonly known as)

Goffe Street Special School for Colored Children. Courtesy New Haven Museum.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The Goffe Street Special School, later the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons, is perhaps the most notable monument to the history of Black people in New Haven. Educational opportunities for African Americans in the nineteenth century were limited. The city’s first school for African Americans opened in 1811. Prior to the passage of some municipal legislation in 1869, Black children were excluded from the public schools of the city. However, some classes for Blacks were conducted by private individuals in their homes, most notably by Sally Williams (Wilson) who began teaching in 1854 in her home on Artisan Street in New Haven.

A group of influential citizens including Wyllys Warner, Atwater Treat, Chauncey Goodrich, Andrew DeForest, Cyrus Northrup and Thomas Merwin resolved in 1864 to found a more permanent special educational facility with the specific purpose of providing for “the intellectual and moral well-being of the colored people of the Town of New Haven and especially of their children.” Mary Lucas Hillhouse, daughter of U.S. Senator James Hillhouse, purchased the land and architect Henry Austin designed the building for no charge. The solidly-built brick school at 106 Goffe Street opened the same year.

The building hosted an evening school from 1866, and a nursery school in 1869. In 1871, Connecticut passed legislation ending segregation, and the school closed in 1874 as African American children began attending previously all-white public schools. The building was then used by the African American community as a community resource, incorporating church services, sewing classes, and a swimming pool operated by the Colored Young Men’s Christian Association. After World War I, the building was used as a parish hall and community center by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

After the opening of the Dixwell Community Center, the building was sold (1929) to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge sold the building to Oriental Lodge No. 6 who in 1995 sold the building to its present owner the Widow’s Son Lodge No. 1. It also now houses the one-room Black History museum “the Little Red Brick Schoolhouse” which opened in 1997.

The building is a New Haven landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

  • Text source courtesy National Register of Historic Place Inventory Nomination Form by Charles W. Brilvitch, November 1978.

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